The US-led global war on terror has killed nearly 1 million people globally and cost more than $ 8 trillion since it began two decades ago. These staggering figures come from a landmark report released Wednesday by Brown University’s Costs of War Project, an ongoing research effort to document the economic and human impact of military operations after 9/11.
The report – which looks at tolls in wars waged in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and other regions where the United States is militarily engaged – is the latest in a series published by the Costs of War Project and provides the most comprehensive public accounts to date on the consequences of open conflicts in the United States in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, today referred to as “eternal wars”.
“It is critical that we properly account for the great and varied consequences of the many American wars and counter-terrorism since 9/11, while pausing and reflecting on all the lives lost,” said Project Director Neta Crawford in a press release. accompanying the report. “Our accounts go beyond the Pentagon’s figures because the cost of the 9/11 response has curled the entire budget.”
The Costs of War Project’s latest estimate assumes that 897,000 to 929,000 people have been killed during the wars.
The staggering economic costs of the war on terror pale in comparison to the direct human impact, measured in people killed, wounded and displaced from their homes. The Costs of War Project’s latest estimate assumes that 897,000 to 929,000 people have been killed during the wars. Of those killed, 387,000 are categorized as civilians, 207,000 as members of national military and police forces, and a further 301,000 as opposition men killed by U.S.-led coalition troops and their allies. The report also found that about 15,000 U.S. military service members and contractors have been killed in the wars, along with a similar number of Allied Western troops deployed in the conflicts and hundreds of journalists and humanitarian aid workers.
The question of how many people have lost their lives in the conflicts after 9/11 has been the subject of ongoing debate, although the number has in all cases been extraordinarily high. Past costs of war investigations have put the number of deaths at hundreds of thousands, an estimate that counts those directly killed by violence. According to an estimate from 2015 from the Nobel Prize-winning doctors for social responsibility, far above 1 million have been killed both indirectly and directly in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone. The difficulty of calculating the death toll becomes more difficult due to the US military’s own refusal to keep track of the number killed in its operations as well as the distance to the regions where many of the conflicts take place.
Like its previous studies, the death toll calculated by the Costs of War Project focuses only on deaths directly caused by violence during the global war on terror, and does not include “indirect deaths, namely those caused by loss of access to food, water and / or or infrastructure, war-related disease “caused by the conflicts. as militants rather than civilians “- a reservation consistent with the US Government’s own known practices to label all “men of military age” killed in its operations as combatants, unless proven otherwise.
Such approaches continue across multiple administrations. One recently investigation from the military-focused news site Connecting Vets included leaked video and accounts from the 2019 drone campaign in Helmand province in Afghanistan. The story included testimonies from former drone operators who said they had been given the green light to kill anyone seen holding a walkie-talkie or wearing a tactical vest in the province who had poor security and lacked reliable cell phone service. For some U.S. officials licensed to approve drone strikes, frustrated by their inability to achieve strategic victory or even favorable negotiating terms with the Taliban, “the metric for success was an increase in body numbers.”
The Costs of War Project report states that its results on deaths in wars are conservative, leaving many still unpredictable. While nearly 1 million people can safely be said to have been killed since the global war on terror began, even this staggering number, according to Crawford, the project’s director of the project, “is probably a huge undercount of the true toll that these wars have taken. human life. ”
The economic costs covered by the Costs of War report include $ 2.3 trillion spent by the U.S. government on military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, $ 2.1 trillion in Iraq and Syria, and $ 355 billion in Somalia and other regions in Africa. An additional $ 1.1 trillion has been spent on domestic security measures in the United States since 2001, bringing direct spending from the war on terror at home and abroad to an astronomical $ 5.8 trillion.
However, even that does not represent the full cost of the wars. Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers have returned from foreign war zones maimed and traumatized, making many long-term dependent on the federal government. The cost of providing disability and medical care to these veterans is likely to exceed $ 2.2 trillion by 2050 from its current post-9/11 total of $ 465 billion, bringing the total economic bill of the wars to $ 8 trillion.
The report gathers several different sources to provide a total amount for how much the wars after 9/11 have cost, including appropriations for war-related expenses from the Ministries of Defense and State; increases in the Ministry of Defence’s operating budget; interest payments spent on loans; mandatory money for future Veterans Affairs services; and the Department of Homeland Security spending on prevention and response to terrorist attacks. Even these thorough accounts do not give the full picture of US spending: the report’s total figure of $ 8 trillion does not include money spent on war zone humanitarian aid and economic development, nor does it matter to future interest payments that will be made on the Massive deficit expenditures are used to pay for the wars.
Many will find the astronomical economic cost of the global war on terror insane, not only because of the relatively little it has produced in return, but also because of the discrepancy between what the current price of the wars has run and what US officials originally did. claimed would be required. The war in Iraq is a sobering example. In September 2002, Lawrence Lindsey, then economic adviser to President George W. Bush, estimated that the “upper limits” cost of the impending invasion and occupation would run between $ 100 billion and $ 200 billion. Later that year, Mitch Daniels, then director of the Office of Management and Budget, gave an even more humble estimate of the cost, saying that war in Iraq would likely lead U.S. taxpayers between $ 50 billion and $ 60 billion.
“Millions of lives and trillions of dollars later, who has won?”
In fact, the invasion and occupation of Iraq – just one of a series of conflicts that the United States has fought worldwide since 9/11 – has cost trillions of dollars, while destabilizing the Middle East and fueling secondary conflicts that are continue to drag the United States in for additional costs and loss of life. Current events have ugly underlined how the situation has grown out of control. The latest the airport’s terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, which killed over a dozen U.S. service members and about 170 Afghans, was claimed by a local branch of Islamic State, a terrorist group that did not exist at the start of the global war on terror and was born in the midst of the chaos created by the US occupation of Iraq.
The conflicts do not seem to have any end in sight, although the United States is planning to free itself from its 20-year occupation of Afghanistan.
“What have we really achieved in 20 years after the wars after 9/11? Millions of lives and trillions of dollars later, who has won? Who has lost, and at what cost? Said Stephanie Savell, co-director of the Costs of War Project. “Twenty years from now, we are still counting on the high societal costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – long after US forces are gone.”