114,000 civilians killed in Iraq since war began
More than 114,000 civilians have died in violence in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion, according to a group that tracks the number of people killed in the conflict.
A total of 4,059 Iraqi civilians were reported killed last year, slightly more than in 2010, London-based Iraq Body Count said in an analysis released today. The last US combat troops left Iraq in December.
"The rate of Iraqi civilian deaths caused by US-led coalition forces has declined steadily from 2009, while the rate caused by Iraqi state forces has increased," the group said in an e-mailed news release.
Recent trends point to a "persistent low-level conflict in Iraq that will continue to kill civilians at a similar rate for years to come," Iraq Body Count said. "Time will tell whether the withdrawal of US forces will have an effect on casualty levels," the group said.
And while the war may be officially over, the massive costs will go on.
Eight years of dodging improvised explosive devices, repelling insurgent ambushes and quelling sectarian strife already has drained the US of more money than any conflict in the nation's history except World War Two.
Even though the last US combat troops have left Iraq, American taxpayers will face decades of additional expenses, from veterans' health care and disability benefits to interest on the debt accumulated to finance the war.
"Those costs are going to build for years," said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington-based research group.
That burden will come amid growing concern about the federal government's debt, with cuts to Medicare and to national defence being debated. Spending so far on the war and related interest payments make up about a tenth of the US Treasury's $10.4 trillion in publicly held debt.
Direct federal spending on the war through 2012 will reach $823 bn, surpassing the $738 bn in inflation-adjusted dollars the US spent on the Vietnam War, the Congressional Research Service estimated in a March 29 report. Only World War Two had a higher direct cost, $4.1 tn, in current dollars.
Not counted in that is the interest of more than $200 billion the federal government has already had to pay on the resulting debt, said Linda Bilmes, a senior lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.