|U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander|
...The dirty little secret of the Iraq war – one that both Bush and the war hawks in the Democratic party knew, but would never admit – was that the American people would only support a war to get rid of Saddam Hussein if they could be assured that they would pay almost nothing for it.
The most obvious way in which the true cost of this war was kept hidden was with the use of supplemental appropriations to fund the occupation. By one estimate, 70% of the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008 were funded with supplemental or emergency appropriations approved outside the Pentagon's annual budget. These appropriations allowed the Bush administration to shield the Pentagon's budget from the cuts otherwise needed to finance the war, to keep the Pentagon's pet programs intact and to escape the scrutiny that Congress gives to its normal annual regular appropriations.
With the Iraq war treated as an "off the books" expense, the Pentagon was allowed to keep spending on high-end military equipment and cutting-edge technology. In fiscal terms, it was as if the messy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were never happening...
One consequence of the way that the true costs of the Iraq war was hidden from the American people was an explosion of fraud, waste and abuse. The recent final report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (Sigir) estimates that the US lost to corruption or waste at least $8bn of the $60bn devoted to reconstructing Iraq.