KATIE ZERR: The cost of war is staggering


Ten years ago today our nation awoke to the sites and sounds of the invasion of Iraq. The night skies over Bagdad were lit with the fires that erupted as our nation’s military did the job they were ordered to do by President George W. Bush.

Then President Bush ordered U.S. forces to topple Saddam Hussein and his Sunni Arab-dominated Baath Party. Hussein was blamed for disastrous wars, countrywide poverty and human rights abuses against the Shiites, but not exclusively to that group.

That war cost the lives of 4,486 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis. That conflict alone cost the United States $812 billion in military expenses. That does not include what it has cost this country in treating veterans who have returned who were wounded either physically or mentally by our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

More than 200,000 soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated at veterans’ medical facilities thus far, with 900,000 still deployed on active duty.

The war will cost the U.S. $2.2 trillion, including substantial costs for veteran’s care through 2053, far exceeding the initial government estimate of $50 to $60 billion, according to a new report by scholars with the “Costs of War” project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the cost of serving this nation’s veterans. An Associated Press analysis of federal payment records found that the government is still making monthly payments to relatives of Civil War veterans, some 148 years after the conflict ended. More than $40 billion a year are going to compensate veterans and survivors from the Spanish-American War from 1898, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the two Iraq campaigns and the Afghanistan conflict. And those costs are rising rapidly.

The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to grow well into our nation’s future. Add to that the lifetime care for injured veterans, long-term mental health treatment, spousal benefits for families of those lost, and that cost skyrockets as our soldiers march in the sands of the Middle East.

So far, since the first Persian Gulf conflict in the early 1990s through 2012, the Middle East conflicts have cost about $12 billion a year in compensation to those who have left military service or family members of those who have died.

Compensation costs have totaled more than $50 billion since 2003, not including expenses of medical care and other benefits provided to veterans, and are poised to grow for many years to come.

In 2011 dollars, and the post-war benefits for veterans and families have separately cost nearly $270 billion since 1970, according to calculations. World War I, which ended 94 years ago, continues to cost taxpayers about $20 million every year. The yearly cost of World War II is $5 billion.

Yesterday, during a battle between the Syrian government and the Free Syrian Army in the southern town of Ateibeh, the rebels claim the government attacked with “chemical rockets,” causing death, cases of suffocation, nausea and hysteria.

This morning on the early news programs, politicians in Washington are calling for immediate action against the Syrian government and seizure of that country’s chemical weapons storage pile.

As we have watched the 10 years of war unfold before us through the national and world media, does it not make us pause and ask our politicians to be sure this is absolutely necessary before we again become involved in yet another conflict?

It is not time to send troops into Syria to take control of the chemical weapons. It is not time to pound Damascus with a barrage of smart bombs to beat Bassar al-Assad into submission.

It is time to ask if the total cost of the recent wars are worth what has been gained in the long run.

Our veterans are wounded physically and mentally. Our citizens are still targets of terrorism and Iraq and Afghanistan are still unstable.

Was it worth the cost?

– Katie Zerr –


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