Besides replacing equipment, costs of the war down the road include healthcare for veterans and debt-servicing costs. (AP Photo/Dayton Daily News, Ty Greenless.)
Your children, and your grandchildren, will be paying billions upon billions of dollars for George W. Bush’s criminally misguided wars and for Barack Obama’s ill-advised escalation of the war in Afghanistan, according to a new report.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost as much as $6 trillion when all is said and done, the report says:
The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, taken together, will be the most expensive wars in US 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.
Adds the report’s abstract:
Since 2001, the US has expanded the quality, quantity, availability and eligibility of benefits for military personnel and veterans. This has led to unprecedented growth in the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense budgets. These benefits will increase further over the next 40 years. Additional funds are committed to replacing large quantities of basic equipment used in the wars and to support ongoing diplomatic presence and military assistance in the Iraq and Afghanistan region. The large sums borrowed to finance operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will also impose substantial long-term debt servicing costs. As a consequence of these wartime spending choices, the United States will face constraints in funding investments in personnel and diplomacy, research and development and new military initiatives.
And it concludes:
The legacy of decisions taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will dominate future federal budgets for decades to come.
The title of the report, by Linda J. Bilmes of Harvard University, is “The Financial Legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan: How Wartime Spending Decisions Will Constrain Future National Security Budgets.” Bilmes is the co-author, with Joseph Stiglitz, of the 2008 study "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict." In the new study, she reports:
The US has already spent close to $2 trillion in direct outlays for expenses related to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND). This includes direct combat operations, reconstruction efforts and other direct war spending by the Department of Defense (DoD), State Department, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Social Security Administration.
However, this represents only a fraction of the total war costs. The single largest accrued liability of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the cost of providing medical care and disability benefits to war veterans. Historically, the bill for these costs has come due many decades later.
And, she reports:
The decision to finance the war operations entirely through borrowing has already added some $2 trillion to the national debt, contributing about 20 percent of the total national debt added between 2001 and 2012. This level of debt is thus one of the reasons the country faces calls for austerity and budget cuts, which has already had an impact on the military budget through the across-the-board cuts (the “sequester”) that were allowed to take effect in 2013. The US has already paid $260 billion in interest on the war debt. This does not include the interest payable in the future, which will reach into the trillions.
So, the next time some deficit hawk who’s also a warhawk complains about the soaring US debt and the current deficit, send ’em a copy of Bilmes’ study.
Another recent report suggests that the CIA is missing intelligence because it's too busy with drone strikes. Read Robert Dreyfuss on why the agency should get back to what it's supposed to do.