Project Billboard and the Center for American Progress detailed exactly how the $144.4 billion pledged to date could have been spent on multiple projects to make America safer at home and stronger abroad

Published on Thursday, the Opportunity Cost of the Iraq War report coincided with the unveiling of a new billboard in New York's Times Square.

The billboard features a constantly updated clock counting the cost of the Iraq war, similar to the former national debt clock.

The clock starts at $134.5 billion and increases at a rate of $177 million per day, $7.4 million per hour and $122,820 per minute.

Organisers plan to feature the clock in a full page ad in the New York Times on 30 August.

Report details

Opportunity Cost of the Iraq War reveals that for the cost of the Iraq war to date, the US could have undertaken 18 major new projects to strengthen its security in the world and at home.

Suggestions include adding two new divisions to the army, putting 100,000 new police officers on the nation's streets, doubling the size of the Firefighters Grant Program and doubling Special Operations forces.

Billboard comes as figures show 
US poverty figures have increased

"Whether you are a critic or supporter of President Bush's policy in Iraq, two points are clear -- Iraq was a war of choice, and the United States is bearing virtually all of the cost," said John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress.

"At a time when there are many competing security priorities … it's important to recognise the opportunity cost of the choice to invade Iraq at the time and in the manner that we did."

Billboard billions

Deborah Rappaport, spokesperson for Project Billboard, added: "The Iraq conflict has already cost American taxpayers an astonishing $134.5 billion.

"We feel it is vital that citizens be aware of this considerable expenditure at this important time in our nation's history. What better place than in the billboard capital of the world."

Project Billboard was involved in a major lawsuit against Clear Channel last month when the media giant rejected one of the group's anti-war messages.

Both organizations are non-partisan, not-for-profit organization established in 2003 by a group of concerned Americans seeking to achieve a renewed national commitment to the principles of open inquiry, debate, diversity, tolerance and free expression.