Taxpayer Group Says Bush Can't Afford War Against Iraq

By Michael L. Betsch | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

( - A self-described budget watchdog group claims a war with Iraq would cost the United States tens of billions of dollars more than what the Bush administration is predicting.

"With no other country currently willing to pay a dime for this war, it could have major implications on spending at home," warned Nate Heasley, spokesman for Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS).

He warned that the Bush administration's cost estimates of a potential war against Iraq are "alarmingly low" and ignore major costs to taxpayers. "Efforts to save Social Security, pay for prescription drug benefits and education initiatives, and to increase domestic security will be severely affected," Heasley added.

Prior to launching any efforts to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the administration should make it a priority to find other countries to share the financial burden, Heasley said. A unilateral war, he warned, "will leave the United States in a financially and militarily vulnerable position at the same time as we are trying to win a war on terrorism."

While White House economic adviser Larry Lindsey has estimated that a war against Iraq could cost $100 billion to $200 billion over several years, Heasley said those figures do not realistically estimate the costs of deploying troops, engaging in battle with Iraq, or sustaining a post-war military occupation of the country. He said the war would likely cost tens of billions more than the administration's high-end $200 billion estimate.

TCS is demanding that the administration immediately disclose to taxpayers how it plans to pay for a war in excess of $200 billion when the federal deficit is also expected to top $200 billion in the coming year.

"Taxpayers shouldn't be forced to write a blank check for a war on Iraq," Heasley said. "We deserve to know what sacrifices we will need to make at home in order to fund the war. It is vital that we are provided with accurate cost estimates."

Conservatives Fire Back

Chuck Muth, executive director of the American Conservative Union (ACU), said Heasley's views exemplify the "loony left at its finest."

While the ACU typically criticizes congressional pork barrel spending, it insists that allocating billions of dollars to a potential war against Iraq is not a waste of taxpayer money. The conservative lobbying group has advocated the need for "near-term deployment of strategic defenses" since it was founded in 1964.

"They want to take taxpayer money being spent on a legitimate role for the federal government, which is national defense, and instead spend it on things that are not within the province of the federal government, like education," Muth said of the agenda promoted by Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Muth said TCS is more concerned with guaranteeing that prescription drugs are affordable and Social Security is available for future generations, regardless of the real threat that Saddam Hussein and terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda pose to America's national security.

"If Saddam Hussein unleashes a dirty bomb in the middle of downtown Manhattan, none of those people are going to be getting Social Security," Muth said. "The bottom line is national defense is a legitimate purpose for the federal government. I mean, if we can't protect the country, what should the federal government be doing?"

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