What else could war dollars buy?

Six billion dollars a month can pay for a lot of stuff, and we've got the T-shirts, tickers and widgets to prove it.

Published June 22, 2005 7:13AM (EDT)

We try not to get our political analysis from T-shirts and bumper stickers -- really, we try -- but an idea isn't wrong just because it comes printed on cotton or plastic. So we were willing to take a look when we got an e-mail this week from a reader who is selling Iraq war T-shirts that might hit some Bush supporters where they can feel it: in the wallet.

The ringer tees offered up by pediatrician turned international health and bioterrorism expert Joel Selanikio show the current price tag for the Iraq war on the front -- he's got it at $6 billion a month, which is in the ballpark of the number U.S. military leaders gave Congress in November -- while the back of each shirt shows an alternative way in which the money could be spent. One says that a year of Iraq war spending could cover the salaries of 1,000 teachers in every state of the Union plus the District of Columbia for the next 25 years. Another says a year of Iraq money could cover vaccinations for every child on Earth for more than 30 years. Another says ... well, you get the idea.

As much we like the T-shirts, we enforce a strict dress code here at War Room, and we've always been more technologically than sartorially savvy anyway. Selanikio's site pointed us in the right direction: costofwar.com. The site features a ticker that tracks -- at the speed of the pennies column of a gas pump these days -- the appropriated costs for the war in Iraq. And then, like Selanikio's T-shirts, it offers alternative uses for the money appropriated for the war so far: Fund all AIDS programs worldwide for 17 years; pay for more than 23 million kids to attend a year of Head Start; build more than 1.6 million units of new public housing; fully fund global anti-hunger programs for the next seven years. For the more inwardly focused among us, there's this: When we checked last night, the war has cost each and every man, woman and child in America $712 so far.

We're saving up for one of costofwar.com's big LED tickers for our hometown -- it will be just the thing for the Fourth of July parade -- but in the meantime, we're satisfying ourselves with something on a smaller scale: a free cost-of-war widget for the Dashboard on our Mac.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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