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Editorial: The high cost of war

In a recent report researched by commentator and political analyst Bill Moyers on the cost of war, he recently provided what those costs were in Iraq and Afghanistan since the U.S. invaded.
Most of the time when such numbers are revealed they focus on the raw cost of the war in dollars, and the numbers of lives lost, Moyers notes, but this study is more complete and the findings more compelling. The study came from researchers in the Eisenhower Study Group at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. Researchers looked at the human, economic, social and political costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as our military actions in Pakistan. Their complete findings are available at costofwar.org., dated June 2011.
Here’s the raw data from Moyers’s post:
• The Dead: 6,051 U.S. service members;2,300 U.S. contractors; 9,922 Iraqi security forces; 8,756 Afghan security forces; 3,520 Pakistani security forces; 1,192 other allied troops; 11,700 Afghan civilians; 125,000 Iraqi civilians; 35,600 Pakistanis (civilians and insurgents); 10,000 Afghan insurgents; 10,000 members of Saddam Hussein’s army; 168 Journalists; 266 Humanitarian workers. Total: 224,475 lives lost
• The Wounded: 99,065 U.S. soldiers; 51,031 U.S. contractors; 29,766 Iraq security forces; 26,268 Afghan security forces; 12,332 other allied troops; 17,544 Afghan civilians; 109,558 Iraqi civilians; 19,819 Pakistani civilians: Total: 365,383 wounded.
• The Displaced: 3,315,000 Afghan civilians; 3,500,000 Iraqi civilians; 1,000,000 Pakistani civilians; Total: 7,815,000 refugees and internally displaced people.
When the study cites both conservative and moderate estimates, Moyers and company said they deliberately chose the conservative numbers, and even yet, he notes that it is difficult to find more recent tallies for most of these numbers, but up-to-date totals of U.S. military deaths, along with photos and biographical information, can be found in The Washington Post’s Faces of the Fallen collection.
That’s the cost to those most closely involved — the soldiers and the host country — but what about the cost to taxpayers and the local society?
Here’s more data from Moyers’s team:
• The cost of the wars as estimated by the Pentagon was $1.3 trillion in Congressional War Appropriations to the Pentagon. That’s the official budget for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
• A more realistic budget is $3.7 trillion to $4.4 trillion estimated total costs to American taxpayers. This includes the official Pentagon budget, veterans’ medical and disability costs, homeland security expenses, war-related international aid and the Pentagon’s projected expenditures to 2020.
• $1 trillion more in interest payments through 2020 on money the U.S. borrowed for war.
And then consider this, as Moyer’s writes: “The so-called military-industrial complex has been bolstered by increased military spending, with hundreds of billions of dollars going to private companies. One company, Lockheed Martin, received $29 billion in Pentagon contracts in 2008 alone — more than the Environmental Protection Agency ($7.5 billion), the Department of Labor ($11.4 billion) or the Department of Transportation ($15.5 billion).”
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President Obama deserves credit for getting the country out of war in Iraq, and for winding down operations in Afghanistan. Republican presidential nominee in 2008, Sen. John McCain, would not have pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq as quickly or been as eager to get them out of Afghanistan (by his own admission.). Moreover, he and a few other military hawks, along with tough-talking Mitt Romney, say they would consider armed conflict in Iran today — a war that most military experts agree would be much more difficult to win, or even accomplish the barest of objectives.
Rather than cut the military budget and use some of that windfall to reduce the national deficit, Romney and the other Republicans on the campaign trail would lavish more on the military industrial complex as well as commit more to nation-building overseas; all the while reducing the income tax rate on the very wealthy. It was a disaster as a policy under George W. Bush and it would be a disaster under Romney if he advocates the same. In this case, the numbers really do tell an important part of the story.
Angelo S. Lynn

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