Today's Associated Press reports that the Senate's "overwhelmingly approval" yesterday of $81 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, if approved by the House and President, "would push the total cost of combat and reconstruction past $300 billion."

It's a staggering amount of money, a price tag for operations in two countries that in real dollars is bigger than the entire annual defense budget (already too high) during the Clinton years.

Last week, the New York Times ran a damning story about the "reconstruction" costs of the war. Of the meager $18.4 billion allocated by Congress for water, schools, electricity and other needs, the administration has diverted $4.8 billion for other uses, mostly for escalating security costs.

"Reconstruction" has been largely chimerical: of the $18 billion Congress approved, only two-thirds has been committed to actual projects, and only $4.2 billion has been disbursed for work completed. Of 81 planned water projects, all but 13 have been defunded.

Yet somehow, contractors like Halliburton seem to be doing just fine.