As the 12th year of the post-9/11 wars begins, the toll of war in human lives and US federal dollars continues to grow. When President Barack Obama withdrew uniformed American troops from Iraq last year and announced substantial troop withdrawals in Afghanistan, he concluded in a UN speech that “The tide of war is receding.” Hundreds of billions of dollars, however, will continue to be allocated for or because of the wars. So, too, will the human costs of these conflicts reverberate for years to come in the United States and the war zones. There is no turning the page on the wars, and there is even more need as a result to understand what those wars’ consequences are and will be.
What we do know, without debate, is that the wars begun eleven years ago have been tremendously painful for millions of people in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, and the United States, and economically costly as well. Each additional month and year of war will add to that toll. The goal of the Costs of War project has been to outline a broad understanding of the domestic and international costs and consequences of those wars. The Eisenhower Research Project based at Brown University assembled a team that includes economists, anthropologists, political scientists, legal experts, and a physician to do this analysis.
Cost of War in Iraq = $ 808,914,177,851
Cost of War in Afghanistan = $ 587,663,489,057
Total Cost of Wars Since 2001 = $ 1,396,577,666,909
What have been the wars’ costs in human and economic terms?
How have these wars changed the social and political landscape of the United States and the countries where the wars have been waged?
What will be the long term legacy of these conflicts for veterans?
What is the long term economic effect of these wars likely to be?
Were and are there alternative less costly and more effective ways to prevent further terror attacks?
Some of the project’s findings:
At least 181,362 civilians have died and more will die in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as a result of the fighting at the hands of all parties to the conflict.
The armed conflict in Pakistan, which the US helps the Pakistani military fight by funding, equipping and training them, has taken even more lives than the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan. The conflict in Pakistan nonetheless receives less coverage in the US news.
The United States is at war in Yemen. During 2012, the Obama administration has quickened its pace of drone strikes in the country with more than 20 US airstrikes over a span of five months. An increasing number of drone strikes target individuals whom the administration suspects have links to terrorist groups but whom policymakers view as leaders of factions striving to gain territory in Yemen’s internal conflict.  According to a very conservative report by the Long War Journal, 56 civilians and 264 “militants” have been killed in 42 US drone strikes from 2002 through 3 July 2012. This means that at the very least, one fifth of those killed in drone strikes are civilians.
Putting together the conservative numbers of war dead, in uniform and out, brings the total to 286,006. A more realistic minimal estimate is 298,000.
Indirect deaths from the wars, including those related to malnutrition, damaged health infrastructure, and environmental degradation, may far outnumber deaths from combat. While these deaths are difficult to count due to factors such as lack of comparable baseline mortality figures, a 2008 survey by The Geneva Declaration Secretariat estimates that assuming a ratio of four indirect deaths to one direct death in contemporary conflicts would not be unreasonable. This would put the death toll at five times 181,000, or 905,000.
Millions of people have been displaced indefinitely and are living in grossly inadequate conditions. As of January 2012, the number of war refugees and displaced persons — 7,424,780 — is equivalent to all of the people of Connecticut and Oregon fleeing their homes.
The wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad.
The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades, some costs not peaking until mid-century. Many of the wars’ costs are invisible to Americans, buried in a variety of budgets, and so have not been counted or assessed. For example, while most people think the Pentagon war appropriations are equivalent to the wars’ budgetary costs, the true numbers are twice that, and the full economic cost of the wars much larger yet. Conservatively estimated, the war bills already paid and obligated to be paid as of June 2011 are $3.2 trillion in constant dollars. A more reasonable estimate puts the number at nearly $4 trillion.
As with former US wars, the costs of paying for veterans’ care into the future will be a sizable portion of the full costs of the war.
While we know how many US soldiers have died in the wars (over 6,500), what is startling is what we don’t know about the levels of injury and illness in those who have returned from the wars. New disability claims continue to pour into the VA, with over 675,000 disability claims registered with the VA as of September, 2011.  Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been identified.