News: The War in Iraq - Happy Anniversary!

This week, we celebrate the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. I still remember the start very well.

Time for a calculation.

1. The newspaper today states one minute of war in Iraq costs US$380,000. A calculation made by Joseph Stiglitz, a US Nobelprize winning economist.
That is almost double the cost of the war in Vietnam.

2. According to WFP, the UN's food aid organisation, it costs US$0.19 to feed a child for a day. Nineteen cents.
20,000 children die of hunger every day. The time it took you to read this post, already 15 died.

3. Taking those two figures together, one minute of war in Iraq would feed 2,000,000 children for a day.
One day of war in Iraq would feed 8,000,000 children for a year.

4. There are 800 million hungry in the world. Three-four months of war in Iraq would feed all hungry in the world.
Three-four months of war, we have done before. Many times. But we have never fed all the hungry in the world.

I do not understand. Somewhere the calculation does not make sense. Otherwise all intelligent people in the world would have cried foul. Wouldn't we? ...Wouldn't we?

Photo credit: Robert Kasca. Picture taken after the bombing of the UN building in Baghdad.

Update March 18: I received a lot of queries about "the 19 cents/day" it costs to feed a child. Here you find more detailed info.


Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 01:41  

Feed a child for a day and he'll need feeding every day or he'll die. Shoot someone and they're dead. Weigh up the costs versus benefits and I'm sure you'll agree war is better for business than feeding children.

You didn't think we were living in a SANE world, did you?

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 01:58  

poignant post... you put together a few basic but oft overlooked facts in a powerful fashion. Thanks.

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 02:14  

How many kids could have been fed with the money that is being spent to clean up the World Trade Towers?

aberrantgeek 19 March, 2007 02:41  

The WFP says
# For 19 cents you can feed a hungry child in school for a day

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 02:55  

People usually die from lack of food because some dictator or warlord is blocking or hyjacking food. It has nothing to do with production or a lack of US aid money.

In fact, the only way to really feed more people quickly is to drastically increase the size and scope of our armed forces to pacify rebellion and create stability. Are you willing to do that? Of course not. Quit whining and obfuscating.

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 03:37  

FIGHT THE MAN! Harness the power of breakfast cereal!

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 03:53  

While I agree with your conclusion, your math is off. Considering that a day of war costs $547,200,000 and to feed a child for a year it would cost $69.35, then a days worth of war would feed only about 7,890,411 kids, not 20 million.

Your point is still 100% valid.


Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 03:56  

But if the Islamofascists have their way, there will be no more US citizens (the most generous in the world) to shell out donations for the world. You know, disaster aid, military help in times of crisis (WWII, anyone?) You people need to think before you act/speak/type/write. Everybody hates the US, but they damn sure do love our money. Shut up, go to hell,and let us defend ourself.

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 04:07  

I'll have to say, I am sad to know that I live in a world where no one cares about anyone but themselves and their own personal agendas. I wish I could go live on Mars with the aliens.

Mamawheelie 19 March, 2007 05:50  

I completely agree with your statement that this is ridiculous that "we" spend so much on this war and the money could go elsewhere.

But I have one critique: as my husband pointed out, that figure of how much the Iraq war costs very likely includes the wages of the military members who are there, which would be paid out regardless of whether or not they were stationed in Iraq.

So in reality, the number of children the Iraq war money could feed would be quite a bit lower. The point is still valid, however.

Albert 19 March, 2007 05:56  

Americans rather get stuck in a war that is proving to be a complete disaster than eliminate the scourge of hunger once and for all. Money is spent killing while people die of poverty.

It's simply because we humans are selfish people. Famine never strikes home whereas terrorism strikes home with fear. Evil politicians then choose to play the politics of fear to garner support for their policies. Until now I'm amazed that 40% of Americans still support the war, it should be only about 5% as the war is just an evil disaster. Americans invaded Iraq for oil as the new oil bill proves. Time and time again wealth is all that matters, the human cost is negligible.

World politics is just pure evil. In my eyes all politicians are liars, hypocrites and morally bankrupt. I can just wish for a better world.

Peter 19 March, 2007 07:41  

Someone left a relevant comment in my guestbook:

And what kind of meal is that, if it costs 5+ times less than a normal bread ?

The details of the meal can be found at:

Peter 19 March, 2007 07:57  

Diggapleaze mentioned an error in the arithmetic. And he is right. One day war in Iraq would feed about 8 million kids for a year. I corrected it in the post.

[Wanting to save the world, I guess I have to get my calculations right first]

Thanks for the reaction.

Peter 19 March, 2007 09:19  

aberrantgeek said:
The WFP says
# For 19 cents you can feed a hungry child in school for a day

Yes, that is right. The philosophy behind it is that 'feeding the hungry' is short term. "Education" is the basis for a longer term solution to poverty. So they provide a meal at school to encourage kids in developing countries to come to school.

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 10:22  

Great observation. To whoever wrote america the most generous nation in the world bla bla...: Bollock. Yes, statistically you give allot of aid but you also are the one country EXPLOITING all the resources of those countries that now need aid as a result of that, more than any other. Don't get me wrong the whole western world is at fault here. The world is suffering as a direct result of the luxury lifestyles we have created for ourselves. The aid the US is giving back is no compensation for the suffering that has been caused by the way business is done by countless american companies, who do you think pays off and bribes these warlords? Get real man, just because you are american does not make you guilt free, youre country is a direct cause of suffering, either live with it or try to do something about it.

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 11:20  

I think it's true that you can feed one kid for 19c per day in the developing world. I don't think it's true that you can feed 1 billion kids for 190 million dollars per day -- the incremental cost of food goes up as you buy more of it. Food production is fairly constant. If you just buy food for people, all you'll end up doing is driving the value of the dollar down, and of the developing countries' currencies up, and a few more people will get fed, but nowhere close to 1 billion

Unknown 19 March, 2007 11:31  

Someone earlier mentioned something about food being hijacked by dictators. My thought has always been that providing a clean water supply to everyone in the world would have been a better use of the money spent on Iraq and Afghanistan. It can't be as easily hijacked as food, or money for food (I made that up), but it can be used to make food where people are, rather than bringing food to people.

Peter 19 March, 2007 11:31  

Just as a remark to some of the previous comments:
I published this post because I found both figures to be staggering: the cost of the war in Iraq (and that is just the cost to the US, not including the cost to other countries participating in the war) versus the cost to feed a child for a day.

It is easy to politicize these questions (and this post for that matter). I think it is important not stop at merely pointing fingers at one nation or at the politicians. What is important, though, is also to ask ourselves the question about our individual responsibility: "What have *I* done today to make a positive difference?" and "Have I given the world back as much as the world has given me?".

That is why I posted the link to as that site shows how we, as mere individuals can help in the 'world hunger' problem.

But we should not stop there. Starting with making a positive difference in the lives of those around us, will make this world a better place.

Yep, call me a dreamer, an idealist... That is probably I am an aidworker. As I still believe we can change this world... :-)


Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 13:22  

I'll have to say, I am sad to know that I live in a world where no one cares about anyone but themselves and their own personal agendas. I wish I could go live on Mars with the aliens.

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 14:29  

Well, i think that the money that goes in IRAQ war would soon surface back in US economy. So that is not money spent but money earned. No children will ever earn so much money for greedy bussines man. No that i'm aproving but the war is just bussines for someone, and feeding is not.You need to separate those things so you will be able to make some changes.

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 17:46  

Even if the numbers are off by 100 times, that you could feed 80,000 children for a year in exchange for one day of operations in Iraq in still unconsciounable.

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 18:08  

[cross-posted from the guest book]
Your sentiments are noble; however, I do not think that you have thought through your argument thoroughly enough. I say this for the following reasons:

1. You are obviously criticizing the war through your UNWFP facts. Never trust the UN or take it seriously for that matter. It is an organization that put countries like Iran and Syria on equal standings as Canada and Germany. Give me a break - a leftist chatter box.

2. You have not considered the Iraqi people, the Kurds, the Jews... you and I! All these people will now have longer and safer lives. The Kurds and Jews are now that much safer and now have to worry a little less about their children seeing the inside of a gas chamber.

3. The war - though the justifications were bogus - is a fruitful venture. The money is necessary - war does cost tons of cash. This said, there are tons of other government programs that could afford a pay cut. Both Republican and Democratic initiatives.

4. What about the starving children HERE?

Finally, I want to stress the point that I am not in favor of children starving. I am just trying to make the point that criticizing the Iraqi war by talking about starving children is a moot point. You have not even considered the ramifications, e.g., social infrastructure, if all these children were to survive.

Peter 19 March, 2007 18:16  

[reply to the cross-post from a comment on the guestbook, left by a reader from Canada]


Thanks for your reaction. I welcome all opinions, even if they are different from mine. ;-)

Following your points, I would like to comment:

1/ Yes, I think all countries should have an equal saying in a forum like the UN. Otherwise the richest have the most saying. (which is often the case now, I agree).
That will keep the world balanced. I guess one can call me leftist in that sense. Or a dreamer. :-)

2/ I am not sure how much 'peace' and 'security' has ever been reached through war. I don't think Iraq and any country in the Middle East, or Afghanistan e.g. has become any safer since the middling of the West or other outsiders.
I know for a fact Iraq surely hasn't. Afghanistan hasn't (by far!). Israel hasn't. Lebanon hasn't. Despite the fact i reprise the repressive regime of Saddam and the Taliban.

3/ Knowingly going to war under false pretences, misleading the public opinion, is -according to me- nothing short of a crime against humanity.
The fact that 'it is good for the economy' is known, but there are better tools to stimulate the economy than to wage war in a foreign country with all known consequences.
I understand what you are saying though: 'it is not all money wasted, it goes into the economy'. But really whose economy is it benefiting? Even so, is war really justified on those grounds? Should one at a certain point not compare the cost of war (in dollars, lives, and human suffering) with what good could be done with it?

4/ Yep, you have a point: what about the starving children in the West? Is it not a pity that despite all what we have in the West, there are still children deprived of proper education, proper healthcare, proper nutrition?

On your final remark: Any good development or aid project will take into account the longer term effects. One can not refuse to feed starving children under the pretext that it might have a longer term implication on the social infrastructure.
After all, the right to proper food, is part of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by virtually all nations (Somalia and the US being two notorious exceptions).

Sorry, I might be a bit more opinionated here than in my 'normal doing'. I do not want to sound against the US. I am not. Nor do I want to have this turn into a political discussion. But having dealt first hand -as an aidworker- with the consequences of violence and war in developing countries for 15 years, had me form rather strong opinions.


Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 18:23  

I say arm the hungry children and let them fight for their food... That way we can ensure that only the strongest survive, as nature intended.

Peter 19 March, 2007 18:25  

One thing I always think of, when dealing with children in poverty is: "what if it was my own child?"

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 18:31  

Then you buy/steal for him/her a bigger gun.

Anonymous,  19 March, 2007 20:43  

First, I think it is good to still have people who want to make the world a better place.

I know this is not the place for what I’m going to say but I have to say it anyway.
I’m a young man from Macedonia, and if you remember, the US bombarded Serbia a few years before. And while the bombing was to force the president of Serbia at that time to resign from office, the US didn’t cared who they actually hurt bombarding (although it wasn’t just the US who wanted for the president to resign, the US was the only one who thought it’s wise to do that by brute force). Hitting factories and school (closed at that time but…), devastating bridges, and actually killing innocent people. The bombs themselves whore radioactive, And since the bombing took part very near the border of Macedonia and it mayor city Skopje, there have been many new cases of cancer and similar radioactive related diseases, since the nine months of bombing, just in Skopje where I live.
Now my point is not to blame the US for all the wrong it the world, but to point to the people living in and around Iraq, the fear the face every day, fearing there child can be accidentally killed by a lost bullet, fearing there wife or husband can be blasted while working in a building associated whit the government.
I wouldn’t mind paying that price if it was for rightful purposes, because sometimes war must precede peaceful and prosperous times. But I find the price paid in human lives, poverty, famine, fear, and money, for some individual to get richer and cheaper gas overwhelming.
And Peter think about paying teachers to teach the children instead just giving them meals. Because if the child have someone who can teach them, they wont be hungry for long. If you give man bread, you will feed him for a day, but teach him to make bread and you will feed him for life.

Peter 19 March, 2007 20:52  

I fully agree with you that 'feeding' is not enough! It should go hand in hand with longer term development. That's why the package of .19 cents/day to feed a child is part of a school feeding programme: the kids get a meal when they attend classes. So it encourages children to go to school.. Of course it goes together with loads of other programmes of different agencies/NGOs (ensuring there are enough schools, sufficient teachers, teaching material).


VĂ´ Bojangles 20 March, 2007 20:19  

Most comments above show clearly why northamerikans are 'not very liked' around our planet. War for the sake of economy is not an acceptable human attitude.
I live in a country where every kid attending public school is supposed to get not a lunch, but a full healthy, nutritious meal. The state where I live in banned junkfood from school canteens (bad for coca-cola). Parents of families living under poverty line get state help if they send their kids to school. They also get offer of professional qualifying. Policies are: feed them first so they'r able to learn and better their lives.
That's payed with our tax money and not with US 'human' aid, which is only a small tax you pay for plundering foreign countries without need of war.
Now you are 'breaking your face' in Vietrak and you only have to loose, as in a popular local saying: "if you stay, the beast gets you; if you run, the beast gets you".
Will you ever learn what 'being human' is all about?
Of course I expect majority calling me commie. Ignorance is fierce.
Wake up, stand up and join a really free and peacefull world, with no psychopathic empreror dictating foolish rules and wars.

Anonymous,  26 March, 2007 17:08  

It's a rather pedantic point since it isn't the job of the U.S. to feed the world's hungry.

Peter 26 March, 2007 18:36  

The only thing the article does is to put figures in a certain perspective.
You are right that it is not the duty of the US to feed the world's hungry. It is the duty from all of us.
Unfortunately, I only had the figures from the cost of the war to the US. Imagine how many hungry we could feed with the TOTAL cost of the war involving all warring nations...



Anonymous,  10 October, 2007 01:12  

i have read this kind of thing over and over and everytime i read about the war, i never see any good coming from it. i understand what we are fighting for. I guess i just dont grasp what we are trying to prove. we dont need it. Its a waste of life, litteraly cause even if the people who are lucky enough come home alive. They are still scared for life and will never be the same person. I love kids and i wouldn't be able to stand for shooting a inocent child whos only issue was being born in the wrong place, & who is ignorent to what they are doing is wrong. I think it all falls back on the lack of eduication. as a well developed country and public schools its hard for me to beleive that there is nothing anyone can do about it. Im in an average senior in high school and it makes me sick to think that people honestly beleive this is not only all there is to do but the only way to go about things. I pray for peace everynight although i know its a fat chance. i also pray for the soilders. not only americans all of them and i hope that one day this will all be over before things get to bad. I think that the news should also use some of these satisics and see how that effects what people think. I know most of us sit on our asses in front of a t.v or a computer for a pretty good part of the week. Or maybe makeing comercails. something. anything. like i said i hope everyones alright and i hope all is not lost.

Anonymous,  30 October, 2007 00:54  

it is amazinghow many people we can save with i day without the iraq war!

Pam 23 November, 2007 23:02  

One of my fellow authors put up a blog post about the cost of war. It fits nicely with some of the points that you have made here, so, I thought I'd direct you to it... at .... she calls the post:
Economists Explain: Bush Destroyed Our American Dream and it's at this address:

Love your blog,

Anonymous,  06 June, 2008 04:56  

How to stop a war.

In the Vietnam war only 30% of the American soldiers going to the front line fired their weapons. The remaining soldiers had 100% of the bullets still in their guns.

So the individual soldiers own conscience kept his finger off the trigger of his rifle.

Which, with the help of the protests back in America, helped lead to the end of the Vietnam war.

Grateful Child 10 January, 2010 17:20  

This is a really great post, and perspective. Just goes to show Love in our hearts will lift this curtain of darkness that blinds us. Thanks so much for giving us the answers that only a real and beautiful Love like yours can bring. "When you come to make Love your only goal, ...words cannot describe this feeling." ___Transatlantic

Sofia 29 January, 2010 13:56  

That are the scary facts unfortunately. I hope Obama will keep on his words and will disengage the US troops in Iraq.

Frank P 08 February, 2010 12:55  

I think whatever politicians say now we'll be in Iraq for many more years yet.

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