Life, Limb, and Liberty: Going Beyond the $6.4 Trillion Modern War Spending

Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.

—60 Minutes (5/12/96)

Fast forward and nothing has changed. Thankfully though, we had a different Donald Trump on the campaign trail than what we’ve seen since his becoming Commander-in-chief. While the president has not yet done anything besides talk about winding down America’s “War on Terror” while on the campaign trail, his rhetoric on the decades of carnage has at least helped to expose the political elite’s forever regime change wars for what they really are – regime change wars.

Regime change wars totaling approximately $6,400,000,000,000 since 2001, according to the United States Budgetary Costs and Obligations of Post-9/11 Wars Through FY2020 report, conducted by The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. However, even at an estimated cost to taxpayers to the tune of $6.4T, the indirect costs are far greater than the dollars spent. These indirect costs include the loss of life, limb, and liberty, domestic and abroad.

Here’s what you may have missed during America’s twenty years of imperialism in just Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

“In peace, sons bury their father. In war, fathers bury their sons.” – Herodotus

Unfortunately, over the past twenty years, parents and children have buried each other as a result of America’s bipartisan foreign interventionism. Since 2001, it is estimated that between 770,000-801,000 people have perished, including U.S. servicemen, enemy forces, and civilians. Of these deaths, about 14,850 are Americans, and astoundingly, over 312,000 civilians have been killed, many of which are women and children.

The silver lining is that, in recent years, the number of U.S. armed forces killed in combat has declined. War hawks have boasted this decrease in U.S. casualties. Claims are that only 15-20 U.S. soldiers are killed each year, and that makes the cost worth it. However, the fact is, in addition to the statistics previously mentioned, over 60,000 veterans have committed suicide since 2008, drastically increasing the number of American fatalities. Not all are specifically veterans of modern war, yet the number speaks volumes on the tolls of warfare. From 2006-2017, over 6,000 veterans committed suicide per year, approximately 17 deaths per day. In the case of war overseas and the aftermath here at home, the lives lost are not worth it.

Thankfully though, there are the survivors of combat – the soldiers who returned after their time overseas, and the inhabitants of these foreign lands who narrowly escaped the nearby bombs and bullets. However, not all survivors remain the same. Often forgotten is how these troops and civilians leave limbs behind on the field of battle, and the resulting mental and physical hardships these amputees experience.

Since 2001, approximately 1,650 U.S. troops have lost hands, arms, legs or feet during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2011, in June and July alone, over 75 servicemembers were discharged with one or more missing limbs. Year after year, combat created amputees — tens in some years, hundreds in others. The data for civilian amputees as a result of American bombs is not well documented.

Once more though, there is a silver lining. While from 2001-2015 there wasn’t a calendar year without a loss of limb for U.S. troops, the trend was bucked in 2016. In 2016, the number of deployed troops who suffered amputations was zero. That’s correct, for 365 calendar days, for the first time in 15 years of U.S. presence in Afghanistan and 13 years in Iraq, no combat troops suffered amputations as a result of battlefield injuries. But over the course of these 20 years, the limbs lost are not worth it.

Going beyond the loss of life and limb, foreign interventionism has significantly affected the social fabric of America, and liberty is the final casualty. Contrary to some who believe that intervention overseas protects our domestic liberties, here’s how foreign intervention has actually undermined our liberties here at home.

The post-WWII National Security State comprised of the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI ballooned to an even greater size post-2001. As a result, we have become less free and privacy is a thing of the past. This loss of individual liberty puts us on par with other National Security States such as China, North Korea, Cuba, Russia, et al.

What is a National Security State? It is the existence of an unelected, uncontrolled fourth branch of government in the United States. It’s the circumvention of our Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. It’s domestic spying authorized by legislation like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (PARTIOT Act). As a result of these pieces of legislation, among others, the National Security State has the ability to assassinate and indefinitely detain American citizens. The National Security State is antithetical to a free society, and the liberty lost is not worth the false sense of safety and security.

So, even when barely scratching the surface in examining the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, the costs are astronomical. America’s multi-decade experiment of interventionism has proven to be detrimental to humankind, here and around the world. When you go beyond the $6.4 trillion spent since 2001 and consider the loss of life, limb, and liberty, the answer is clear. Bring our troops home, because if not now, then when?

Danny Malouf

Author: Danny Malouf

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