On Veterans Day: The Other 1%

On this day, it is sobering to put into perspective the costs to our veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.*

About 2.5 million Americans are military veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Over 6,650 American military personnel have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least 6,300 “civilian contractors” have been killed, but those deaths have been much harder to track because they are multinational and employed by both the U.S. military, civilian agencies, and private corporations. As the number of “civilian contractors” has exceeded the number of American military personnel in both nations, the numbers of deaths among those “contractors” has increased proportionately.

More than 23,000 Iraqi and Afghan military personnel, fighting alongside U.S. troops, have died in these wars. There is no credible count of the wounded among those allied troops.

The suicide rate among veterans on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is double the pre-war rate. In fact, suicide is now the leading cause of death among U.S. military personnel. The suicide rate among veterans is 38 per 100,000, compared to 11.5 per 100,000 for the general population.

The suicide rate does not include deaths from drug overdoses, motor vehicle accidents due to driver impairment, or other means that may be directly reflective of post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSDs). Veterans of these two wars are, for instance, 75% more likely than the general population to be involved in vehicular accidents.

More than 1,600 veterans of these two wars have suffered wounds requiring amputations.

106,000 veterans have been wounded in combat or evacuated from the war zones due to severe illness. An additional 55,000 veterans have suffered serious injuries in vehicular or other accidents, have contracted “local” diseases that have required extended treatment, or have had self-inflicted wounds.

247,000 veterans of these two wars have been treated for PTSDs, presumably a fraction of those suffering from the disorders.

More than 745,000 veterans of these two wars have filed claims for disabilities resulting from their service. 675,000 of those claims have been approved to date.

One or both parents of more than 2,000,000 children have served in one or both of these wars. More than 500,000 of those children have been diagnosed with depression or other emotional problems resulting from their parents’ service.

The direct costs of the war in Iraq have been estimated at $815 billion and those for the war in Afghanistan, at $672 billion. Those totals do not include the interest to be paid on the federal debt assumed to finance the wars, estimated at $4 trillion for the war in Iraq and $2.5 trillion for the war in Afghanistan.

Those totals also do not include the escalating costs of caring for the veterans of those two wars.

The medical costs of caring for the veterans of these two wars have already totaled $135 billion.

The Pentagon has generated much controversy by denying and additional $12.5 billion in medical claims by veterans and citing “pre-existing conditions” as the reason for the denials.

Whatever these wars have accomplished has come at a great cost to the people of the directly affected countries as well.

The estimation of the numbers of deaths among Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani combatants and non-combatants have been very difficult to pin down and consequently very controversial. A total death toll of about 350,000 seems a safe estimate, with at least 250,000 of those deaths being among non-combatants.

If the ratio of wounded to dead is put at 3:1, these two wars have caused more than a million casualties among the populations of those three countries—and one assumes the same scale of post-war medical needs that the U.S. is already confronting but without any of the resources to adequately meet those needs.

These two wars have displaced—or made refugees of–about 7 million people.

*Most, but not all, of the statistics cited here have been taken from the site Costs of War [http://costsofwar.org/]

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