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Five years ... and counting

This week we mark a milestone no one wanted to reach: The fifth year of the War in Iraq. During the past five years, this paper has localized some of the effects of the military conflict, profiling some of the soldiers from western Washington County and the families they've left behind.

We've been there to capture some joyous reunions and, on a few occasions, take note of memorial services (nationally, 4,000 Americans have been killed in the war).

Those costs, measured in lives, are relatively simple - if, at times, painful - to localize. Our armed forces, after all, are made up of people from our communities.

What's harder to translate to the local level is another kind of cost of the war. The conflict the Bush administration predicted could be settled for $50 billion, has now cost more than 10 times that amount.

That's right, $500 billion. How does one make sense of that figure? The National Priorities Project has a web site that helps bring that frightening figure into perspective, calculating the cost of the war for local communities, based on population.

So, what do the latest numbers show? As of Monday night, the cost of the war for Washington County's residents totaled $672 million. Hillsboro's share of that was $105 million. In Forest Grove, it was $20.6 million (or, four times what the city government spends on police and fire services each year).

Those numbers are still too big for most of us to really comprehend, but they get us closer to understanding the effect of this war on the nation's financial health.

While national polls show that most Americans' concerns over the economy have now surpassed their worries about the war, the two are linked.

Unless you're willing to raise taxes (and this administration isn't), you can't spend $275 million a day without cutting domestic programs. And those cuts are felt at the local level, where there's less money for everything from Community Development Block Grants to low-income housing assistance.

We don't pretend to know how to get out of this mess, but we are heartened by the fact that earlier this week presidential candidate Hillary Clinton began talking about the economic cost of the war which, she noted, is on pace to reach another incomprehensible figure: $1 trillion.

You can see the cost of the war at the National Priorities Project web site: www.nationalpriorities.org/costofwar.