Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Study: Post-9/11 wars cost U.S. at least $3.7T

The final bill American taxpayers will end up paying for the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq will be much more than the total amount put forward by the Congress and the federal government, the Reuters news agency reported Wednesday.

The Reuters article focused on a Brown University research project released Wednesday titled "Costs of War." In the end, between at least $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion -- mostly in taxpayer dollars -- will have been spent on wartime expenses, mostly on the U.S. military's missions in the respective countries that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein once called home.

The report's release comes as President Obama and congressional Republicans negotiate a deal on federal spending and the national debt. The Treasury Department warns that the United States will default unless the government receives by Aug. 2 the required congressional approval to borrow more money.

The research project's publication also comes a week after Mr. Obama announced his plan to withdraw the so-called "surge" of 33,000 American troops from Afghanistan before Election Day 2012 and the majority of U.S. service members from the country by 2014.

Reuters noted that Mr. Obama told viewers of his prime-time speech in which he announced the drawdown that "over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war." The Congressional Research Service reported in March that the estimated cost of war funding since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks are $1.4 trillion through 2012, Reuters reports.

"I don't know what the president knows, but I wish it were a trillion," Boston University professor Neta Crawford, a co-director of the report, told Reuters. "It would be better if it were a trillion."

Reuters reports the Brown University research project includes in its total price tag the costs of:

Projected benefits for veterans through 2050: Between $589 billion and $934 billion
Additional Pentagon appropriations: Between $326 billion and $652 billion
Projected war-related spending between 2012 and 2020: $453 billion
Homeland security spending: $401 billion
"Social costs" paid by service members and their families: Between $295 billion and $400 billion
Interest payments for debt incurred from borrowing for war spending: $185 billion
War-related foreign aid: $74 billion

The study doesn't include what Reuters estimates to be at least $1 trillion more in interest that must be paid.

The research project also focuses on the human cost of the wars. As of this writing, The Associated Press reports that 4,466 American troops have died in Iraq, and at least 1,534 U.S. service members have died in the Afghan war. The study estimates that wartime actions directly resulted in the deaths of between 224,000 and 258,000 people, including 125,000 Iraq civilians.

However, one of the project's co-directors told Reuters that the Pentagon's tally of troops who died from the wars should include those who come home and commit suicide or die in car accidents.

"The rate of chaotic behavior is high," said Catherine Lutz, head of Brown's anthropology department.

Lutz told Reuters that the study aimed to answer whether the wars were ultimately worth it in the eyes of Americans.

"I hope that when we look back, whenever this ends," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told Reuters, "something very good has come out of it."