Report: Average American Taxpayer Spent $23,386 for the War on Terror

A new “Costs of War” report published by Brown University’s Watson Institute shows the actual costs incurred by the U.S. as part of its global “war on terror” that widely contradicts the cost of war figures put together by the Pentagon in its report.

The report points out some of the Pentagon report’s most staggering shortcomings and inadequacies in measuring the war costs incurred. Pentagon’s report, titled, “Estimated Cost to Each Taxpayer for the Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria” stated the total authorized spending for wars in these conflict regions, was $1.46 trillion, the figure accounts for only the Defense Department’s spending.

Whereas the Brown University report that included several other costs put the figure at US$4.3 trillion for the time spanning September 2001 and 2017.

“The U.S. wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the increased spending on homeland security and the departments of defense, state and veterans affairs since the 9/11 attacks have cost more than $4.3 trillion in current dollars through fiscal year 2017,” the report reveals.

“Adding likely costs for fiscal year 2018 and estimated future obligations for veterans’ care, the costs of war total more than $5.6 trillion.”

The US$ 5.6 trillion figure does not even include the amount U.S. spends in operations in the Horn of Africa, Uganda, Trans-Sahara, the Caribbean and Central America as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The report which is part of the “Costs of War” project, accounts for not just the Defense Department’s spending but also some of the departments that are often neglected in Pentagon’s war cost accounting reports, like the spendings of state departments, homeland security, veterans and the interest U.S. has paid so far on the money it has borrowed to wage wars.

Whereas the average taxpayer has spent $23,386 on the wars since 2001 compared the $7,740 figure as purported by the Pentagon in its report.

Image: Brown University's Watson Institute

Image: Brown University’s Watson Institute

“The American public should know what the true costs of these choices are and what lost opportunities they represent,” Catherine Lutz, project co-director and a professor of international studies and anthropology at Brown University, said.

“Given that the current administration has announced more years of war in Afghanistan and elsewhere, this total will only grow,” Lutz said.

The Cost of Wars report admitted that despite including many costs, there are still some expenses incurred that haven’t been included in the budget estimates.

“Although this report’s accounting is comprehensive, there are still billions of dollars not included in its estimate,” Neta Crawford, Costs of War co-director and a professor of political science at Boston University, told Brown University.

“For example, the report’s total does not include the substantial costs of war to state and local governments — most significantly, the costs of caring for veterans — or the millions of dollars in excess military equipment the U.S. donates to countries in and near the war zones,” she added.

The report stressed on the opaqueness and lack of accountability in Pentagon’s reports.

“The Pentagon’s areas of the global War on Terror operations have enlarged significantly but are not always clearly enumerated in its public summaries of their activities,” Crawford said.

“Future interest costs for overseas contingency operations spending alone are projected to add more than $1 trillion to the national debt by 2023,” she added.

Watch | Costs of War: the Human Toll of the Post-9/11 Wars

Top photo | Hellfire missiles being loaded onto a US military Reaper drone in Afghanistan. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson/U.S. Air Force)


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