By S. Chandler
TORONTO (IDN) – At least 225,000 civilians and men and women in uniform have been killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which also involved Pakistan, and will cost the U.S. up to $4 trillion, albeit without any significant gains for democracy, says a new report that stands out for its first comprehensive analysis some ten years after George W. Bush junior declared the ‘War on Terror’.
This exceptional analysis of the horrendous human, economic and social and political costs of the three wars has been published by the Eisenhower Research Project based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. It warns that “if the wars continue, they are on track to require at least another $450 billion in Pentagon spending by 2020.”
The Institute’s ‘Costs of War’ project, which involved more than 20 economists, anthropologists, lawyers, humanitarian personnel, and political scientists, provides new estimates of the total war cost as well as other direct and indirect human and economic costs of the U.S. military response to the 9/11 attacks.
The project is the first comprehensive analysis of all U.S., coalition, and civilian casualties, including U.S. contractors. It also assesses many of the wars’ hidden costs, such as interest on war-related debt and veterans’ benefits.
Catherine Lutz, the Thomas J. Watson Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University, co-directs the Eisenhower Research Project with Neta Crawford, a 1985 Brown graduate and professor of political science at Boston University.
The report’s main findings are:
– 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,” said Lutz. “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,” Crawford said. “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, non-profit, scholarly initiative that derives its purpose from President 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.
The report says: “The President of the United States has told the American people and the rest of the world that even as the U.S. withdraws some troops from Afghanistan and continues to withdraw from Iraq, the wars will continue for some years,” adding: “The debate over why each war was begun and whether either or both should have been fought continues.”
“While we know how many U.S. soldiers have died in the wars (just over 6000), what is startling is what we don’t know about the levels of injury and illness in those who have returned from the wars. New disability claims continue to pour into the VA, with 550,000 just through last fall. Many deaths and injuries among U.S. contractors have not been identified,” notes the report.
At least 137,000 civilians have died and more will die in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as a result of the fighting at the hands of all parties to the conflict, the report adds. It points out that the armed conflict in Pakistan, which the U.S. helps the Pakistani military fight by funding, equipping and training them, has taken as many lives as the conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Putting together the conservative numbers of war dead, in uniform and out, brings the total to 225,000, says the report.
In addition, millions of people have been displaced indefinitely and are living in grossly inadequate conditions. The current number of war refugees and displaced persons — 7,800,000 — is equivalent to all of the people of Connecticut and Kentucky fleeing their homes, informs the report.
EROSION OF CIVIL LIBERTIES
The report further notes that the wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad.
“The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades, some costs not peaking until mid-century. Many of the wars’ costs are invisible to Americans, buried in a variety of budgets, and so have not been counted or assessed,” the report says.
“For example,” it adds, “while most people think the Pentagon war appropriations are equivalent to the wars’ budgetary costs, the true numbers are twice that, and the full economic cost of the wars much larger yet. Conservatively estimated, the war bills already paid and obligated to be paid are $3.2 trillion in constant dollars. A more reasonable estimate puts the number at nearly $4 trillion.”
As with former U.S. wars, the costs of paying for veterans’ care into the future will be a sizable portion of the full costs of the war, warns the report.
The ripple effects on the U.S. economy have also been significant, including job loss and interest rate increases, and those effects have been underappreciated, notes the report.
While it was promised that the U.S. invasions would bring democracy to both countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, both continue to rank low in global rankings of political freedom, with warlords continuing to hold power in Afghanistan with U.S. support, and Iraqi communities more segregated today than before by gender and ethnicity as a result of the war.
The report confirms the widespread view that “serious and compelling alternatives to war were scarcely considered in the aftermath of 9/11 or in the discussion about war against Iraq.” Though, some of those alternatives are still available to the U.S.
The report points out: “There are many costs of these wars that we have not yet been able to quantify and assess. With our limited resources, we focused on U.S. spending, U.S. and allied deaths, and the human toll in the major war zones, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. There is still much more to know and understand about how all those affected by the wars have had their health, economies, and communities altered by the decade of war, and what solutions exist for the problems they face as a result of the wars’ destruction.” (IDN-InDepthNews/30.06.2011)