War costs: $4 trillion, 225,000 lives

BROWN (US) — Nearly 10 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the cost of wars include at least 225,000 people killed and expenditures between $3.2 and $4 trillion.

If conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan continue, they are on track to require at least another $450 billion in Pentagon spending by 2020.

New estimates from the Costs of War project, also detail direct and indirect human and economic costs of the U.S. military response to the 9/11 attacks. Among the group’s main findings:

  • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan will cost between $3.2 and $4 trillion, including medical care and disability for current and future war veterans. This figure does not include substantial probable future interest on war-related debt.
  • More than 31,000 people in uniform and military contractors have died, including the Iraqi and Afghan security forces and other military forces allied with the United States.
  • By a very conservative estimate, 137,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by all parties to these conflicts.
  • The wars have created more than 7.8 million refugees among Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis.
  • Pentagon bills account for half of the budgetary costs incurred and are a fraction of the full economic cost of the wars.
  • Because the war has been financed almost entirely by borrowing, $185 billion in interest has already been paid on war spending, and another $1 trillion could accrue in interest alone through 2020.
  • Federal obligations to care for past and future veterans of these wars will likely total between $600-$950 billion. This number is not included in most analyses of the costs of war and will not peak until mid-century.

“This project’s accounting is important because information is vital for the public’s democratic deliberation on questions of foreign policy,” says Catherine Lutz, professor of anthropology and international studies at Brown University.

“Knowing the actual costs of war is essential as the public, Congress, and the President weigh the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, and other areas including the deficit, security, public investments, and reconstruction.”

“There are many costs and consequences of war that cannot be quantified, and the consequences of wars don’t end when the fighting stops,” says Neta Crawford, professor of political science at Boston University.

“The Eisenhower study group has made a start at counting and estimating the costs in blood, treasure, and lost opportunities that are both immediately visible and those which are less visible and likely to grow even when the fighting winds down.”

The Eisenhower Research Project is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit, scholarly initiative that derives its purpose from President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address, in which he warned of the “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial complex and appealed for an “alert and knowledgeable citizenry” as the only force able to balance the often contrasting demands of security and liberty in the democratic state.

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