A new study has proved what many suspected: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been the most expensive in U.S. history, and will continue to drain the budget for decades to come.
“The Financial Legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan: How Wartime Spending Decisions Will Constrain Future National Security Budgets,” prepared by Linda J. Bilmes of the Harvard Kennedy School, adds up not only the hundreds of billions spent directly on these wars but the ongoing costs of medical and other benefits for the U.S. wounded, as well as interest added to the national debt.
The report’s conclusions are stunning.
The abstract that sums up the study begins like this: “The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, taken together, will be the most expensive wars in U.S. history – totaling somewhere between $4 to $6 trillion. This includes long-term medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replenishment and social and economic costs. The largest portion of that bill is yet to be paid.”
This is indeed the Achilles’ heel of U.S. imperialism. Waging unpopular wars of aggression, it has been able to avoid rebellions by its troops, like those that shook the Pentagon during the Vietnam War, only by spending much more on recruiting, heavily arming and preventing battlefield deaths among its volunteer army.
But this only shifts the burden, and the numbers are staggering. According to the report, “More than half of the 1.56 million troops who have been discharged to date have received medical treatment at VA facilities and been granted benefits for the rest of their lives.” More than 253,000 of these troops have suffered traumatic brain injuries.
The Bilmes report considers only the financial costs of these wars. The human costs in terms of broken lives, life-long pain and psychological trauma cannot be calculated.
And it covers only what has happened to the U.S. troops. The physical damage to the infrastructure and the human damage to both combatants and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan has not been calculated, but it is obviously so great that these U.S. numbers are small by comparison.
Just as this report comes out, the Pentagon is ramping up pressure on north Korea. Huge war “games” are simulating a U.S. invasion of that country. It should be remembered that the people of north Korea heroically repelled the U.S. Army in the 1950s, even though the Pentagon sent 5.7 million troops to Korea in an effort to crush the socialist government in the north. Should real war break out again in Korea, it would quickly escalate to a level far beyond anything the U.S. has experienced in recent years.
Right now, the working people of the U.S. are paying dearly for these imperialist wars, which have benefited only the military-industrial complex, the oil companies and the banks that collect billions in interest on the national debt.
Imperialist war may bring profits to the 1%, but it is bankrupting the people of the United States.