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What would war with Iraq cost?

Bush: Attack by Iraq 'would cripple' economy

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

Bush: "This economy cannot afford to stand an attack."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House is downplaying published reports of an estimated $50 billion to $60 billion price tag for a war with Iraq, saying it is "impossible" to estimate the cost at this time.

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels told The New York Times in an interview published Tuesday that such a conflict could cost $50 billion to $60 billion -- the price tag of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

But Trent Duffy, an OMB spokesman, said Daniels did not intend to imply in the Times interview that $50 billion to $60 billion was a hard White House estimate.

"He said it could -- could -- be $60 billion," Duffy said. "It is impossible to know what any military campaign would ultimately cost. The only cost estimate we know of in this arena is the Persian Gulf War, and that was a $60 billion event."

Duffy also was careful to caution that President Bush had not made a decision to use military force against Saddam's regime.

Bush stressed that point in comments to reporters on Tuesday. "I want to remind people that Saddam Hussein, the choice is his to make as to whether or not the Iraqi situation [is] resolved peacefully. ... I hope we're not headed to war in Iraq," he said.

Fielding questions about the tensions with Iraq and North Korea, Bush also said an attack by by Saddam Hussein or a terrorist ally "would cripple our economy." (Full story)

"This economy cannot afford to stand an attack," Bush said. "And I'm going to protect the American people. The economy's strong. It's resilient. Obviously, so long as somebody's looking for work, we've got to continue to make it strong and resilient."

'No one knows how much it will cost'

In September, Daniels disputed an estimate by Bush economic adviser Larry Lindsey -- who has since left the White House -- that war with Iraq could cost $200 billion.

Daniels said he believes Lindsey's estimate was "the upper end of a hypothetical," Duffy said.

Congressional Democrats this past fall estimated the cost of a military attack against Iraq around $93 billion.

But they noted that the figure did not include costs such as U.S. peacekeeping efforts, foreign assistance or loan forgiveness, or the economic impact should an oil crisis ensue.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, the outgoing Senate Budget Committee chairman, issued a statement Tuesday saying "the reality is no one knows how much it will cost us to wage war with Iraq."

"Mitch Daniels' $50 billion to $60 billion estimate is as viable as Larry Lindsey's $100 billion to $200 billion estimate in September. So much depends on the duration and type of combat forces as well as the presence, duration and size of a peacekeeping force," Conrad said.

Conrad also said that "despite this potential new expense, the Bush administration continues with its ill-fated economic policy of more tax cuts for the wealthy, bigger deficits for the American people and growing debt for our children and grandchildren."

The cost of the Persian Gulf war was shared by many countries in the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam. It is unclear how many nations would pick up some of the cost of another campaign.

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