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War on terror: What are we paying for? [Most commented]

September 19, 2011 |  1:04 pm

US Army

Much has been made about the costly war on terror. But what will these expenses mean to our future? Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz, coauthors of "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict," addressed this topic in Sunday's Op-Ed pages.  

Many of these costs were unnecessary. We chose to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan with a small, all-volunteer force, and we supplemented the military presence with a heavy reliance on civilian contractors. These decisions not only placed enormous strain on the troops but dramatically pushed up costs. Recent congressional investigations have shown that roughly 1 of every 4 dollars spent on wartime contracting was wasted or misspent.

To date, the United States has spent more than $2.5 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon spending spree that accompanied it and a battery of new homeland security measures instituted after Sept. 11. […]

Our future debts from the war are not listed anywhere in the federal government's budget. We don't even know for certain where the money has been spent. […]

Our response to Sept. 11 has weakened both the current economy and our future economic prospects. And that legacy of economic weakness — combined with the erosion of the credibility of our military power and of our "soft power" — has undermined, rather than strengthened, our national security.

Here's a sampling of the mixed reader reaction on our discussion board:

Justifying war

Without War, slaves may still be slaves, Texas may be part of Mexico, and the United States could have been part of Britain.

Initially, the Sept. 11 attack caused the U.S. to enter into war.  To think of the possibility of having the destruction and loss of life of the World Trade Center aircraft crash throughout America, motivated us into war.

If one would stop thinking of the casualties of war as an burden upon society, and start putting them into jobs that would start making them productive member of society again and independent, that might go far in helping the mental state of the country.  Instead of making them feel inadequate or deficient. 

It easy to look at hindsight and see the problems that war causes, but there would not be a United States without the American Revolutionary War.

--Lil' prud

Decorated veteran insulted by Op-Ed

You have no idea, as a decorated veteran with 30 year's service, how utterly despicable I find you, your fish wrapper, and all the Progressive Neville Chamberlains whose perverted beliefs you reflect. 


Taxpayer insulted by our leaders, in response to Athelstane

You have no idea, as a taxpayer, how utterly despicable I find our leaders, who led our military into a war of choice in Iraq based on a series of lies. A war that has killed roughly a hundred thousand people, left thousands of Americans disabled and done a great deal to bankrupt our nation. 

But I can see how it would be difficult to come to terms with that if you're on the other side of the equation. Nobody wants to admit they were asked to sacrifice so much, and put everything on the line for a series of absurd lies. Lies made by people with absolutely nothing at stake. 

--Bill D.

Wars are a cancer on the society

The number of empires brought to ruin and bankruptcy by the cost of the wars they fought is legion.  The Dutch empire, the Spanish Empire, the British Empire, the Incan Empire, the various Chinese empires, all offer us examples of decay and collapse from excessive military spending. Not excessive spending, excessive military spending.  

As the authors point out, wars are a cancer on the society that fights too many of them. The costs keep coming to future generations long after the war is simply an historical memory. And these costs are often in geometric progression.

If Republicans were really serious about not placing the onus of crushing debt on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren, they would demand an end to the Afghan War immediately. They would demand the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (which they will never do that because of the oil).  They would demand the return of US troops posted around the globe at tremendous expense and the cost of which is being handed to our children and grandchildren.

Time for a little honesty.  Time for Republicans to admit how much of the debt was incurred on their watch. Time for all of us Americans to acknowledge the crushing costs of war.


Why are we really talking about this?

"Many of these costs were unnecessary.... Recent congressional investigations have shown that roughly 1 of every 4 dollars spent on wartime contracting was wasted or misspent."

And that's just the fiscal side of these unnecessary wars.  We barely discuss the illegal acts or practices relative though these excursions that have woefully continued well into the current administration.  And interestingly enough, most of the biggest mouths who were there from the beginning of these wars [on both sides of the debate] are still unashamedly talking around these issues or sadly defending their indefensible acquiescence.

But these articles are really about election campaigns.  And the Republican Party continues to claim that they have the truth to solving their mess.  In fact, they would entrust another Lone Star corporate puppet with the feces left by W.  All while the former President's brain trust tours the countryside spewing their same old rhetoric.

Would GOPhers please tell both Cheney and Rove to stop already...they've done enough damage to last for generations.


*Spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.


Dakota Meyer and a grateful nation

War in Afghanistan: We're training poodles in a land of pit bulls

Support our troops -- by employing them when they return home

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: U.S. soldiers fire mortar rounds toward insurgent positions in Afghanistan's Kunar province. Credit: Tauseef Mustafa / AFP / Getty Images

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