Post 9/11 wars take toll on lives and budget: study | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 04.07.2011
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Post 9/11 wars take toll on lives and budget: study

According to a recent study, the post 9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan have killed 225,000 people. The study, conducted at Brown University, has also estimated that the wars have cost four trillion US dollars.

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"The cost of war does not end when the fighting does,“ says Professor Catherine Lutz, project supervisor and co-editor of the new study at Brown University’s Watson Institute. Until now there has been no comprehensive framework for determining the financial and societal cost of the wars that have been going on since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Trillions of dollars spent

The authors are made up of a group of 20 economists, jurists and political scientists at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. They have estimated that the US has spent between 3.2 and four trillion US dollars (including interest) to date. In their study, the authors have included payments to veterans and extra medical costs for treatment of wounded soldiers as well as military help to Pakistan – the first time that military aid has been taken into account for such a study.

With the skeleton of the World Trade Center twin towers in the background, New York City firefighters work amid debris after the terrorist attacks of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001

With the skeleton of the World Trade Center twin towers in the background, New York City firefighters work amid debris after the terrorist attacks of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001

"The goal of doing this project was to try and put more information out into the public sphere, here in the United States especially, where the numbers that people are operating with are often not correct in terms of both casualty figures and the budgetary and financial figures," explains Lutz.

A quick end to wars

According to the study, the United States, which is currently buried in debt, will have to pay 185 billion US dollars alone in interest on the money the government has borrowed for the wars. That figure could rise to one trillion US dollars by the year 2020, depending on the amount of military action in Afghanistan.

Figures on the casualties of the wars are based on United Nations statistics. Kept at conservative estimates, the authors believe there have been at least 137,000 civilians deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that 31,000 US and ally soldiers have been killed. According to the paper, the three wars have also caused 7.8 million people to leave their homes as refugees. With US elections coming up, many candidates hope for votes by promising a quick end to the wars. By the end of this year, the United States hopes to reduce its number of troops in Afghanistan by a third. Plans on the withdrawal of troops from Germany and other NATO nations have not yet been set. The US government is also planning to remove all soldiers from Iraq by the end of 2012.

Afghan Commando soldiers

Afghan Commando soldiers

Safe from future terror

The reason that the study has included all three wars is simple, according to Lutz: "Because that’s the way they have been presented to the American public – the Bush Administration went to war in Iraq with the idea that it would keep America safe from future terror attacks. So politically, they fall into the same category for our (current and) past administration and also for some of the American public.”

The Brown University study has received sponsorship from foundations, for example, the Eisenhower Foundation. President Eisenhower, Commander-in-Chief of allied military forces in Europe during World War II, in his farewell address in 1961 warned of the "unjustifiable influence of the military-industrial complex" in the United States. The authors of the study have made it known that they would like to see public debate prompted along these lines.

Author: Daniel Scheschkewitz (sb)
Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan