U.S. Army in Iraq
The cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars is estimated by a Brown University study to total up to $4 trillion. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A study has been released by Brown University scholars tallying up the cost of American wars since 2001. The study found that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost almost $4 trillion and have resulted in more than 250,000 deaths.

More than 125,000 Iraqi civilians estimated to have died

Scholars from Brown University have set about tallying up the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, according to Reuters. The project, called “Costs of War,” was released through the Watson Institute for International Studies. There is a website for the findings, which were compiled by nearly two dozen scholars from multiple universities. The study comes after President Obama said the price tag for the war in Afghanistan was around $1 trillion. The cost of wars since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 could add up to between $3.4 and $4.4 trillion dollars. Nearly 250,000 people are estimated to have been killed. Previous estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths, such as by English journal The Lancet, have been criticized for inaccuracy, according to Al Jazeera, but the reports estimates nearly 125,000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the occupation.

Interest payments alone in the hundreds of billions

Since the Bush and Obama administrations have borrowed heavily to finance the war, the interest payments alone are staggering. At least $185 billion has been spent on interest payments so far. The Reuters news agency, according to CBS, estimates a further $1 trillion will be spent paying off war debt. The president’s quote of $1 trillion for war spending is partially accurate; an estimated $1.3 trillion was appropriated for direct war spending. However, additional costs are left out of that figure because the Defense Department hasn’t released all of its expenditures on the wars. Veterans requiring assistance due to injuries sustained in combat have cost more than $36 billion to date, but that could rise to more than $900 billion by 2050. Additional costs to veterans and their families could reach $400 billion, which they pick up the tab for. According to USA Today, there were 181,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans receiving disability benefits from the Veterans’ Administration in 2008. As of 2006, 947,000 Vietnam vets were receiving similar benefits.

Final costs not knowable for decades

The final costs aren’t going to be known for decades, if ever. Aside from costs to American taxpayers, the cost to Iraq and Afghanistan in repairing destroyed infrastructure, caring for people with disabilities and lost income from people who were killed may never be tallied. By the end of 2009, the U.S. had spent $44.6 billion on rebuilding Iraq, half of which was on the Iraqi military and security forces, according to a 2010 article in USA Today. According to a recent article in Foreign Policy, the U.S. has spent $19 billion on rebuilding Afghanistan. Afghanistan is so decimated that one of few lucrative occupations is cultivating opium. Afghanistan supplied 92 percent of the world’s opium in 2010, according to The Guardian.


Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/29/us-usa-war-idUSTRE75S25320110629

CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20075350-503544.html?tag=stack

Al Jazeera: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2011/06/2011629145430649752.html

Costs of War: http://costsofwar.org/

USA Today on Veterans Benefits: http://www.usatoday.com/news/2008-05-11-disabled-vets_N.htm

USA Today on rebuilding Iraq: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2010-03-22-iraqcosts_N.htm

Foreign Policy: http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/06/13/castles_in_the_sky_the_failure_to_rebuild_afghanistan

The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/30/opium-price-afghanistan-farmers

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