Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A quick evaluation of the various costs of current US wars

While our economy limps haltingly on (on its misled imperialist legs), we are still engaged in two wars. The US-led coalition occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are killing human beings on both sides every day, and will eventually cost our children and grandchildren well over a trillion dollars. Check out nationalpriorities.org.

First, we must address the human costs.

There have been between 89,533 and 97,743 documented civilian deaths in Iraq alone (iraqbodycount.org).

4,516 men and women of the US-led coalition have been killed in Iraq, 4,202 of them US soldiers. In addition, two Australians, one Azerbaijani, 176 Britons, 13 Bulgarians, one Czech, seven Danes, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Fijian, five Georgians, one Hungarian, 33 Italians, one Kazakh, one Korean, three Latvians, 22 Poles, three Romanians, five Salvadoran, four Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and 18 Ukrainians” have died (CNN US & Coalition casualties).

In Afghanistan, "there have been 1,003 coalition deaths -- 623 Americans, six Australians, 124 Britons, 97 Canadians, three Czech, 16 Danes, 17 Dutch, three Estonians, one Finn, 22 French, 25 Germans, two Hungarians, 12 Italians, one Latvian, one Lithuanian, one NATO/ISAF, three Norwegians, eight Poles, two Portuguese, eight Romanians, one South Korean, 25 Spaniards, [and] two Swedes" (CNN US & Coalition casualties).

I was not able to find a reliable source of statistics on Afghan civilian casualties, but it can be safely assumed to be in excess of 10,000 if both direct and indirect deaths are included.

All this death must be for a good reason, right? We're fighting for freedom and democracy, right? I urge you to check out the timeline on the war in Iraq provided on the Mother Jones website (Bush War Timeline), which sheds light on the real motivations behind our invasions of these countries. Or just google "Wolfowitz Doctrine" (1992).

Next, we must address the financial costs of these wars, and of the overblown militarism of the United States. We must acknowledge that we are borrowing from our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What will we offer in exchange?

In a CRS Report to Congress, updated October 15, 2008 and entitled "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," Amy Belasco (Specialist in U.S. Defense Policy and Budget, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division) stated:

“Congress has approved a total of about $864 billion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan and other counter terror
operations; Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), providing enhanced security at military bases; and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

This $864 billion total covers all war-related appropriations from FY2001 through part of FY2009 in supplementals, regular appropriations, and continuing resolutions.

Of that total, CRS estimates that Iraq will receive about $657 billion (76%), OEF about $173 billion (20%), and enhanced base security about $28 billion (3%), with about $5 billion that CRS cannot allocate (1%).

About 94% of the funds are for DOD, 6% for foreign aid programs and embassy operations, and less than 1% for medical care for veterans.

As of July 2008, DOD’s monthly obligations for contracts and pay averaged about $12.3 billion, including $9.9 billion for Iraq, and $2.4 billion for Afghanistan.

The recently enacted FY2008 Supplemental (H.R. 2642/P.L. 110-252) includes a total of about $160 billion for war costs for the Department of Defense (DOD) for the rest of FY2008 and part of FY2009. Funds are expected to last until June or July 2009 well into a new Administration. The Administration did not submit a request to cover all of FY2009.

While Congress provided a total of $188 billion for war costs in FY2008 — $17 billion more than the prior year — this total was a cut of about $14 billion to the Administration’s request, including both reductions in DOD’s investment accounts and substitutions of almost $6 billion in non-war funding. CRS figures exclude nonwar funding.

Congress also cut funding for foreign aid and diplomatic operations for Iraq and Afghanistan by $1.4 billion, providing a total of $4.5 billion. For FY2009, Congress provided $67 billion, close to the request. Earlier, to tide DOD over until passage of the supplemental, the House and Senate appropriations committees approved part of a DOD request to transfer funds from its regular accounts.

In an August 2008 update, the Congressional Budget Office projected that additional war costs for the next ten years from FY2009 through FY2018 could range from $440 billion, if troop levels fell to 30,000 by 2010 to $865 billion, if troop levels fell to 75,000 by about 2013. Under these CBO projections, funding for Iraq, Afghanistan and the GWOT could total about $1.3 trillion or about $1.7 trillion for
FY2001-FY2018" (Congressional Research Service Report).

As acknowledged above, these figures DO NOT INCLUDE the Department of Defense's budget. The White House Office of Management and Budget's figures show “$481.4 billion for the Department of Defense’s base budget—a 62-percent increase over 2001” plus “an additional $93.4 billion in supplemental funds for 2007 and $141.7 billion for 2008” for the “Global War on Terror” (Office of Management and Budget).

When will we realize that nobody wins wars, not to mention occupations?

You get what you pay for.

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