NOT a few US newspapers after the fall of Afghanistan reported information that made Americans grimace: the US war cost its taxpayers an astounding $2.3 trillion.
But there’s an even more shocking figure that is hardly reported: The US spent $6.4 trillion* in the wars it undertook after the 9/11 attack on the New York World Trade Center that took 3,000 lives, mostly American lives.
These wars were either the most horrible, bloody and expensive revenge campaign in history or the costliest manhunt for its admitted perpetrators, the Saudi Osama bin Laden and his gang.
These wars demonstrated how the Americans’ expertise in propaganda packaged these conflicts as noble crusades as the “War on Terror” overall, but even for each country.
The US invasion of Afghanistan was initially called Operation Enduring Freedom and later, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. That against Saddam Hussein Operation Iraqi Freedom and then Operation New Dawn for Iraq. In Syria, it was Operation Inherent Resolve. After all, it wouldn’t have inspired Americans barely out of their teens to risk their lives for a “Hunt for Osama” or “Kill the Terrorists,” would it.
Estimates range from 900,000 to 3.1 million killed in these wars. US casualties were a tiny fraction of that (6,700 dead and 52,000 wounded), a testament to the modern way Americans wage war – through its mainly chip-based technology.
Yes, the same technology we enjoy and marvel at, even those amazing navigation apps and tiny cameras were likely offshoots of the technology Americans (many with Israelis) developed for their deadly drones, Tomahawk missiles and smart bombs.
US presidents’ rhetoric on these wars that they waged invoked the good in man as George W. Bush did on the evening of September 11: “We go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.” Yet, the biggest businesses in the United States flourished in these wars, making the business of efficiently killing people a major part of the American economy: Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and, of course, Colt Industries, said to have manufactured 50 million of the M-4 Carbine for the US army. War appears to be a fixed feature in the American economy.
It would certainly be difficult to wrap our minds around what $6.4 trillion spent in its revenge catharsis means.
One way of doing so would be to note that $6.4 trillion is 32 times the $200 billion that the United States and the United Kingdom spent for rehabilitating Europe (under the so-called Marshall Plan), Japan, and in a very, very limited way the Philippines after the ravages of World War 2.
The $6.4 trillion is the total Philippines gross domestic product (adjusted for inflation) – i.e., what its economy produced – for 39 years.
I’m sure if the United States spent that $6.4 trillion in aid to developing countries, including us, this earth would be heaven on earth now, rid of hunger and diseases. Mankind by now would have even developed a one-shot 100-percent effective vaccine for Covid-19 and all its variants if the US had donated just one-tenth of that amount to a world virology institute, i.e., $640 billion.
But then, the US, as former president Jimmy Carter said (reported in an article in www.commondreams.org), was “the most warlike nation in the history of the world.” Carter even pointed out that the US has been at peace for only 16 of its 242 years as a nation.
The article reported: “Counting wars, military attacks and military occupations, there have actually only been five years of peace in US history – 1976, the last year of the Gerald Ford administration and 1977 to 1980, the entirety of Carter’s presidency.” Carter’s statements, of course, weren’t reported in mainstream media, especially since he used his point to explain why China, now America’s Evil Empire, has been surging ahead.
“‘Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anybody?” Carter asked. “‘None,’ and we have stayed at war.” After China’s invasion of Vietnam in 1979, it has been at peace with its neighbors and the world.
China’s peace dividend has allowed and enhanced its economic growth, Carter said. “How many miles of high-speed railroad do we have in this country?” he asked. China has around 18,000 miles (29,000 kilometers) of high-speed rail lines while the US has” wasted, I think, $3 trillion” on military spending.
“It’s more than you can imagine,” Carter said of US war spending. “China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us. In almost every way.”
“And I think the difference is if you take $3 trillion and put it in American infrastructure, you’d probably have $2-trillion left over,” Carter said. “We’d have high-speed railroad. We’d have bridges that aren’t collapsing, we’d have roads that are maintained properly. Our education system would be as good as that of say South Korea or Hong Kong.”
Indeed, I don’t think China spent a trillion dollars in lifting 800 million of its citizens out of poverty, a phenomenon a World Bank study said was a miracle in human history.
A 2017 article reported: “China lifting more than 800 million people out of poverty since the start of its economic reform is a ‘great story in human history,’ ” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said. “This is one of the great stories in human history, ‘frankly,’ ” Kim told reporters at the start of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
On the other hand, the wars the US waged to avenge the 9/11 attack would be the one of the most horrible episodes in human history.
With the Islamic world hating the US for these wars (all in Muslim-dominated countries), Osama bin Laden must be smiling looking down at the world with the 72 virgins around him in Jannah (Paradise), if we are to believe the Koran’s account of the afterlife.
What world we have.
(Netflix’s five-part “docuseries” is the best account of what led to the 9/11 attack, how this was the turning point on how the US operated since 2001. It presents some shocking footage on the Americans’ kidnapping and torture of suspected terrorists. It is the best explanation I’ve seen on why the Taliban is the Taliban, why Afghanistan is Afghanistan today.)
*Neta C. Crawford, “United States Budgetary Costs and Obligations of Post-9/11 Wars through FY2020: $6.4 Trillion” (Nov. 13, 2019, Watson Institute of International Public Affairs, Brown University).
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