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Hussein Is Big Question in Estimating Cost of War

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2003 – How much would a war against Iraq potentially cost? There are too many variables to give a good estimate, said DoD Comptroller Dov Zakheim.

"Nobody knows, of course, how long a war will last," Zakheim said during a recent ABC Radio interview. "We don't know how intense it will be."

Would Saddam Hussein use chemical weapons, or set fire to Iraqi oil fields -- or someone else's -- or attack neighbors or his own people? There are many questions, but few concrete answers, DoD officials said.

Zakheim said the 1991 Persian Gulf War cost about $60 billion. However, allies provided much of the funding. U.S. taxpayers picked up about $11 billion. He said there are countries willing to help pick up some of the expenses of a war on Iraq. "We don't know whether and to what extent we'll get those kinds of contributions, but we do expect contributions," he said.

"There are a lot of countries that, for reasons that I think are quite understandable, want to be sure that we will, indeed, go to war," he said. "So they're not exactly jumping up and down and saying, 'We're going to help out.' But we know that they will."

Some of that funding will come in kind -- oil, food, materiel -- and some will be in money. Other nations will pick up their share of the cost by being active participants.

Then come questions about reconstruction, Zakheim said. If Hussein uses chemical or biological weapons, clean-up costs will be expensive. "How much will it cost to find all those weapons of mass destruction if we have to really go in?" he asked. "Of course, Saddam could make our life easier by leaving tomorrow, or even tonight."

Zakheim, DoD's point man for rebuilding Afghanistan, said the United States would help rebuild Iraq should war be necessary. Even following 12 years of U.N. economic sanctions, Iraq is in far better shape than Afghanistan. It has a more diversified economy, a better infrastructure and a larger, more educated population. In addition, millions of Iraqi exiles might return home with the ouster of the Hussein regime.

"The No. 1 criterion is what do the Iraqis want," he said. "We're in Afghanistan now, but the Afghans are rebuilding their country -- we're not building their country, we're helping them. Presumably the same thing will happen in Iraq."

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