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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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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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New Study Details ‘Staggering’ $6 Trillion (and Counting) Price Tag of Endless US War

Total U.S. spending on war and all of its related costs will hit nearly $6 trillion by the end of 2019, according to the Watson Institute (Photo: Carpetblogger/flickr/cc)

By Julia Conley | Common Dreams

While the human costs will remain impossible to calculate, a new analysis shows that the Pentagon barely scratched the surface of the financial costs of U.S. wars since September 11, 2001 when it released its official estimate last August regarding how much the U.S. has spent on fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs reports (pdf) that by the end of the 2019 fiscal year, the U.S. will have spent $5.9 trillion on military spending in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other countries, as well as veterans’ care, interest on debt payments, and related spending at the Homeland Security and State Departments.

The figure far exceeds the Pentagon’s estimate of $1.5 trillion in total spending since September 11—a number that does not even account for combined State Department spending and the Pentagon’s war fund, which totals $1.8 trillion according to the Watson Institute.

“We were told to expect wars that would be quick, cheap, effective and beneficial to the U.S. interest,” said Neta Crawford, the author of the study, at a news conference hosted by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) on Tuesday. “The U.S. continues to fund the wars by borrowing, so this is a conservative estimate of the consequences of funding the war as if on a credit card, in which we are only paying interest even as we continue to spend.”

Veterans’ healthcare, benefits, and disability spending alone has cost the U.S. $1 trillion, as nearly three million Americans have deployed to countries including Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, many for numerous tours.

With spending continuing at its current level, the study reads, Americans can expect their government to spend more than $6.7 trillion on war by the end of 2023—not including future interest costs.

“Moreover, the costs of war will likely be greater than this because, unless the U.S. immediately ends its deployments, the number of veterans associated with the post-9/11 wars will also grow,” Crawford wrote in the report.

The Watson Institute’s latest report comes days after another study detailing the estimated death toll of the so-called “War on Terror.” The Defense Department reported on about 500 civilian deaths in 2017 in various U.S. wars earlier this year and its website reports several thousands deaths of U.S. soldiers since 2001—numbers the Watson Institute also found to be severely underestimated as it reported about half a million deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as a result of the U.S. invasions and prolonged occupations of those countries.

“It’s important for the American people to understand the true costs of war, both the moral and monetary costs,” Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said in a statement.

“In sum, high costs in war and war-related spending pose a national security concern because they are unsustainable,” reads the Watson Institute’s report. “The public would be better served by increased transparency and by the development of a comprehensive strategy to end the wars and deal with other urgent national security priorities.”


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