Archive for September 6th, 2011
What are the real costs of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan? At Project Syndicate, Economist Joseph Stiglitz sizes both up the numbers and some of the intangibles:
[W]hen Linda Bilmes and I calculated America’s war costs three years ago, the conservative tally was $3-5 trillion. Since then, the costs have mounted further. With almost 50% of returning troops eligible to receive some level of disability payment, and more than 600,000 treated so far in veterans’ medical facilities, we now estimate that future disability payments and health-care costs will total $600-900 billion. But the social costs, reflected in veteran suicides (which have topped 18 per day in recent years) and family breakups, are incalculable.
These are stunning numbers. By the way, I never believed the government lies about why these “wars” were necessary. No one asked my opinion as to whether we should go to war. But nonetheless, if I pay my fair share, what is my cost for my country’s decade-long military adventures?
Increased defense spending, together with the Bush tax cuts, is a key reason why America went from a fiscal surplus of 2% of GDP when Bush was elected to its parlous deficit and debt position today. Direct government spending on those wars so far amounts to roughly $2 trillion – $17,000 for every US household – with bills yet to be received increasing this amount by more than 50%.
I haven’t take a poll, but I’d bet that virtually every taxpaying American family would rather have that $17,000 back; in fact, I’d bet almost all of them would rather, if they could, reallocate that money to any one of thousands of far worthier causes (e.g., a local school or research for a medical cure or buying books for a library), than to have that money finance Middle East military invasions.
The next time a politician-hawk suggests that we ought to invade Iran, he or she should be required to go on national TV first, to present a PowerPoint presentation illustrating these massive costs set forth by Mr. Stiglitz, as well as presenting a long slide show. That show would include photos of all of the U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. 1,648 U.S. soldiers have died because of our invasion of Afghanistan and 4,4,70 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq so far. Maybe the politician wouldn’t actually have time to show a slide of each dead U.S. soldier. So, perhaps, this morbid slide show, in the name of expediency, should show the faces of 25 dead U.S. soldiers per slide. Certainly, we’ll want to keep each slide of 25 dead soldiers up on the screen for at least a couple minutes per slide, and there will be 244 slides. That means it will take eight hours to show the faces of all of the dead U.S. soldiers who were fighting for our “freedom.” If you want to show photos of all the wounded too, you’d be in for a much longer slide show. 13,447 U.S. soldiers have been wounded in Afghanistan. More than 150,000 U.S. soldiers are receiving disability payments as a result of serving in Iraq.
That slide show should also include photos of all of those American families who are missing a parent-soldier or a child-soldier. And interviews of the surviving family members of each of the soldiers who have committed suicide; there have been 1,000 of these soldier-suicides during the Iraq-Afghanistan invasions. And any worthwhile slide show should include at least a few thousand photos of the Iraqi and Afghanistan parents and children killed by any weapons, including U.S. bombs, bullets and drones in Afghanistan and Iraq. And the slide show really needs to include photos of thousands of American schools back home, all of them in desperate need of repair because the districts can’t afford the repairs. the show should also include photos of millions of Americans out of work because of our reprehensible priorities under George W. Bush and Barack Obama. For the grand finale, the slide show should include photos of thousands of excellent projects that went un-built (e.g., sustainable energy projects) due to lack of funds that went, instead, to insatiable U.S. warmongering.