Since 9/11, the US Has Committed $5.6 Trillion to War

Since 9/11, the United States has been embroiled in seemingly perpetual war. Even 16 years later, this reality isn’t likely to change in the near future.

While this news shouldn’t come as a surprise, many Americans might not be as aware of the massive costs that years of endless warfare have incurred — even those in charge of these conflicts seem to lack the complete picture.

Fortunately, a Brown University-based project called Costs of War is dedicated to providing accurate accounting of U.S. military spending. Though focused on the major wars — Afghanistan and Iraq — the project includes other operations spurred by the so-called Global War on Terror.

Their latest figures find that, as of fiscal year 2017, the U.S. military has spent over $4.3 trillion to combat terrorism around the world. However, when factoring in projected costs for 2018 — in addition to future financial obligations, such as disability and medical treatment for veterans, to the 2050s — that number rises to a whopping $5.6 trillion.

It might be easier to comprehend these figures another way: On average, each American taxpayer has personally contributed $23,386 to the Global War on Terror since 9/11.

But these numbers are radically different than the Department of Defense’s own cost estimates. One Pentagon report indicated that the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost just $1.5 trillion. That’s a little more than one-third of the Cost of War’s estimate.

Is this discrepancy merely bureaucratic bungling or is it deliberate obfuscation? While the answer remains unclear, the Pentagon has a well-deserved reputation for the latter.

Not long ago, a number of U.S. senators — even those who serve in committees dedicated to military oversight — were stunned to learn about the large U.S. military presence in Africa. It was only after a several troops were killed by militants in Niger that the Pentagon admitted that U.S. troops are currently active in all but one African nation. And most servicemembers, if not all, are engaged in operations related to anti-terrorism efforts.

These revelations are especially surprising given two key Republican policy platforms: major new investments in the armed forces and a dismantling of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansions. GOP legislators often claim that the latter is justified because these programs are just too financially burdensome .

With no sense of irony, then, these same politicians insist that the Global War on Terror must continue at any cost in order to save innocent American lives. While there is no proof that these wars have made Americans any safer, it is hardly disputable that depriving citizens of health coverage achieves the opposite effect.

If the use of taxpayer dollars was prioritized based on how many American lives could be saved, the Global War on Terror would rank far below universal health care. But it doesn’t take a genius to understand the reason why government spending is not structured this way. Just follow the money: Who benefits from endless wars? And who loses out when health care is subsidized?

Photo Credit: U.S. Military staff / Wikimedia Commons


Roberto MARINI
Roberto M3 months ago

many thanks for this article

Janis K
Janis K3 months ago

Could have spent that for medical, dental and mental health for millions!

Ben O
Ben O3 months ago

10% of that to education would be great!

Celine R
Celine Russo3 months ago

It is so sick.

Kathleen E
Kathleen England3 months ago

At the end of the day, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. It's true the World over!

Henry M
Henry M3 months ago

One reason that the American military empire is so desperate to hold on to the Middle East is oil. If America can break it's addiction to fossil fuels, like foreign oil, then this money could be spent on other things.

Kathleen E
Kathleen England3 months ago

Look how much good could have been done with that money, Houses built, operations done, people with nothing, fed.

Donna T
Donna T3 months ago

such a waste...

Teresa F
Teresa Fazackerley3 months ago

thank you for sharing,

Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie3 months ago

Thank you so very much.