A massive Brown University study put out Wednesday by economists, political scientists, lawyers, and humanitarian professionals projects the ultimate costs of the Bush/Obama wars to exceed $3 trillion when veterans’ long-term health benefits and future military spending on the conflicts is accounted for. The cost in human lives is far larger than most have previously realized, also:
The human toll — in death, injury and displacement — has been underestimated and in some cases undercounted. There are many difficulties in counting those who are killed and wounded in combat, as discussed in the individual reports by Neta Crawford and Catherine Lutz. Thus, an extremely conservative estimate of the toll in direct war dead and wounded is about 225,000 dead and about 365,000 physically wounded in these wars so far.
More than 6,000 U.S. soldiers and 2,300 U.S. contractors have already been killed. The deaths of U.S. allies, including Iraqi and Afghan security forces and other coalition partners total more than 20,000. The numbers of Afghan and Pakistani military and police killed are probably higher than the totals given here.
We calculate that the U.S. federal government has already spent between $2.3 and 2.6 trillion in constant 2011 dollars. This number is greater than the trillion dollars that the President and others say the U.S. has already spent on war since 2001. Our estimate is larger because we include more than the direct Pentagon appropriation for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the larger global war on terror; wars always cost more than what the Pentagon spends for the duration of the combat operation.
But the wars will certainly cost more than has already been spent. Including the amounts that the U.S. is obligated to spend for veterans, and the likely costs of future fighting as well as the social costs that the veterans and their families will pay, we calculate that the wars will cost between $3.7 and 4.4 trillion dollars.
Of course, President Obama thought he was telling us all a tough truth when he threw out the $1 trillion figure in a recent speech on Afghanistan, saying we needed to focus on nation-building here at home. This report makes clear the price tag will be far higher; and this doesn’t even include interest on the huge amount of debt accumulated to finance the conflicts.
The need to refocus our spending on real priorities–and not long-term ideological warfare–is an urgent one. [Costs of War]