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PORTSIDE  June 2011, Week 5

PORTSIDE June 2011, Week 5

Subject:

'War on terror' set to surpass cost of Second World War

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Wed, 29 Jun 2011 22:48:31 -0400

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'War on terror' set to surpass cost of Second World War

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
Thursday, 30 June 2011

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/war-on-terror-set-to-surpass-cost-of-second-world-war-2304497.html

The total cost to America of its wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, plus the related military operations in
Pakistan, is set to exceed $4 trillion - more than three
times the sum so far authorised by Congress in the decade
since the 9/11 attacks.

This staggering sum emerges from a new study by academics
at the Ivy-league Brown University that reveals the $1.3
trillion officially appropriated on Capitol Hill is the
tip of a spending iceberg. If other Pentagon outlays,
interest payments on money borrowed to finance the wars,
and the $400bn estimated to have been spent on the
domestic "war on terror", the total cost is already
somewhere between $2.3 and $2.7 trillion.

And even though the wars are now winding down, add in
future military spending and above all the cost of looking
after veterans, disabled and otherwise and the total bill
will be somewhere between $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion.

The report by Brown's Watson Institute for International
Studies is not the first time such astronomical figures
have been cited; a 2008 study co-authored by the Harvard
economist Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, a former Nobel
economics laureate, reckoned the wars would end up costing
over $3 trillion. The difference is that America's
financial position has worsened considerably in the
meantime, with a brutal recession and a federal budget
deficit running at some $1.5 trillion annually, while
healthcare and social security spending is set to soar as
the population ages and the baby boomer generation enters
retirement.

Unlike most of America's previous conflicts moreover, Iraq
and Afghanistan have been financed almost entirely by
borrowed money that sooner or later must be repaid.

The human misery is commensurate. The report concludes
that in all, between 225,000 and 258,000 people have died
as a result of the wars. Of that total, US soldiers killed
on the battlefield represent a small fraction, some 6,100.
The civilian death toll in Iraq is put at 125,000 (rather
less than some other estimates) and at up to 14,000 in
Afghanistan. For Pakistan, no reliable calculation can be
made.

Even these figures however only scratch the surface of the
suffering, in terms of people injured and maimed, or those
who have died from malnutrition or lack of treatment.
"When the fighting stops, the indirect dying continues,"
Neta Crawford, a co-director of the Brown study, said. Not
least, the wars may have created some 7.8 million
refugees, roughly equal to the population of Scotland and
Wales.

What America achieved by such outlays is also more than
questionable. Two brutal regimes, those of the Taliban and
Saddam Hussein, have been overturned while al-Qa'ida, the
terrorist group that carried out 9/11, by all accounts has
been largely destroyed - but in neither Iraq nor
Afghanistan is democracy exactly flourishing, while the
biggest winner from the Iraq war has been America's
arch-foe Iran.

Osama bin Laden and his henchmen probably spent the
pittance of just $500,000 on organising the September 2001
attacks, which killed 3,000 people and directly cost the
US economy an estimated $50bn to $100bn. In 2003,
President George W Bush proclaimed that the Iraq war would
cost $50bn to $60bn. Governments that go to war invariably
underestimate the cost - but rarely on such an epic scale.

If the Brown study is correct, the wars that flowed from
9/11 will not only have been the longest in US history. At
$4 trillion and counting, their combined cost is
approaching that of the Second World War, put at some $4.1
trillion in today's prices by the Congressional Budget
Office.

 

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