The Costs of War Project is a team of 50 scholars, legal experts, human rights practitioners, and physicians, which began its work in 2010. WATSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
Some of the Costs of War Project’s main findings include:
At least 800,000 people have died due to direct war violence, including armed forces on all sides of the conflicts, contractors, civilians, journalists, and humanitarian workers.
It is likely that many times more have died indirectly in these wars, due to malnutrition, damaged infrastructure, and environmental degradation.
Over 335,000 civilians have been killed in direct violence by all parties to these conflicts.
Over 7,000 US soldiers have died in the wars.
We do not know the full extent of how many US service members returning from these wars became injured or ill while deployed.
Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been reported as required by law, but it is likely that approximately 8,000 have been killed.
21 million Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani, and Syrian people are living as war refugees and internally displaced persons, in grossly inadequate conditions.
The US government is conducting counterterror activities in 85 countries, vastly expanding this war across the globe.
The wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad.
The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades with some costs, such as the financial costs of US veterans’ care, not peaking until mid-century.
US government funding of reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan has totaled over $199 billion. Most of those funds have gone towards arming security forces in both countries. Much of the money allocated to humanitarian relief and rebuilding civil society has been lost to fraud, waste, and abuse.
The cost of the Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria wars totals about $6.4 trillion. This does not include future interest costs on borrowing for the wars, which will add an estimated $8 trillion in the next 40 years.
Compelling alternatives to war were scarcely considered in the aftermath of 9/11 or in the discussion about war against Iraq. Some of those alternatives are still available to the US.
COSTS OF WAR PROJECT
The Costs of War Project is a team of 50 scholars, legal experts, human rights practitioners, and physicians, which began its work in 2010. We use research and a public website to facilitate debate about the costs of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the related violence in Pakistan and Syria. There are many hidden or unacknowledged costs of the United States’ decision to respond to the 9/11 attacks with military force. We aim to foster democratic discussion of these wars by providing the fullest possible account of their human, economic, and political costs, and to foster better informed public policies.
· To account for and illustrate the wars’ costs in human lives among all categories of person affected by them, both in the US and in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan;
· To tell as accessible as possible a story of the wars’ costs in US federal and local dollars, including the long-term financial legacy of the wars in the US;
· To assess the public health consequences of the wars, including for the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan and for US veterans living with war injuries and illnesses;
· To describe how these wars have changed the political landscape of the US and the countries where the wars have been waged, including the status of women in the war zones, the degree to which Iraq and Afghanistan’s fledgling democracies are inclusive and transparent, and the state of civil liberties and human rights in the US;
To identify less costly and more effective ways to prevent further terror attacks.
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
Some of the Costs of War Project’s main findings include:
· At least 800,000 people have died due to direct war violence, including armed forces on all sides of the conflicts, contractors, civilians, journalists, and humanitarian workers.
· It is likely that many times more have died indirectly in these wars, due to malnutrition, damaged infrastructure, and environmental degradation.
· Over 335,000 civilians have been killed in direct violence by all parties to these conflicts.
· Over 7,000 US soldiers have died in the wars.
· We do not know the full extent of how many US service members returning from these wars became injured or ill while deployed.
· Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been reported as required by law, but it is likely that approximately 8,000 have been killed.
· 21 million Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani, and Syrian people are living as war refugees and internally displaced persons, in grossly inadequate conditions.
· The US government is conducting counterterror activities in 85 countries, vastly expanding this war across the globe.
· The wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad.
· The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades with some costs, such as the financial costs of US veterans’ care, not peaking until mid-century.
· US government funding of reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan has totaled over $199 billion. Most of those funds have gone towards arming security forces in both countries. Much of the money allocated to humanitarian relief and rebuilding civil society has been lost to fraud, waste, and abuse.
· The cost of the Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria wars totals about $6.4 trillion. This does not include future interest costs on borrowing for the wars, which will add an estimated $8 trillion in the next 40 years.
· Compelling alternatives to war were scarcely considered in the aftermath of 9/11 or in the discussion about war against Iraq. Some of those alternatives are still available to the US.
The True Costs of the Post-9/11 Wars The Costs of War Project has created this resource drawn from our scholarly research as an overview of the true costs of U.S. post-9/11 wars. The “post-9/11 wars” refers to United States-led military operations and other government programs around the world that have grown out of President George W. Bush's "Global War on Terror" and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
The Budgetary Cost
Post-9/11 wars have been extremely costly. Through 2019, the U.S. federal government has spent or been obligated to spend $6.4 trillion on the post-9/11 wars. These wars have largely been financed by borrowing. Unless the U.S. changes the way it pays for the post-9/11 wars, future interest will exceed $8 trillion by the 2050s. The opportunity costs are staggering. Many of these funds could have been spent on public health or in sectors that create far more jobs than the defense sector, like education or green energy
The Human Costs
The body count continues to grow. At least 801,000 people – including U.S. soldiers, allied security forces, civilians, and militants – have died due to war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria (in the fight against the Islamic State), Yemen, and elsewhere. U.S. service members represent fewer than 1 percent of direct war deaths. More than 7,000 of the total casualties are from U.S. service members. A plurality of those who have died as a direct result of the counterterror wars are civilians. Many other people have died indirectly as a result of the wars. Because of war-related consequences including displacement and disease, many more people have died as a result of U.S. post-9/11 military activities.
The Environmental Cost
The Pentagon is the largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the world. It emits more greenhouse gases than whole countries, like Morocco and Switzerland. The post 9/11 wars are thus key contributors to climate change.
The Expanding Scope
The United States has post-9/11 military operations and programs run out of civilian departments for military purposes in at least 85 countries. Under the auspices of counterterrorism, U.S. operations stretch not only to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but also to Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Mali, and many more countries than most Americans realize
The Costs of War Project, housed at Brown University’s Watson Institute and Boston University’s Pardee Center, was launched by a group of scholars and experts to document the unacknowledged costs of the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.
Please see www.costsofwar.org and don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At least 800,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan. The number of people who have been wounded or have fallen ill as a result of the conflicts is far higher, as is the number of civilians who have died indirectly as a result of the destruction of hospitals and infrastructure and environmental contamination, among other war-related problems.
Thousands of United States service members have died in combat, as have thousands of civilian contractors. Many have died later on from injuries and illnesses sustained in the war zones. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and contractors have been wounded and are living with disabilities and war-related illnesses. Allied security forces have also suffered significant casualties, as have opposition forces.
However, the vast majority of people killed are civilians. More than 310,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting since 2001.
Millions of people living in the war zones have also been displaced by war. The US post-9/11 wars have forcibly displaced at least 37 million people in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria.This number exceeds the total displaced by every war since 1900, except World War II.
The US could have pursued several nonmilitary alternatives to holding accountable those responsible for perpetrating the 9/11 attacks. These alternatives would have been far less costly in human lives. For example, the US invasion of Iraq has turned the country into a laboratory in which militant groups such as Islamic State have been able to hone their techniques of recruitment and violence. The formation of jihadi groups now spreading throughout the region counts among the many human costs of that war.
Through Fiscal Year 2020, the United States federal government has spent or obligated $6.4 trillion dollars on the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. This figure includes: direct Congressional war appropriations; war-related increases to the Pentagon base budget; veterans care and disability; increases in the homeland security budget; interest payments on direct war borrowing; foreign assistance spending; and estimated future obligations for veterans’ care.
This total omits many other expenses, such as the macroeconomic costs to the US economy; the opportunity costs of not investing war dollars in alternative sectors; future interest on war borrowing; and local government and private war costs.
The current wars have been paid for almost entirely by borrowing. This borrowing has raised the US budget deficit, increased the national debt, and had other macroeconomic effects, such as raising consumer interest rates. Unless the US immediately repays the money borrowed for war, there will also be future interest payments. We estimate that interest payments could total over $8 trillion by the 2050s.
Spending on the wars has involved opportunity costs for the US economy. Although military spending does produce jobs, spending in other areas such as health care could produce more jobs. Additionally, while investment in military infrastructure grew, investment in other, nonmilitary, public infrastructure such as roads and schools did not grow at the same rate.
Finally, federal war costs exclude billions of dollars of state, municipal, and private war costs across the country – dollars spent on services for returned veterans and their families, in addition to local homeland security efforts.
(Page updated as of January 2020)
SOCIAL & POLITICAL COSTS
The United States-led War on Terror has led to encroachments on basic social and political rights in the US and the war zones.
In the US, new legislation and intelligence practices have eroded Americans’ constitutional freedoms from surveillance and their rights to privacy. Law enforcement officials’ profiling of people of Arab and South Asian descent remains common.
At home, in the war zones, and in many other countries, US and allied officials continue to indefinitely detain terror suspects without fair trial or access to legal counsel. Torture and mistreatment in custody remain major problems.
In Afghanistan, the return to power of discredited warlords, the marginalization of other groups, and the concentration of power in the presidency have contributed to a government that does not represent the interests of large numbers of Afghans. Afghan women remain cut out of political decisions, and many suffer violations of basic human rights such as health care, food, housing, and security.
The Iraqi government lacks political and economic inclusion, does not provide basic security for its citizens, and has regressed towards authoritarianism in recent years. The government’s failure to provide basic security for its citizens and to protect rule of law has contributed to widespread gender violence against Iraqi women, though the international community has been silent about these issues.
(Page updated as of April 2015)
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“Bad Papers”: The Invisible and Increasing Costs of War for Excluded Veterans Ali R. Tayyeb and Jennifer Greenburg (2017) Paper (pdf) PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] – A new report released this week examines the lives of war veterans who are issued “bad papers,” or Other Than Honorable discharges from the military, leaving them ineligible to receive veterans’ benefits and support. Compiled by the Costs of War Project based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, the report speaks to current policy reforms aimed at these veterans, and contends that current policy proposals will not go far enough to tackle the issue. Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges, while not the only type of “bad papers,” are the most common. They often result from minor forms of misconduct stemming from trauma sustained during military service, and they prevent veterans from receiving Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare, education and housing support, and other resources. The research, conducted by Ali R. Tayyeb, a Navy veteran and Jonas Veterans Healthcare Scholar, and Watson Institute postdoctoral fellow Jennifer Greenburg, notes that such discharges “have seen a sharp spike since 9/11, with almost six percent of the entire veteran population of this era excluded from care.” READ THE FULL PRESS RELEASE
US Military Veterans’ Difficult Transitions Back to Civilian Life and the VA’s Response Anna Zogas (2017) Paper (pdf) PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —In recent years, public understanding of military veterans’ needs has been shaped largely by reporting on post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, suicide rates and poor conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. But for the great majority of the veterans of post-9/11 wars, a persistent and profound need is for the social services that will help them transition back to civilian life. That is the assessment of the newest study by the Costs of War project based at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, which uses research to create dialogue about the human, economic and political costs of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the related violence in Pakistan and Syria. READ THE FULL PRESS RELEASE
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The Forgotten Story: Women and Gender Relations 10 Years After Nadje Al-Ali (2013) Paper (pdf)
Civilian Death and Injury in the Iraq War, 2003-2013 Neta C. Crawford (2013) Paper (pdf)
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War Related Death and Injury in Pakistan, 2004-2011 Neta C. Crawford (2011) Paper (pdf)