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With Entitlements on the Chopping Block, a New Study Details the Vast Costs of War

The US Military and CIA  are currently carrying out operations in at least six countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.  As many as sixteen countries hold detainees arrested as part of the US War on Terror.  When stating the cost of ten years of war, presidents and congress have focused narrowly on Pentagon appropriations, but a new study from Brown University shows the costs of ongoing war are twice what politicians acknowledge.  Since 911, direct funding for the Pentagon totals 1.3 trillion dollars, but when veteran medical and disability costs, foreign assistance, homeland security ($400 billion over ten years), interest on the war debt ($185 billion so far with a total of one trillion estimated by 2020), are added up, Brown University political scientist Neta Crawford says the US has spent $2.6 trillion so far, and will spend as much as $4.4 trillion by the time our involvement in current theaters come to an end.

Since 911, war funding has come through special and emergency appropriations until recently, and these budgets have not been adequately scrutinized as our post 911 paranoia justifies any means necessary to kill our enemies and rebuild their countries.

Where is war spending in the debt limit talks?  The president says he will bring home some 30,000 troops from Afghanistan next year.  Good.  But despite troop draw-downs, the costs of prosecuting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will haunt our budget for decades.

The study also highlights the tragic human costs of war:

“The human toll — in death, injury and displacement — has been underestimated and in some cases undercounted.  There are many difficulties in counting those who are killed and wounded in combat, as discussed in the individual reports by Neta Crawford and Catherine Lutz. Thus, an extremely conservative estimate of the toll in direct war dead and wounded is about 225,000 dead and about 365,000 physically wounded in these wars so far.  More than 6,000 U.S. soldiers and 2,300 U.S. contractors have already been killed. The deaths of U.S. allies, including Iraqi and Afghan security forces and other coalition partners total more than 20,000.  The numbers of Afghan and Pakistani military and police killed are probably higher than the totals given here.”

I ask that we demand our representatives more closely consider the costs of war before we decide to use armed conflict to resolve differences, now and in the future.  Do not vote for candidates who are willing to shoot first and ask questions later.  Before we cut entitlement programs for seniors, let us more fully consider our military obligations around the globe and what they mean for our economy, our society and moral standing.  Here is a summary of the budgeted and long term liability of ten years of war from the Costs of War report:

“We calculate that the U.S. federal government has already spent between $2.3 and 2.6 trillion in constant 2011 dollars.  This number is greater than the trillion dollars that the President and others say the U.S. has already spent on war since 2001.  Our estimate is larger because we include more than the direct Pentagon appropriation for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the larger global war on terror; wars always cost more than what the Pentagon spends for the duration of the combat operation.  But the wars will certainly cost more than has already been spent.  Including the amounts that the U.S. is obligated to spend for veterans, and the likely costs of future fighting as well as the social costs that the veterans and their families will pay, we calculate that the wars will cost between $3.7 and 4.4 trillion dollars.”

We cannot kill all our enemies.  We have earned too many and are earning more with every military intervention.  And reducing the number of military conflicts we undertake is an issue right and left can agree on for different reasons.  Ask the candidates for Nevada’s CD2 if they support diplomatic resolutions over military intervention.  Let us elect candidates who work for justice, and peace will follow.  Ask CD2 candidates about the solution they support in Palestine/Israel.  Does a state of Apartheid in Gaza have anything to do with our “terrorism” problem and our subsequent war spending problem?

Before we chop Social Security and Medicare, let us take a long hard look at defense spending.  Ask your representatives to throw war profiteer lobbyists out of their office and choose schools and seniors in the United States instead of fruitless and costly wars abroad.  Say no to war profiteers.

Who profits from war in Iraq?

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was twice CEO of Halliburton, a company that reported a huge increase in revenues from its contracts to help rebuild Iraq. Sales in the third quarter of 2003 were 39% higher at $4.1 billion, and profits grew fourfold to $49 million, of which $34 million was Iraq business. Halliburton won these contracts on noncompetitive bids.  Former Vice President Dick Cheney received a $33 million payoff when he left Halliburton in 2000, and still gets $180,000 a year in deferred income. Halliburton has also donated $708,770 in the period 1999 – 2002 to US political interests, of which 95 percent went to Republicans.

For more on the incestuous relationship between Dick Cheney and Halliburton, see Halliburton Watch.



  1. [...] This post was first published in The Nevada View. [...]

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