The cost of five years of the war in Iraq can be seen in almost any community in the United States.
Families whose loved ones were killed or wounded struggle to put their lives back together. The economy teeters, thanks partly to what a renowned economist projects will ultimately be a $3trillion war bill. Gas prices soar. A political landscape that cost many Republicans their seats in Congress continues to fuel anti-American sentiment outside the nation's borders.
Despite substantial political and infrastructure improvements directly attributable to U.S. involvement in Iraq, few observers believe that as of today - the fifth anniversary of U.S. bombs first falling on Baghdad - an end to America's presence there is in sight.
The consequences of a continued stay, they say, will be felt in Americans' bank accounts and in politicians' ability to govern. . .
From the perspective of Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Los Angeles chapter, the war's cost has been multifaceted.
Ayloush is an American with school-age children, and he worries about the state of their education, given California's budget crisis, cuts to education funding and teacher layoffs.
He, too, worries about the economy, the cost of gasoline, and the future of health care.
The war has other, less tangible costs, he noted.
"The biggest nonfinancial, nonmaterial casualty is the damage to our credibility and moral standing in the world today," Ayloush said. "When we issue reports on human rights, which the State Department does, people laugh at it now. They say, 'Be quiet."'
Ayloush, who visited Syria and Jordan recently, said he was struck by how angry people are at the United States. The war in Iraq has displaced 2.4million people and induced another 2million to live abroad, primarily in the two countries he visited. Before the war, 500,000 Iraqis lived outside the nation's borders.
"We have caused misery to thousands of their lives and we haven't accepted responsibility," Ayloush said. "We expect neighboring countries to carry that burden without any financial help."