Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Costs of War

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

“This is still a very complex place.  We’re not going to be sure of the outcome for three, or five, or 10 years.”  General Ray Odierno, top American military leader in Iraq.
Stars and Stripes ran several pieces today on the United States military’s gradual withdrawal from Iraq.  The primary article, entitled “The Long Goodbye,” was written by Heath Druzin.   It contained a lot of current statistical data relating to the Iraq War that I have not seen presented anywhere else in such a concise manner.

According to the S&S, as of 12 Aug 2010, 4,414 US troops have  been killed in the Iraq War, and another 31,897 have suffered wounds.  Of those wounded, 1,135 are now amputees.

Those numbers apparently do not reflect the service members who have suffered serious post traumatic stress disorder as a result of combat,  or those who ultimately committed suicide as a consequence of their war experiences.

In addition to those staggering numbers, there have been 1,487 death  claims filed on behalf of civilian contractors and subcontractors working in Iraq as a part of the war effort.  

Then there are the real civilian casualties – the 113,166 Iraqi men, women, and children who have died during the war – and those are just the ones we know about.  The Bush administration was adamant during the early war years that they were not keeping track of Iraqi casualties.

(Civilian deaths always outnumber those of the military.  The same article, while comparing war dead totals for previous wars, listed deaths in the US Civil War as 291,557.  Those were just the soldiers.  Most historians place the total deaths from our Civil War as well over half-a-million.)

War is best measured in blood, because blood is more immediate, more real.  But it can also be measured in dollars – and every dollar spent on war is a dollar that could be going to the benefit of humanity – feeding, teaching, healing, building, and ministering to the suffering.

The Iraq War, according to today’s article in Stars and Stripes, has run up total costs of nearly $750 billion – or three-quarters of a trillion dollars – in operating expenses    That figures out to nearly $2,500 for every man, woman, and child in America – and over $25,000 for every human being in Iraq.  The operating costs, however, are only a small part of the total war bill.   When medical and disability costs for veterans are figured in, as well as the total impact on our economy, the total cost of the war is in the neighborhood of $3 trillion – so far.  That is quite a pricey neighborhood!    Then there is on-going medical care for our wounded and disabled troops, as well as the costs of maintaining troops in Iraq until our departure is complete.

And that’s just Iraq.  When the quagmire in Afghanistan is rolled into the picture,  the costs, both in blood and treasure – really get outrageous! 

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