Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Costs of War

Costs of the U.S.-Led War in Iraq Since 2003

March 19-20, 2023 marks 20 years since United States forces invaded Iraq to oust dictator Saddam Hussein, under the false claim that his regime was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. The ensuing war, in which U.S. ground presence peaked in 2007 with over 170,000 soldiers, caused massive death, destruction, and political instability in Iraq. Among the consequences was the increase of sectarian politics, widespread violence and the rise of the Islamic State militant group with its terror attacks throughout the Middle East. Though the U.S. government officially ended its Iraq war in 2011, the repercussions of the invasion and occupation as well as subsequent and ongoing military interventions have had an enormous human, social, economic, and environmental toll. An estimated 315,000 people have died from direct war violence in Iraq, while the reverberating effects of war continue to kill and sicken hundreds of thousands more.


In this panel, co-hosted by the Center for Middle East Studies and the Watson Institute’s Costs of War project, scholars from the Iraqi diaspora Zahra Ali (Rutgers University), Khaled al-Hilli (CUNY Graduate Center), Oula Kadhum (London School of Economic and Political Science), and Kali Rubaii (Purdue University) reflect on the broad consequences of war in Iraq over the past 20 years, in particular in relation to gender, culture, displacement, the environment and health.

The following list includes many Costs of War papers that directly address the costs of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Other papers on the website address the costs of the post-9/11 wars, more generally, including in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere.

How Death Outlives War: The Reverberating Impact of the Post-9/11 Wars on Human Health. Savell, Stephanie. 2023.

Blood and Treasure: United States Budgetary Costs and Human Costs of 20 Years of War in Iraq and Syria, 2003-2023. Crawford, Neta. 2023.

Human Cost of Post-9/11 Wars: Direct War Deaths in Major War Zones, Afghanistan & Pakistan (Oct. 2001 – Aug. 2021); Iraq (March 2003 – Aug. 2021); Syria (Sept. 2014 – May 2021); Yemen (Oct. 2002-Aug. 2021) and Other Post-9/11 War Zones. Crawford, Neta; Lutz, Catherine. 2021.

Profits of War: Corporate Beneficiaries of the Post-9/11 Pentagon Spending Surge. Hartung, William. Center for International Policy. 2021.

Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the United States’ Post-9/11 Wars. David Vine, Cala Coffman, Katalina Khoury, Madison Lovasz, Helen Bush, Rachael Leduc, and Jennifer Walkup. 2021.

The Human Cost of U.S. Interventions in Iraq: A History from the 1960s through the Post-9/11 Wars. Saleh, Zainab. 2020.