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Trying to count the real cost of war

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Trying to count the real cost of war


After almost a decade of the so-called ‘War on Terror’, a debate about the full cost of military intervention in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq is now underway in the US.

According to a recent study carried out by American University researchers, the real price could be close to three trillion euros.

The military budget is only part of the calculation.

“You can think of the budget as the tip of the iceberg,” explained Neta Crawford, a political science professor at Boston University and a co-director of the report ‘Costs of War.’

“Below that, the human toll to US soldiers, and below that – almost at the water’s edge – contractors who have been killed. Many contractors have been killed or injured.

“And below that, almost rarely talked about – submerged – is the toll for civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And then below that, in terms of human toll and costs, are the costs of the veterans over the long run and the costs of civilians into those countries over the long run, over the next 30 years.”

The report calls for far more information on direct and indirect costs to be made available to the public – such as the effect of war abroad on job creation back home.

“For every million dollars spent, Pentagon spending creates about eight jobs … Spending on education would create 15 jobs, directly and indirectly. Spending on health care, 13 jobs directly and indirectly. So there are opportunity costs in terms of jobs in an economy that is very weak,” said Crawford.

Watch a longer version of the interview with Neta Crawford here

Ironically, it is ex-soldiers who are feeling that most. According to the 2.4 million-member American Legion, the unemployment rate for veterans is running at 23 percent – that is more than twice the national average.

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