Whenever a politician or government minister says "we can't afford that" they are lying. Full stop. If they want to afford it, they can afford it. The price tag for the Iraq War (via 3 Quarks, quoting John Allen Paulos in his Who's Counting column at ABC News) is now estimated at $700 billion ...
... $700 billion in direct costs and perhaps twice that much when indirect expenditures are included. Cost estimates vary — Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz puts the total cost at more than $2 trillion — but let's be conservative and say it's only $1 trillion (in today's dollars).
As a number of other commentators have recently written, this number — a 1 followed by 12 zeroes — can be put into perspective in various ways. Given how large the war looms, it doesn't hurt to repeat this simple exercise with other examples and in other ways.
There are many comparisons that might be made, and devising new governmental monetary units is one way to make them. Consider, for example, that the value of one EPA, the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, is about $7.5 billion. The cost of the Iraq War is thus more than a century's worth of EPA spending (in today's dollars), almost 130 EPAs, only a small handful of which would probably have been sufficient to clean up Superfund sites around the country.