A study by professor Linda J. Blimes of Harvard University concludes that the cost to the US of the Iraq and Afghan wars, taken together, will be between $4 and $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 cost so far is $2 trillion.
In order to get our head round the colossal figure of $6 trillion, this is equivalent to $75,000 for every household in the US. Deaths of Iraqis and Afghans taken together are estimated from 600,000 to a million, coalition troops’ deaths around 8,000, over 7,000 of whom are Americans. The suffering and the sheer misery of widows, orphans and families behind these statistics are unimaginable.
Our propensity to dehumanize the ‘other’ makes it all too easy for the demagogue, the charlatan and the power hungry to exploit. We are too readily manipulated and outraged into diverting our resources into wars that cause death, injury and destruction. The suffering to millions of fellow human beings is kept from us by mainstream media too ready to play its role. In any case, the dehumanization of our ‘enemies’ dulls our compassion to the point of not seeing their pain and suffering as real.
Leaders and those who would profit from these wars would package their language in distortions and omissions to hide the truth. George Orwell summed it up: “Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
Let us for a moment put aside the human cost of these wars and concentrate on the economic cost. This obscene spending on death and destruction is done by a country, the US, where 15% of its citizens, 46 million, live below the poverty threshold of $23,492 and 1.5 million of its children become homeless every year.
Worldwide, 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day, 360 million of whom live on less than $1 a day. Grinding poverty, hunger and lack of clean water and effective sanitation blight their lives and their future. 22,000 children die every day due to poverty.
Families are trapped in a cycle of misery and deprivation that cascades through generations with no escape route. Yet in this world of need and suffering, the world military spending stood at over $1.7 trillion in 2012.
The vast majority of us individually can see that there is something seriously wrong with the way our priorities are perceived. It is beyond comprehension that with so much poverty and need worldwide, that so much wealth is spent on wars and weapons of death and destruction. However, this rationality and our sense of fairness could so easily be overcome when called upon to dehumanize our perceived ‘enemies’.
As a species we have tremendous talents. Our scientific achievements are incredible; our advances in medicine and technology are stunning. Our social development however is still almost at Stone Age level.