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Iraq, Afghanistan wars will cost us $4 trillion

  Report says Iraq, Afghanistan wars will cost us $4 trillion.

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How much will our wars cost? Report says $4 trillion

By Liz Goodwin | The Lookout Wed, Jun 29, 2011

A new report out of Brown University estimates that the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq--together with the counterinsurgency efforts in Pakistan--will, all told, cost $4 trillion and leave 225,000 dead, both civilians and soldiers.

The group of economists, anthropologists, lawyers, humanitarian personnel, and political scientists involved in the project estimated that the cost of caring for the veterans injured in the wars will reach $1 trillion in 30 or 40 years. In estimating the $4 trillion total, they did not take into account the $5.3 billion in reconstruction spending the government has promised Afghanistan, state and local contributions to veteran care, interest payments on war debt, or the costs of Medicare for veterans when they reach 65.

The Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, has assessed the federal price tag for the wars at $1.8 trillion through 2021. The report says that is a gross underestimate, predicting that the government has already paid $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion.

More than 6,000 U.S. troops and 2,300 contractors have died since the wars began after Sept. 11. A staggering 550,000 disability claims have been filed with the VA as of 2010. Meanwhile, 137,000 civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq have died in the conflict. (Injuries among U.S. contractors have also not yet been made public, further complicating the calculations of cost.) Nearly 8 million people have been displaced. Check out Reuters' factbox breaking down the costs and casualties here.

Perhaps the most sobering conclusion of the researchers is that it's unclear whether the human and economic costs are worth it. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are now dead, and the Taliban is marginalized, but Iraq and Afghanistan are far from being stable democracies. Meanwhile, the half a percentage point a year in GDP growth the war has fueled has been offset by the enormous increase in the national deficit, the report says.

"We decided we needed to do this kind of rigorous assessment of what it cost to make those choices to go to war," study co-director Catherine Lutz told Reuters. "Politicians, we assumed, were not going to do that kind of assessment."

The researchers recommend that the U.S. government be more transparent in disclosing the costs of its wars to taxpayers, by including the costs of future health care for veterans, the cost of paying interest on debt taken out to fund the wars, and estimating how much state and local governments take on in war costs. You can see their recommendations here.


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Factbox: Highlights of "Costs of War" research

By Daniel Trotta | Reuters Wed, Jun 29, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major findings from the "Costs of War" study on the financial and human costs of U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2001 by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

FINANCIAL TOLL:

* Congressional war appropriations to Pentagon since 2001: $1.3 trillion

* Additions to Pentagon base budget: $362 billion to $652 billion

* Interest on Pentagon war appropriations: $185 billion

* Veterans' medical claims and disability: $33 billion

* War-related international aid: $74 billion

* Additions to Homeland Security base spending: $401 billion

* Projected obligations for veterans care to 2050: $589 billion to $934 billion

* Social costs to veterans and military families to date: $295 billion to $400 billion

Future spending requests:
* 2012 Pentagon war spending: $118 billion

* 2012 foreign aid: $12 billion

* 2013-2015 projected war spending: $168 billion

* 2016-2020 projected war spending: $155 billion

ESTIMATED TOTAL: $3.7 trillion to $4.4 trillion

ADDITIONAL interest payments to 2020: $1 trillion

CONSERVATIVE DEATH TOLL ESTIMATES BY WAR ZONE:

Afghanistan: 33,877

Iraq: 151,471

Pakistan: 39,127

CONSERVATIVE DEATH TOLL ESTIMATES BY CATEGORY:
U.S. military: 6,051

U.S. contractors: 2,300

Iraqi security forces: 9,922

Afghan security forces: 8,756

Pakistani security forces: 3,520

Other allied troops: 1,192

Afghan civilians: 11,700

Iraqi civilians: 125,000

Pakistani civilians and insurgents: 35,600

Afghan insurgents: 10,000

Iraqi army during U.S. invasion: 10,000

Journalists and media workers: 168

Humanitarian workers: 266

TOTAL: 224,475

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


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However one judges the US waging of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, at the very least, we should know what each of those wars has been like. We should know who has been killed, what kinds of wounds have been suffered, and what kinds of economic costs and consequences have been incurred. Those costs have been consistently minimized, misunderstood, or hidden from public view.

While there are those who would argue that the role of the citizenry should be simple assent once the nation is at war, a wide variety of goals from enhanced democracy to enhanced human security require more specific knowledge about these and any wars. In addition, the US public should know what the decision to go to war in each of these cases has wrought. Because information facilitates democratic deliberation and effective decision-making, the U.S. should increase transparency by:

* recording all deaths and injuries in the war zones; this includes the deaths of US troops (not just those medically evacuated) and contractors (whetherU.S.citizens or not), civilians in the war zones, enemy combatants, and prisoners. Records should be completed promptly and systematically and made public on a regular basis;

* continuing to track the war-related deaths (e.g. suicide) and injuries of troops after deployment, whether or not they receive VA treatment;

* fully disclosing the number and nature of detentions at home and abroad and in a timely way;

* making Pentagon accounting for wars and base expenditures more transparent by setting up separate appropriations for war funding, as the Congressional Research Service recommends;

* including in the accounting of war costs the additions to the "base" Pentagon and Veterans Administration expenditures that are clearly war related, such as the New GI bill, death gratuities and insurance;

* fully describing and auditing the use of private contractors;

* regularly disclosing the Pentagon's fuel consumption for each war zone and supporting operations, including the transportation of fuel;

* making public the National Intelligence Program budget that is directly related to war (e.g. the CIA drone surveillance and strike program).

Transparency and accountability for war budgets and costs must include not only what has been spent, but the amounts that the U.S.will be obliged to spend by virtue of the fact of going to war. The U.S. should make comprehensive estimates of the budgetary costs of these wars by
* including the future obligations to veterans;

* refraining from funding the wars through special or emergency appropriations;

* including the estimated costs of paying the interest on war borrowing and the estimated difference in cost between borrowing for war versus raising taxes or selling war bonds;

* estimating the costs of war that are passed on to state and local governments and to private individuals;

* estimating the macroeconomic effects of war spending on the U.S. economy.

Finally, the research reported here is only a beginning: an independent non-partisan commission should make a thorough assessment of the human, financial, and social costs of the wars of the last decade for the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, the United States and other countries directly affected by the wars.
 

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