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article imageTrue cost of US wars near $4 trillion, according to new study

By Lynn Herrmann     Jun 29, 2011 in Politics
Washington - A new study just released reveals the true cost for America’s involvement with wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is far greater than numbers touted by President Barack Obama, showing 225,000 killed and a price tab of $3.2 - 4 trillion.
Among its findings, Costs of War reveals the economic and human costs of these wars, which will continue for decades to come, with some costs not peaking until the middle of the century. It suggests the true cost of the wars, already paid, obligated to be paid, and conservatively estimated, is $3.2 trillion in constant dollars and states a more realistic estimate places the number at a staggering $4 trillion.
Last week, in announcing a small troop draw down in Afghanistan, Obama said “the tide of war is receding,” and suggested it was now time, instead, to start “nation-building” at home. In his White House speech, the president also said: “Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource: our people,” the New York Times reports.
Neta Crawford, a co-director of the report and a Boston University political science professor responded: “I don't know what the president knows, but I wish it were a trillion. It would be better if it were a trillion,” according to Reuters.
The report points out spiraling costs associated with veteran care, in the form of health or disability claims and while noting more than 6,000 US soldiers have lost their lives in the wars, we know little about the extent of injuries and illness veterans return home with. It states 550,000 disability claims have been filed with the VA just through last autumn.
For the occupied countries of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, at least 137,000 civilians have lost their lives, with that number continuing to rise as long as there is a military conflict. In Pakistan, as many lives have been lost as in neighboring Afghanistan. Combined, Costs of War states the number of dead, in uniform and out, totals 225,000.
War refugees and displaced persons in the three countries - 7,800,000 of them - is equal to the combined populations of Connecticut and Kentucky.
Costs of War, prepared by Brown University’s Institute for International Studies, suggests while the Afghan and Iraqi invasions were for the purpose of eliminating terrorists’ safe havens and weapons of mass destruction, the rationale quickly changed into the promotion of democracy in the two countries.
The report also shows democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan is poorly ranked. Using the Democracy Index as a guide, it notes Iraq is a “flawed democracy” ranked #111 of 167 countries ranked in 2010. Afghanistan, an “authoritarian regime”, is ranked #150 in the same index.
On the Transparency International corruption scale from 0 to 10, Iraq ranks 1.5, worst in the Middle East. On the same scale, Afghanistan ranks 1.4, the worst in South Asia.
Among its recommendations, Costs of War calls for prompt, systematic records on all deaths and injuries in the war zones, including US troops, contractors (US citizens or not), civilians, enemy combatants and prisoners. These records should be made public on a regular basis.
An ongoing record-keeping of war-related deaths (e.g. suicide) and troop injuries after deployment, regardless of whether they receive VA treatment, should be continued.
Full disclosure and nature of detentions, at home and abroad, in a timely manner is another of the report’s recommendations.
As recommended by the Congressional Research Service, the Pentagon’s war accounting and base expenditures should be more transparent, with the creation of separate appropriations for war funding, the report suggest.
A full description of war cost accounting, including the additions to “base” Pentagon and VA war-related expenses, such as the New GI bill, insurance and death gratuities. Additionally, private contractors’ auditing methods need to be fully described.
Disclosure of the Pentagon’s fuel consumption, on a regular basis, in each war zone and their supporting operations, including fuel transportation, is also called for by the report.
The US government’s drone surveillance and strike program’s budget, part of the National Intelligence Program, should be made public as well, the report notes.
Lastly, it calls for non-partisan, independent commission to conduct a thorough assessment of human, social, and financial costs of the three wars for the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and any other countries directly impacted by the wars.
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