Post 9/11 Militarization: US has Spent Nearly $5 trillion on Wars Since
September 11, 2001, Under the Pretext of “Fighting Terrorism”

By  <> Bill Van Auken


In another indication of the terrible price paid by working people in the
United States and all over the globe for the crimes of US imperialism, a new
<> reportfrom
Brown University estimates that Washington has squandered nearly $5 trillion
since September 11, 2001 on the wars launched under the pretext of fighting

The report coincides with the 15th anniversary of 9/11, with 10,000 US
troops still in Afghanistan, 15 years after the US invasion of that country,
and an estimated 6,000 in Iraq. Hundreds more special operations forces have
been deployed to Syria, where the US is fighting for regime change in a de
facto alliance with that country’s affiliates of Al Qaeda—which was
supposedly the principal target of the last decade and a half of war.

While the financial costs of these wars are staggering, bordering on the
unfathomable, the author of the report, Boston University professor Neta
Crawford, correctly places them in their far broader, and more horrifying,
context of the trail of blood and destruction that US military operations
have left in their wake:

“…a full accounting of any war’s burdens cannot be placed in columns on a
ledger. From the civilians harmed or displaced by violence, to the soldiers
killed and wounded, to the children who play years later on roads and fields
sown with improvised explosive devices and cluster bombs, no set of numbers
can convey the human toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or how they
have spilled into the neighboring states of Syria and Pakistan, and come
home to the US and its allies in the form of wounded veterans and

Some of these numbers are also quantifiable, and appalling, from the over
one million Iraqi lives lost to the US invasion of 2003 to the more than 12
million refugees driven from just the four countries laid waste by US wars:
Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria. In addition, there are the nearly
7,000 US troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with roughly an equal
number of private contractors, as well as the 52,000 officially listed as
wounded in combat and the untold hundreds of thousands more suffering from
traumatic brain injuries, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and other
mental health problems resulting from multiple deployments in dirty
colonial-style wars.

Nonetheless, the report argues persuasively that it is also vital to make a
serious and comprehensive evaluation of the real financial costs of these

The overall cost of US imperialism’s wars includes the $1.7 trillion
directly appropriated by Congress to wage them as so-called Overseas
Contingency Operations (OCO). This is above and beyond the Pentagon’s base
budget, which totals some $6.8 trillion from FY2001-2016.

By defining these wars as OCOs, Congress, together with both the Bush and
Obama administrations, has acted as if they are some kind of unforeseeable
emergencies that could not be planned for within the government’s normal
budgetary process, even as they dragged out for a decade and a half. As a
result, they were freed from any kind of normal fiscal accountability, with
no taxes or other revenues allotted to pay for them.

In addition to this direct war funding, the report includes the costs of
veterans’ medical and disability care, allocations for Homeland Security,
interest on Pentagon war appropriations and future costs for veterans’ care.

This last cost is estimated at amounting to at least $1 trillion between now
and 2053. The basis for such an estimate is made clear by the presentation
of some alarming statistics.

By the end of 2015, more than 1,600 soldiers who fought in Iraq and
Afghanistan had undergone major limb amputations as a result of wounds
suffered in combat. A total of 327,000 veterans of these wars had been
diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury as of 2014 and by the same year fully
700,000 out of the 2.7 million people deployed to the war zones had been
classified as 30 percent or more disabled.

The report points out that Veterans Affairs is the fastest growing
department in the US government, with its staffing levels having nearly
doubled since 2001 to 350,000 workers. Yet, according to another recent
report, it “still lacks sufficient funding to fill thousands of vacancies
for doctors and nurses and to finance badly needed repairs to its hospitals
and clinics.”

In addition to these costs, the report estimates that, unless Congress
changes the way that it is paying for the wars, even without their
continuation, cumulative interest on war appropriations made just through
FY2013 will amount to a staggering $7.9 trillion by 2053.

The report recalls that as the Bush administration was preparing to launch
the war of aggression against Iraq, the administration’s chief economic
adviser Lawrence Lindsey came under intense fire for estimating that the
“upper bound” costs of the war reached between $100 and $200 billion. This
estimate was roundly rejected by everyone from Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld to House Democrats, who put the figure at roughly $50 billion,
which it is now clear underestimated the real cost by a factor of 100.

Reflected in these wars, both in the criminality with which they were
initiated and fought, and in the way they were funded, are the financial
parasitism and socially destructive forms of speculation that pervade the
workings of American capitalism as a whole.

By keeping the wars’ costs “off the books” and relying on an “all-volunteer”
military to fight them, the US ruling class also hoped to dampen the popular
hostility to militarism.

The new report does not attempt to estimate the wars’ broader impact on the
economy and the living standards of broad masses of American working people.
Another report issued two years ago by Harvard University conservatively
estimated that the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars amounted to $75,000
for every American household.

The report points to previous studies indicating that the wars cost tens of
thousands of jobs and significantly reduced investment in infrastructure.
The vast amount of resources diverted into slaughter and destruction in the
Middle East and Central Asia could have funded the $3.32 trillion that the
American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says must be spent over the next
decade to fix America’s crumbling ports, highways, bridges, trains, water
and electric facilities and paid off the entire $1.26 trillion in student
debt, with money left over.

Instead, the elected officials of both major capitalist parties have
continuously insisted that there is no money for jobs, decent wages,
education, health care and other basic necessities, while spending unlimited
money on militarism and war, leaving the bill to be paid for through the
intensification of austerity measures directed against the working class.

The human and fiscal toll wrought by the wars of the last 15 years are only
a foretaste of the global catastrophe that is threatened as US imperialism
prepares for far larger wars, with its military escalation focused ever more
directly against the world’s second and third largest nuclear powers, Russia
and China.




On the 49th Parallel          

                 Thé Mulindwas Communication Group
"With Yoweri Museveni, Ssabassajja and Dr. Kiiza Besigye, Uganda is in
                    Kuungana Mulindwa Mawasiliano Kikundi
"Pamoja na Yoweri Museveni, Ssabassajja na Dk. Kiiza Besigye, Uganda ni
katika machafuko" 





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