spend $32 million per hour on wars started during the Bush
By Stephanie Savell
D.C.) – This March marked the 15th anniversary of the
U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
2003, President George W. Bush and his advisers based their case
for war on the idea that Saddam Hussein, then dictator of Iraq,
possessed weapons of mass destruction — weapons that have never
been found. Nevertheless, all these years later, Bush’s “Global
War on Terror” continues — in Iraq and in many other
a good time to reflect on what this war — the longest in U.S.
history — has cost Americans and others around the world.
the economic costs: According to estimates by the Costs
of War project at Brown University’s Watson
Institute for International and Public Affairs, the war on
has cost Americans a staggering $5.6
trillion since 2001, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan.
trillion. This figure includes not just the Pentagon’s war
fund, but also future obligations such as social services for an
ever-growing number of post-9/11 veterans.
the above number means taxpayers spend every hour on wars
hard for most of us to even begin to grasp such an enormous number.
means Americans spend $32 million per hour, according to a counter
by the National
Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.
another way: Since 2001, every American taxpayer has spent almost
on the wars — equal to the average down payment on a house, a
new Honda Accord, or a year at a public university.
stupefying as those numbers are, the budgetary costs pale in
comparison with the human toll.
of 2015, when the Costs of War project made its latest tallies,
up to 165,000 Iraqi civilians had died as a direct consequence of
U.S. war, plus around 8,000 U.S. soldiers and military contractors in
numbers have only continued to rise
to 6,000 civilians were killed by U.S.-led strikes in Iraq and Syria
in 2017 –– more civilians than in any previous year,
according to the watchdog group AirWars.
addition to those direct deaths, at least four
times as many people in Iraq have died from the side effects
war, such as malnutrition, environmental degradation, and
the 2003 invasion, for instance, Iraqi health care has plummeted
— with hospitals and clinics bombed,
supplies of medicine and electricity jeopardized, and thousands of
physicians and healthcare workers fleeing the country.
the war continues to spread, no longer limited to Afghanistan, Iraq,
or Syria, as many Americans think. Indeed, the U.S. military is
escalating a shadowy network of anti-terror operations all across the
world — in at least 76
nations, or 40 percent of countries on the planet.
about four Green Berets killed by an Islamic State affiliate in the
West African nation of Niger gave Americans a
glimpse of just how broad this network is. And along with it
comes all the devastating consequences of militarism for the people
of these countries.
must ask: Are these astounding costs worth it? Is the U.S.
accomplishing anything close to its goal of diminishing the global
answer is, resoundingly, no.
activity in Iraq and the Middle East has only spurred greater
upheaval and unrest. The U.S.-led coalition is seen not as a
liberating force, but as an aggressor.
This has fomented insurgent recruitment, and there are now more
terrorist groups in the Middle East than ever before.
a broad swath of the American public gets engaged to call for an end
to the war on terror, these mushrooming costs — economic,
human, social, and political — will just continue to grow.
Savell co-directs the Costs of War project at Brown University’s
Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. This report
first appeared at OtherWords.org and is reprinted here with