Human, economic and political costs of US-decision to respond to 9/11 attacks with military force

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.

  • The ripple effects on the US economy have also been significant, including job loss and interest rate increases.

  • Both Iraq and Afghanistan continue to rank extremely low in global studies of political freedom.

  • Women in Iraq and Afghanistan are excluded from political power and experience high rates of unemployment and war widowhood.

  • 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.

Project Goals:

· 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.

Further information is available from Project co-Directors Catherine Lutz, Neta Crawford, and Stephanie Savell.

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.

· The ripple effects on the US economy have also been significant, including job loss and interest rate increases.

· Both Iraq and Afghanistan continue to rank extremely low in global studies of political freedom.

· Women in Iraq and Afghanistan are excluded from political power and experience high rates of unemployment and war widowhood.

· 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.

Fact Sheet:

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

About Us

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 costsofwar@brown.edu.


HUMAN COSTS


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.

https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human


ECONOMIC COSTS

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)

https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/economic



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)

https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/social

https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers

ALL PAPERS

High Suicide Rates among United States Service Members and Veterans of the Post-9/11 Wars Thomas Howard "Ben" Suitt, III (2021) SUMMARY AND PAPER > The Costs of War to United States Allies Since 9/11 Jason Davidson (2021) SUMMARY AND PAPER >The Costs of Working with the Americans in Afghanistan: The United States' Broken Special Immigrant Visa Process Noah Coburn (2021) Paper (pdf)The Costs of United States’ Post-9/11 “Security Assistance”: How Counterterrorism Intensified Conflict in Burkina Faso and Around the World Stephanie Savell (2021) SUMMARY AND PAPER>United States Counterterrorism Operations 2018-2020 Stephanie Savell (2021) SUMMARY AND PAPER>Afghanistan's Rising Civilian Death Toll Due to Airstrikes, 2017-2020 Neta C. Crawford (2020) SUMMARY AND PAPER>The Human Cost of U.S. Interventions in Iraq: A History From the 1960s Through the Post-9/11 Wars Zainab Saleh (2020) SUMMARY AND PAPER>Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the United States’ Post-9/11 Wars David Vine, Cala Coffman, Katalina Khoury, Madison Lovasz, Helen Bush, Rachel Leduc, and Jennifer Walkup (2020) Paper (pdf)The Wars Are Here: How the United States’ Post-9/11 Wars Helped Militarize U.S. Police Jessica Katzenstein (2020) Paper (pdf)The Growth of the "Camo Economy" and the Commercialization of the Post-9/11 Wars Heidi Peltier (2020) Paper (pdf)Numbers and Per Capita Distribution of Troops Serving in the U.S. Post-9/11 Wars in 2019, By State Stephanie Savell and Rachel McMahon (2020) Paper (pdf)The Cost of Debt-financed War: Public Debt and Rising Interest for Post-9/11 War Spending Heidi Peltier (2020) Paper (pdf)United States Budgetary Costs and Obligations of Post-9/11 Wars through FY2020: $6.4 Trillion Neta C. Crawford (2019) Paper (pdf)Human Cost of Post-9/11 Wars: Direct War Deaths in Major War Zones Neta C. Crawford and Catherine Lutz (2019) Paper (pdf)Cut Military Spending, Fund Green Manufacturing Heidi Peltier (2019) Paper (pdf)The Human and Financial Costs of Explosive Remnants of War in Afghanistan Suzanne Fiederlein and SaraJane Rzegocki (2019) Paper (pdf)The Costs of War in Somalia Catherine Besteman (2019) Paper (pdf)The CIA’s "Army”: A Threat to Human Rights and an Obstacle to Peace in Afghanistan Astri Suhrke and Antonio De Lauri (2019) Paper (pdf)Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War Neta Crawford (2019) Summary and Paper > War Spending and Lost Opportunities Heidi Peltier (2019) Paper (pdf)

Where We Fight: US Counterterror War Locations 2017-2018 Stephanie Savell (2019) Paper (pdf)

The Costs of War: Obstacles to Public Understanding Steven Aftergood (2018) Paper (pdf)

United States Budgetary Costs of the Post-9/11 Wars Through FY2019: $5.9 Trillion Spent and Obligated Neta Crawford (2018) Paper (pdf)

Human Cost of the Post-9/11 Wars: Lethality and the Need for Transparency Neta Crawford (2018) Paper (pdf)

How Do War Financing Strategies Lead to Inequality? A Brief History from the War of 1812 through the Post-9/11 Wars Rosella Cappella Zielinski (2018) Paper (pdf)

Environmental Rehabilitation and Global Profiteering in Wartime Iraq Bridget Guarasci (2018) Paper (pdf)

Map: Current United States Counterterror War Locations Stephanie Savell (2018) Paper (pdf)

The Credit Card Wars: Post-9/11 War Funding Policy in Historical Perspective Linda J. Bilmes (2017) Paper (pdf)

The Guards, Cooks, and Cleaners of the Afghan War: Migrant Contractors and the Cost of War Noah Coburn (2017) Paper (pdf) PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] – On Monday, President Trump’s speech on the war in Afghanistan seemed to reveal a U.S. military strategy that will continue to look like more of the same. Even with an increase in military personnel, the U.S. can expect to see a continued reliance on the tens of thousands of security contractors who many war analysts now call America’s invisible soldiers or army. A report released this week by the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs describes, in detail, the exploitation of immigrant contractors working for the U.S. in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, highlighting abysmal labor conditions and other human rights violations. READ THE FULL PRESS RELEASE

“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

Job Opportunity Cost of War Heidi Garrett-Peltier (2017) Paper (pdf)

The Military Budget and the Costs of War: The Coming Trump Storm William D. Hartung and Catherine Lutz (2017) Paper (pdf)

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

US Budgetary Costs of Wars through 2016: $4.79 Trillion and Counting Neta C. Crawford (2016) Paper (pdf)

Update on the Human Costs of War for Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001 to mid-2016 Neta C. Crawford (2016) Paper (pdf)

Bombing Pakistan: How Colonial Legacy Sustains American Drones Madiha Tahir (2015) Paper (pdf)

Not Their War to Fight: The Afghan Police, Families of their Dead, and an American War Anila Daulatzai (2015) Paper (pdf)

War Related Death, Injury and Displacement in Afghanistan and Pakistan 2001-2014 Neta C. Crawford (2015) Paper (pdf)

2015 Costs of War Executive Summary Costs of War Project (2015) Paper (pdf)

US Reconstruction Aid for Afghanistan: The Dollars and Sense Catherine Lutz and Sujaya Desai (2015) Paper (pdf)

The Cost of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans’ Care to Texas Brian Smith (2015) Paper (pdf)

Costs of the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for the State of Rhode Island Luke Lattanzi-Silveus (2015) Paper (pdf)

The Impact of Drone Strikes in Pakistan Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani and Hira Bashir (2014) Paper (pdf)

Democratic Aspirations and Destabilizing Outcomes in Afghanistan Norah Niland (2014) Paper (pdf)

Collective Reckoning with the Post-9/11 Wars on a Colorado Homefront Jean Scandlyn, SarahHautzinger (2014) Paper (pdf)

The Job Opportunity Cost of War Heidi Garrett-Peltier (2014) Paper (pdf)

US Costs of Wars through 2014: $4.4 Trillion and Counting Neta C. Crawford (2014) Paper (pdf)

The Continuing Cost of the Iraq War: The Spread of Jihadi Groups throughout the Region Jessica Stern (2014) Paper (pdf)

War and the Costs of Medical Travel for Iraqis in Lebanon Omar Dewachi (2013) Paper (pdf)

The War Comes Home: Institutionalizing Informal Care and the Family Consequences of Combat Injuries Zoe H. Wool (2013) Paper (pdf)

Reconstructing Iraq: The Last Year and the Last Decade Catherine Lutz (2013) Paper (pdf)

The Forgotten Story: Women and Gender Relations 10 Years After Nadje Al-Ali (2013) Paper (pdf)

Health and Health Care Decline in Iraq: The Example of Cancer and Oncology Mac Skelton (2013) Paper (pdf)

Civilian Death and Injury in the Iraq War, 2003-2013 Neta C. Crawford (2013) Paper (pdf)

The Financial Legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan: How Wartime Spending Decisions will Cancel Out the Peace Dividend Linda J. Bilmes (2013) Paper (pdf)

Respiratory Disorders Following Service in Iraq Robert Miller, M.D. (2013) Paper (pdf)

Imagining Military Suicide Ken MacLeish (2013) Paper (pdf)

US and Coalition Casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan Catherine Lutz (2013) Paper (pdf)

Arming Iraq: From Aid to Sales, 2005 to 2012 William D. Hartung (2013) Paper (pdf)

Democracy in Post-Invasion Iraq Melani Cammett (2013) Paper (pdf)

Terrorism after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq Jessica Stern and Megan K. McBride (2013) Paper (pdf)

Civilians Killed in US Operations in Yemen Neta C. Crawford (2012) Paper (pdf)

The economy of Iraq since 2003 Bassam Yousif (2012) Paper (pdf)

War Related Death and Injury in Pakistan, 2004-2011 Neta C. Crawford (2011) Paper (pdf)