In 2005, a Nobel prize-winning economist began the painstaking process of calculating the true cost of the Iraq war. In his new book, he reveals how short-sighted budget decisions, cover-ups and a war fought in bad faith will affect us all for decades to come. Aida Edemariam meets Joseph Stiglitz
Fitful spring sunshine is warming the neo-gothic limestone of the Houses of Parliament, and the knots of tourists wandering round them, but in a basement cafe on Millbank it is dark, and quiet, and Joseph Stiglitz is looking as though he hasn’t had quite enough sleep. For two days non-stop he has been talking – at the LSE, at Chatham House, to television crews – and then he is flying to Washington to testify before Congress on the subject of his new book. Whatever their reservations – and there will be a few – representatives will have to listen, because not many authors with the authority of Stiglitz, a Nobel prize-winner in economics, an academic tempered by four years on Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers and another three as chief economist at the World Bank (during which time he developed an influential critique of globalisation), will have written a book that so urgently redefines the terms in which to view an ongoing conflict. The Three Trillion Dollar War reveals the extent to which its effects have been, and will be, felt by everyone, from Wall Street to the British high street, from Iraqi civilians to African small traders, for years to come.
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