Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says financing the Iraq war with borrowed monies and no tax hikes was a mistake.
The Congressional Budget Office has put the cost of the 2003-launched campaign at over $800 billion; President Obama has said it cost $1 trillion. The Bush administration opted to finance the campaign through measures that further inflated America's debt level, critics argue.
"We ran that war on a credit card," said Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy during a Senate hearing today.
"If we repeated the mistake," Panetta added, "that would add to the debt and the deficit."
The current level of U.S. outstanding public debt is $15.7 trillion; the Treasury Department says the federal deficit stands at $844.5 billion.
To avoid having future conflicts add to those figures, Panetta suggested Washington should raise federal revenues to pay for the nation's wars.
By borrowing war monies, "you just put the burden on our kids for the future," Panetta said. Officials and citizens must instead "realize that we all bear that burden."
John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.