As our summer days begin to shorten, I, like many others, am very aware that this year our country will reach the 10-year mark since September 11, 2001.
Many of us filled houses of worship that night as we pondered what and how we as Americans felt, and what actions our country needed to take as a response.
Now ten years later, we continue to remember and ask questions. Will there ever be healing?
During these these same ten years we have seen other threats looming over our neighbors that have had devastating effects, particularly for our economy, the poor, the elderly, and our environment. These also call us to ponder what do we do now as people of faith amidst the following staggering facts from a Brown University study called The Cost of War:
While we know how many US soldiers have died in (post-9/11) wars (just over 6000), what is startling is what we don’t know about the levels of injury and illness in those who have returned from the wars. New disability claims continue to pour into the VA, with 550,000 just through last fall. Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been identified.
At least 137,000 civilians have died and more will die in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as a result of the fighting at the hands of all parties to the conflict.
The armed conflict in Pakistan, which the U.S. helps the Pakistani military fight by funding, equipping and training them, has taken as many lives as the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.
Putting together the conservative numbers of war dead, in uniform and out, brings the total to 225,000.
Millions of people have been displaced indefinitely and are living in grossly inadequate conditions.The current number of war refugees and displaced persons -- 7,800,000 -- is equivalent to all of the people of Connecticut and Kentucky fleeing their homes.
The wars have been accompanied by an erosion in civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad.
The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades, some costs not peaking until mid-century. Many of the wars’ costs are invisible to Americans, buried in a variety of budgets, and so have not been counted or assessed. For example, while most people think the Pentagon war appropriations are equivalent to the wars’ budgetary costs, the true numbers are twice that, and the full economic cost of the wars much larger yet. Conservatively estimated, the war bills already paid and obligated to be paid are $3.2 trillion in constant dollars. A more reasonable estimate puts the number at nearly $4 trillion.
As with former US wars, the costs of paying for veterans’ care into the future will be a sizable portion of the full costs of the war.
The ripple effects on the U.S. economy have also been significant, including job loss and interest rate increases, and those effects have been under-appreciated.
While it was promised that the US invasions would bring democracy to both countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, both continue to rank low in global rankings of political freedom, with warlords continuing to hold power in Afghanistan with US support, and Iraqi communities more segregated today than before by gender and ethnicity as a result of the war.
Serious and compelling alternatives to war were scarcely considered in the aftermath of 9/11 or in the discussion about war against Iraq. Some of those alternatives are still available to the U.S.
As we approach the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11 and ten days later the local celebration of Asheville's own International Day of Peace (9/21), I ask readers to join with me in resolving to Bring Our War Dollars -- and Fellow Citizens -- Home!