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At a presidential forum in Washington, D.C., U.S. Sen. Barack Obama tried to put the massive cost of the Iraq war into context as he rallied to bring troops home.
"We've got to have an energy plan that stops sending $800-million a day to some of the most hostile nations on Earth and melts the polar ice caps in the process. And it's going to be difficult for us to do this as long as we're spending $275-million a day on a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged, a war that you and I were opposed to from the start."
Obama made that statement at the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees convention on June 19, 2007.
The two leading nonpartisan government agencies give different figures, but Obama's assertion is not far from the mark.
The Congressional Budget Office, which serves as the fiscal research arm for Congress, reports the estimated cost for the Iraq war since 2001 is $413-billion, or $249.2-million a day.
The Congressional Research Service, which analyzes public policy for Congress, calculates the total spending to date at $450.4-billion, or $271.8-million a day.
The disparity in the numbers is a matter of how the groups tabulate dollars that don't always have a specific designation.
Here's how confusing it can be. When we asked Obama's campaign to explain how he arrived at his $275 million figure, campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki provided yet another number. $305-million per day. This figure is different from the others because it includes projected costs through the end of the 2008 budget year.
Here's how the Obama campaign's math works: They take the entire cost of the Iraq conflict to date, ($450.4-billion, according to the Congressional Research Service) add the Bush administration request in 2008 ($166-billion) and divide by the number of days from the start of the conflict, March 19, 2003, to the end of the next budget year, Oct. 1, 2008 (2023 days).
The number Obama used at the forum, Psaki concluded, "is actually a more conservative estimate of the average spent per day."
Congressional Budget Office testimony, Estimated Costs of U.S. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and of Other Activities Related to the War on Terrorism July 31, 2007.
Center for Strategic and International Studies, The Uncertain Cost of the Global War on Terror August 2007.
The Brookings Institution, Iraq Index
Aug. 27, 2007 Barack Obama,a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19311872/"> American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees presidential forum June 19, 2007.
Interview with Jen Psaki, Obama campaign spokeswoman, Sept. 17, 2007.
Interview with Melissa Merson, Congressional Budget Office spokeswoman, Sept. 17, 2007.
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