The price of war

2,800 U.S. troops, $380,000 a minute.

Published October 24, 2006 2:40PM (EDT)

Tony Snow said the other day that "the president has made it clear that he is not going to do a phased withdrawal just for the hell of doing a phased withdrawal."

Fair enough. But if the president won't pull out of Iraq just for the hell of it, will he do it to save some American lives? The U.S. military announced the deaths of two Marines in Iraq Monday, pushing the U.S. death toll past the 2,800 mark. Eighty-eight U.S. soldiers have died so far this month, making October the deadliest month in Iraq in a year with a week still to go. If October's death rate continues, the Iraq war will claim its 3,000th U.S. soldier just before Christmas.

If that's not enough to make the president think twice about his war, maybe this is: As Nicholas Kristof does the math, American taxpayers will end up spending $380,000 for every additional minute the U.S. stays in Iraq.

As Kristof acknowledges, his cost-per-minute number is based on certain assumptions about the war and the economy. For a truly depressing interactive experience, you can run your own numbers through a Brookings-American Enterprise Institute cost calculator, where sliders let you set the date of the U.S. withdrawal and pick the numbers of U.S. troops who will die or be injured each year until then.

By Tim Grieve

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

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