Most discussions about the costs of war focus on two numbers, the cost in dollars and cents and the more profound and heartbreaking cost in lives. Yet even as depressing as these numbers are, the figures discussed rarely encompass the whole truth. Over many generations those in power have learned there are benefits to keeping the populace as ignorant as possible when it comes to the true costs of war.
American politicians never talk about all the people killed in war, just American service members. Everyone else who is killed, even Americans arbitrarily classified as “enemy combatants,” are marginalized as mere collateral damage. Dollar costs consider only the “official” Defense Department budget, not the funds scattered and hidden throughout the federal budget. And the tally sheet deliberately excludes the cost of caring for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines physically and emotionally scarred by war.
The Eisenhower Study Group at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies has compiled a comprehensive study of the human, economic, social and political costs of war. It’s available online. As you might imagine, the real numbers of wars we are presently involved in are staggering and stunning: more than 224,000 lives lost, more than 365,000 wounded, and in excess of seven million refugees.
The total estimated cost to the American taxpayer for our current wars is $3-4 trillion dollars through 2020 — plus an additional $1 trillion just to pay the interest on the money borrowed to fund war. Funding war by borrowing money is one of the devices politicians have devised to pay for war, particularly for unpopular wars. This means our children must pay tomorrow for the wars we are involved in today.