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Finally, at the beginning of its fifth year, let's take a look at the cost of this war.

BOB WOODRUFF (ABC): "It was an impressive sight from the deck of the Abraham Lincoln, this war time president soaring overhead."

CYNTHIA BOWERS (CBS): "The White House has sent a clear signal. It is pulling out all the stops, choreographing this finale to the War."

BILL MOYERS: Yes, the war was over, the winner was George W. Bush, hailed by the press as a conquering hero.

CHRIS MATTHEWS (HARDBALL): "He won the war, he was an effective commander, everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics."

LOU DOBBS (CNN): "He looked like alternately Commander in Chief, rock star, movie star and one of the guys."

TOM BROKAW VO (NBC): "Here, now, is the President of the United States as he walks across the deck with 2000 sailors and officers on board for his address to the nation on the recently completed war in Iraq."

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

BILL MOYERS: By this point - 140 U.S. troops had died during the mission.

But back in Iraq, reality was writing the script.

Every day since that choreographed victory lap, violent act has followed violent act.

This April was the cruelest month of the year. The deadliest so far.

Even the supposedly protected heart of American power in Baghdad, The Green Zone, was shattered by an al Qaeda attack. Al Qaeda was not a presence in Iraq before the mission but it has a firm foothold there now.

Entering its fifth year, the war's costs are soaring so fast the Web site costofwar.com uses a non-stop digital counter to keep up with the spending. In today's dollars, it's projected to become the most expensive war in recent history - reaching nearly one-trillion dollars.

According to the National Priorities Project, the money spent on the war so far could have provided America:

1.8 million new teachers.

Over 20 million college scholarships.

Health insurance for over 60 million children.

Or nearly 4 million new housing units.

But no price tag can be put on the lost human lives.

Our government hasn't wanted us to see the human cost of the war.

It took grieving families and friends and veterans to create their own memorials like this one — crosses all in a row — on a California beach.

The grieving continues online:

MOTHER (SITTING NEAR HEADSTONE): He was my only child. This is something he gave me when he was 12 years old for Valentine's Day.

SISTER: He wasn't just my brother. He was our father's best friend, he was our mother's baby boy.

SISTER: My brother was a loving guy. A great brother, a great son, a great dad.

MOTHER: My angel was given to me on October 7, 1980. And he remains my angel to this day.

BILL MOYERS: The number of soldiers killed has reached 3,372 this week.

MEDIC: We'll just got some oxygen on you, okay?

BILL MOYERS: The number wounded - over 25,000 — And the number of limbs blown off and amputated — 1500 so far. And over five thousand head and brain injuries.

And we can never reckon the unseen scars that last a lifetime.

Sgt. Ty Ziegel suffered the loss of an eye, a fractured skull and burns over much of his body from the attack of a suicide bomber. Over 30 operations later he returned to civilian life and married his high school sweetheart, Renee.

As he gets on with his life, his unit is going back for a third tour of duty — including his 21-year-old brother Zach.

As for Iraqis, it's been difficult to get an accurate count of the dead and wounded.

Estimates range up to three-quarters of a million killed.

Caught in the crossfire between Sunnis and Shiites, hunted down by death squads or cut down on their way to school, work or the market, many just disappear into the debris.

Some two million have fled the country running for their lives.

Try to imagine what it's like to live with this.

Try to imagine what it's like to live in this.

Even when we catch a glimpse of their blackened bodies.

Even when their stricken eyes stare back.

They remain nameless to us — collateral damage — gone in a flash.

Forty years ago, we escalated the war in Vietnam again and again despite the absence of a winning strategy.

We're doing it again.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence — and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I have committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.

BILL MOYERS: The President is also calling up an additional 13,000 National Guardsmen next year despite the hardships on their families, communities and jobs. Nor will they be available during that time for emergency duty here at home. And the army has extended the tour of troops in Iraq to 15 months.

As Democrats and Republicans in Washington wrangle over a strategy, there is speculation that no matter what agreement they reach... American troops will be in Iraq at least a decade to come.

We are not finished with the costs of this war.

We'll be back next week. I'm Bill Moyers.

Bill Moyers Essay: The Cost of War

May 11, 2007

How do you make tangible the true costs of the Iraq war?

It’s a question that can be addressed in many ways. The National Priorities Project keeps a constantly running count of war costs — and compares the totals with what the dollars would buy in other government services. Fiscal conservatives keep an eye on the Department of Treasury’s national debt to the penny.

Of course there are costs that cannot be quantified in dollars. Photographer Nina Berman wanted to better understand soldiers and their war by meeting face to face with those who had fought it. With no official list of the wounded to go by, she tracked down newspaper articles on returning vets. She put her photographs of twenty veterans and their stories in her book Purple Hearts. She has added to her series on returned vets — view a slideshow of Berman’s work.

 

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