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Report Finds So-Called US War on Terror Has Displaced as Many as 59 Million People

AZEZ, SYRIA – MAY 19: Refugee camp for Syrian people on May 19, 2019, in Azez, Syria.

By Jake Johnson | Common Dreams

The ongoing U.S. “war on terror” has forcibly displaced as many as 59 million people from just eight countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia since 2001, according to a new report published Tuesday by Brown University’s Costs of War Project.

“U.S. involvement in these countries has been horrifically catastrophic, horrifically damaging in ways that I don’t think that most people in the United States have grappled with or reckoned within even the slightest terms.”
—David Vine, American University

Titled “Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the United States’ Post-9/11 Wars” (pdf), the new report conservatively estimates that at least 37 million people have “fled their homes in the eight most violent wars the U.S. military has launched or participated in since 2001.”

The latest figure represents a dramatic increase from the Costs of War Project’s 2019 report, which estimated that 21 million people had been displaced internally or forced to flee their home countries due to violence inflicted or unleashed by U.S.-led wars over the past two decades. That report also put the death toll of the so-called war on terror at 801,000 and the price tag at $6.4 trillion.

The new report argues that “wartime displacement (alongside war deaths and injuries) must be central to any analysis of the post-9/11 wars and their short- and long-term consequences.”

“Displacement also must be central to any possible consideration of the future use of military force by the United States or others,” the report states. “Ultimately, displacing 37 million—and perhaps as many as 59 million—raises the question of who bears responsibility for repairing the damage inflicted on those displaced.”

In addition to the tens of millions displaced by U.S. military actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria, the report notes that millions more have been displaced by “smaller combat operations, including in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia.”

“To put these figures in perspective, displacing 37 million people is equivalent to removing nearly all the residents of the state of California or all the people in Texas and Virginia combined,” the report says. “The figure is almost as large as the population of Canada. In historical terms, 37 million displaced is more than those displaced by any other war or disaster since at least the start of the 20th century with the sole exception of World War II.”

David Vine, professor of anthropology at American University and the lead author of the new report, told the New York Times that the findings show “U.S. involvement in these countries has been horrifically catastrophic, horrifically damaging in ways that I don’t think that most people in the United States, in many ways myself included, have grappled with or reckoned within even the slightest terms.”

Matt Duss, the foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), demanded such a reckoning in a tweet responding to the Costs of War Project’s latest findings.

“The scale of the disaster the United States has inflicted on the world—through three war on terror presidencies—is staggering,” wrote Duss. “We need a reckoning. We can’t simply move on.”

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Celebrating Peace: A Work in Progress

In 1954, Armistice Day was replaced with Veterans Day, and so our public celebration of peace and an end to war became a rally to “support the troops,” a state and a federal day off, and a platform for military recruitment. (Photo: Archive/File)

By Robert C. Koehler | Common Dreams

Veterans For Peace, an organization that speaks truth to war like nobody else, is attempting to reclaim Armistice Day, the Nov. 11 holiday that was flipped on its head 65 years ago when it was renamed Veterans Day — and became a celebration not of the end of the war but of its perpetuity.

The name change occurred in 1954. The Korean War had recently “ended,” the Cold War and the nuclear arms race were seriously revving up and, of course, that other world war, nine years past, was still vividly a part of everyone’s consciousness. There was near-infinite cynicism about the whole idea of “the war to end all wars” . . . yeah, sure, what a joke. That’ll never happen.

But in reclaiming Armistice Day — and holding events across the country honoring the current struggle to create peace — Veterans For Peace is also reclaiming a cry of pain and anger: The so-called Great War, with its mustard gas and trenches, its shellshock and influenza, its 20 million dead, was unnecessary and should have been the last. It is reclaiming a profound, global commitment to War No More.

Veterans Day celebrates — glorifies — the past. Armistice Day speaks to and attempts to create, the future. What is peace? How can it happen? The question hovers like a star.

Writing on Nov. 11, VFP executive director Garett Reppenhagen put it thus: “We absolutely need to start pushing back on militarism in all its forms and regardless of who is in the White House. Not just on gross displays like Trump’s proposed circus but on how we organize and how the effects of militarism show up in all of our spaces and communities. The reality is that almost EVERY SINGLE domestic platform on a progressive agenda can be funded by the overinflated military budget.”

On this reclaimed American day of peace, this day of looking at what we must do, I attended an Armistice Day event in Chicago, sponsored by the local VFP chapter. To a large extent, the focal point was the city’s schools and the needs of its children. Not coincidentally, a Chicago Teachers Union strike had just ended. The union’s demands were more than better pay and benefits for teachers, but such matters as:

“All students need individual attention from their teachers. We cannot provide that level of attention when we have more than 40 students in a kindergarten or any other class.”

And, in a system that recently made a $33 million agreement with the Chicago Police Department for policing in schools, the Teachers Union called for “hiring social workers, counselors, nurses, other clinicians at nationally recommended ratios; hire more case managers; full-time librarian and Restorative Justice coordinator in every school.”

This is the future, created one brick at a time. We can’t “celebrate” peace without asking what it requires. Indeed, peace is about asking the big questions. This is where it begins. Peace is always a work in progress.

One of the panelists at the Armistice Day event was part of an organization called Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, or VOYCE, which several years ago had released a report on the school system called “Failed Policies, Broken Futures: The True Cost of Zero Tolerance in Chicago,” which found that Chicago Public Schools’ “overuse of harsh disciplinary measures has cost the city tens of millions of dollars in the short term and hundreds of millions of dollars in the long-term, diverting resources from more effective approaches to school safety.”

This reclaimed day is every day, a celebration of the future that’s in progress and our slowly growing awareness of what it requires, such as “a Restorative Justice coordinator in every school” — hallelujah. The core of Restorative Justice is the healing circle, where participants. sitting in vibrant equality, address conflict by listening to multiple points of view, figuring out what has been harmed and deciding how it can be healed. It’s the opposite of a perfunctory, bureaucratic solution, i.e., punishment, which can seem so simple to someone removed from the reality of it, but exacts a harsh cost on young people in the process of growing up. In the inner city, it’s called the school-to-prison pipeline.

An externally maintained, unstable state of order — whether in the public schools or the community of nations — is not peace.

Reclaiming Armistice Day does not mean applauding the illusory peace that was achieved on Nov. 11, 1918, but it could well mean looking with unwavering clarity and courage at this illusion. War doesn’t work.

Veterans Day may claim to honor vets, but it isn’t about honoring the ones who have struggled with PTSD and committed suicide. Matthew Hoh, for instance, notes that far more Afghan and Iraq vets have committed suicide than were killed in the wars themselves. He writes:

“To visually understand this concept that the killing in war does not end when the soldiers come home, think of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, The Wall, with its 58,000 names. Now visualize The Wall but lengthen it by some 1,000-2,000 feet to include the 100,000 to 200,000 plus Vietnam veterans who are estimated to have been lost to suicide, while keeping space available to continue to add names for as long as Vietnam veterans survive because the suicides will never stop.”

This is the armistice that has yet to be achieved.

Robert C. Koehler

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

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The So-Called War on Terror Has Killed Over 801,000 People and Cost $6.4 Trillion: New Analysis

A U.S. Army soldier fires an M4 carbine rifle during partnered live-fire range training at Tactical Base Gamberi, Afghanistan on May 29, 2015. (Photo: Capt. Charlie Emmons/U.S. Army/Flickr/cc)

By Jessica Corbett | Common Dreams

The so-called War on Terror launched by the United States government in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks has cost at least 801,000 lives and $6.4 trillion according to a pair of reports published Wednesday by the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

“The numbers continue to accelerate, not only because many wars continue to be waged, but also because wars don’t end when soldiers come home,” said Costs of War co-director and Brown professor Catherine Lutz, who co-authored the project’s report on deaths.

“These reports provide a reminder that even if fewer soldiers are dying and the U.S. is spending a little less on the immediate costs of war today, the financial impact is still as bad as, or worse than, it was 10 years ago,” Lutz added. “We will still be paying the bill for these wars on terror into the 22nd century.”

The new Human Cost of Post-9/11 Wars report (pdf) tallies “direct deaths” in major war zones, grouping people by civilians; humanitarian and NGO workers; journalists and media workers; U.S. military members, Department of Defense civilians, and contractors; and members of national military and police forces as well as other allied troops and opposition fighters.

The report sorts direct deaths by six categories: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria/ISIS, Yemen, and “Other.” The civilian death toll across all regions is up to 335,745—or nearly 42% of the total figure. Notably, the report “does not include indirect deaths, namely those caused by loss of access to food, water, and/or infrastructure, war-related disease, etc.”

Indirect deaths “are generally estimated to be four times higher,” Costs of War board member and American University professor David Vine wrote in an op-ed for The Hill Wednesday. “This means that total deaths during the post-2001 U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen are likely to reach 3.1 million or more—around 200 times the number of U.S. dead.”

“Don’t we have a responsibility to wrestle with our individual and collective responsibility for the destruction our government has inflicted?” Vine asked in his op-ed. “Our tax dollars and implied consent have made these wars possible. While the United States is obviously not the only actor responsible for the damage done in the post-2001 wars, U.S. leaders bear the bulk of responsibility for launching catastrophic wars that were never inevitable, that were wars of choice.”

Referencing the project’s second new report, United States Budgetary Costs and Obligations of Post-9/11 Wars Through FY2020: $6.4 Trillion (pdf), Vine wrote, “Consider how we could have otherwise spent that incomprehensible sum—to feed the hungry, improve schools, confront global warming, improve our transportation infrastructure, and provide healthcare.”

“At a time when everyone from Donald Trump to Democratic Party candidates for president is calling for an end to these endless wars, we must push our government to use diplomacy—rather than rash withdrawals, as in northern Syria—to end these wars responsibly,” he concluded. “As the new Costs of War report and 3.1 million deaths should remind us, part of our responsibility must be to repair some of the immeasurable damage done and to ensure that wars like these never happen again.”

The project’s $6.4 trillion figure accounts for overseas contingency operations appropriations, interest for borrowing for OCO spending, war-related spending in the Pentagon’s base budget, medical and disability care for post-9/11 veterans (including estimated future obligations through FY2059), and Department of Homeland Security spending for prevention of and response to terrorism.

Costs of War co-director and Boston University professor Neta Crawford co-authored the project’s death toll report and authored the budget report. For the latter, she wrote that “the major trends in the budgetary costs of the post-9/11 wars include: less transparency in reporting costs among most major agencies; greater institutionalization of the costs of war in the DOD base budget, State Department, and DHS; and the growing budgetary burden of veterans’ medical care and disability care.”

Both reports were released as part of the project’s new “20 Years of War” series. Crawford, Lutz, and fellow Costs of War co-director Stephanie Savell were in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to present the reports’ findings at a briefing hosted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services.

“We have already seen that when we go to Washington and circulate our briefings, they get used in the policymaking process,” Lutz said in a news story published by Brown Wednesday. “People cite our data in speeches on the Senate floor, in proposals for legislation. The numbers have made their way into calls to put an end to the joint resolution to authorize the use of military force. They have a real impact.”

Lutz pointed out that “if you count all parts of the federal budget that are military-related—including the nuclear weapons budget, the budget for fuel for military vehicles and aircraft, funds for veteran care—it makes up two-thirds of the federal budget, and it’s inching toward three-quarters.”

“I don’t think most people realize that but it’s important to know,” she added. “Policymakers are concerned that the Pentagon’s increased spending is crowding out other national purposes that don’t war.”

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After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror

The Pentagon reports that the Afghan conflict costs US taxpayers $45 billion per year. (Photo: Debra Sweet/flickr/cc)

By Benjamin Dangl | Common Dreams

“Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there,” President George W. Bush announced on September 20th, 2001, following the 9/11 attacks.

Bush’s “War on Terror” did not end with Al Qaeda – it has roared on into an endless conflict spanning the globe, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of US taxpayers’ dollars.

“Americans should not expect one battle,” Bush continued, “but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.”

Days later, the Bush administration launched its air war. By the end of 2001, the US had dropped 17,500 bombs on Afghanistan.

The War in Afghanistan is now in its 17th year, making it America’s longest war. The Pentagon reports that the Afghan conflict costs US taxpayers $45 billion per year.

The human and economic cost of the post-9/11 US War on Terror has been investigated extensively by the Costs of War Project, based out of the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

The Project is made up of researchers, legal experts, human rights officials, and physicians whose focus is to reveal the cost of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the related conflicts in Pakistan and Syria.

Their research findings are staggering.

The Project’s investigations show that at least 370,000 people have been killed in the post 9/11 wars. Project researchers explain that it is likely that many more people have died indirectly due to environmental catastrophes, malnutrition, and broken infrastructure tied to the wars.

In addition, over 10 million Afghan, Iraqi, and Pakistani people have been displaced as war refugees.

The Project calculated the US budgetary costs in the post-9/11 wars to be $5.6 trillion. (In the decade after 9/11, US military spending doubled.)

Their research also shed a light on worldwide US military operations, showing that the US conducted counter-terror operations in 76 centuries around the globe from 2015-2017.

The Project developed a map illustrating drone operations, the deployment of troops, locations of military bases, and training programs – all demonstrating the complex global reach of the US War on Terror.

“Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” Bush ominously warned in his 2001 speech.

It quickly became clear where Bush’s line in the sand was drawn with the Patriot Act, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, the administration’s military operations.

Nearly two decades have passed since 9/11, and the War on Terror appears more like an Endless War.


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