(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed) According to recently released budget data from the Pentagon, the direct cost of America’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria since 9/11 will amount to roughly $1.5 trillion by next October.
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DefenseOne, a military news outlet, reported this week that this information became available because “The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act ordered the Pentagon and IRS to compile and publicly post the information on the Defense Department’s website.”
But according to a recent analysis released this year by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, the costs are even higher. The U.S. has spent $4.8 trillion “on the post/9/11 wars,” the report notes. ” As DefenseOne explained:
“But when other, far greater costs are included — such as medical and disability payments to veterans over the next 40 years, and war-related funding for the State Department and other federal departments — the total post-9/11 bill approaches $5 trillion, according to Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.”
According to the Pentagon’s data, Americans have spent an average of roughly $7,500 per person to fund the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria since 9/11 (by comparison, each American has spent an average of $ $4,100 on diplomacy, according to DefenseOne, a telling indicator of U.S. foreign policy priorities).
Here’s what Americans could have bought with all the money they’ve spent on failed empire, the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, and destroying the world’s goodwill toward the United States:
- Bitcoin: In the years since the war on terror began, cryptocurrency has emerged and grown in value at exponential rates. With the price of BTC currently soaring well over $5,000, you could have bought at least one bitcoin, a far more sound investment than perpetual war.
- Some dank-a** weed: You also could have bought between two and three pounds of increasingly potent cannabis at retail price. That could have easily lasted you the duration of the war on terror.
- Some actual cannabis-derived medicine: In all seriousness, since the start of the war on terror, weed’s reputation as simply a drug used to get high has disintegrated, and the best example of this is cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which is helping people treat ailments from neurodegenerative and seizure disorders to anxiety and depression. For the amount the average American has spent on war since 9/11, they could have bought roughly 83 grams of high-quality, high-potency, low-THC CBD oil, and as a result, saved even more money by reducing their reliance on pharmaceuticals.
- Providing sustenance and vital supplies to impoverished families: For $7,500, each American could have helped numerous struggling families around the world by providing them with farm animals, medicine, clean water, and other crucial materials to help them work toward a better life. Instead, that money went toward bombs and policing parts of the world that are not within the U.S.’ sovereign territory.
- A tiny home: For the amount every American has spent on perpetuating the empire, they could have bought at least one economical tiny home — and probably one for a homeless person in need, too.
- 3D-printer: The cutting edge technology can print everything from dinnerware to a literal house, and you could have bought more than a few high-quality devices.
- Pay off (most of) your credit card debt: The average American is in over $8,000 of credit card debt. This is nowhere near as much as the U.S. government, but nevertheless, if the feds had exercised some fiscal responsibility with the whole policing the world thing (and everything else), you might have been able to pay down what you owe.
- Drones: Drones may be best known for bombing civilians, weddings, and funerals, but in exchange for sacrificing those policies, Americans could have bought their own (unarmed), high-end drone (and then armed it, too), all within the same budget they’ve each shelled out for the “war on terror.” In fact, Americans could have created their own drone fleets for the amount they’ve spent on just three U.S. wars, defending the homeland themselves.
- Donating to worthy causes: For $7,500 over 16 years, the average American could have contributed roughly $470 to a charity of their choice every year. Medical charities, religious charities, veterans charities, homeless charities, children’s charities — they could have chosen (unlike taxation, where citizens have no say in how money is spent).
Amid Congress’ passage of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Americans will continue to be on the hook for the federal government’s fiscal irresponsibility, as well as endless military escapades in the Middle East. As the Watson Institute detailed:
“This [military] spending has largely been financed by borrowing. Unless the US changes the way it manages that debt, future interest will exceed $8 trillion by the 2050s.”
Over the course of these wildly expensive 16 years of constant war, the Taliban is still a powerful force in Afghanistan as the U.S. continues to push the failed strategy of increasing troops in the country. ISIS may be crumbling, in part due to opposition from America’s sworn enemies, but the U.S. still seeks influence over Syria, and the American ruling class appears to be continuing its push for further control of the region that may or may not include military action.
In light of these failed, costly, and violent efforts, at this point, it’s up to every individual who values peace to make a bold decision to simply stop funding endless wars.