The bill for America’s Longest War is still unpaid

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Linda Bilmes argues that we have not faced up to the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and that we will run out of money for veterans benefits unless we enact a Veterans Trust Fund.


Joe Stiglitz tells Democracy Now that war cost will reach $5 to $7 trillion

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October 27, 2015:  In a wide-ranging interview with Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now”, Joe Stiglitz was asked about the costs of the wars. He notes that our estimate of the number of veterans who would be disabled in some way was far too low — its now 50% of those who served qualifying for lifetime disability benefits. This adds another $1 trillion to our estimates – leading to a minimum of $4 trillion for war costs, but probably much higher.

Cost of Iraq and Afghanistan estimated $4 to $6 trillion

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Linda Bilmes new paper revises war costs upwards based on increased utilization of medical care by active duty troops, families and veterans,  as well as increasing volume and complexity of disability claims by veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read the paper:


What have we learned from Iraq?
Boston Globe

THIS MONTH, after nearly nine years, the American war in Iraq is finally drawing to a close. At its peak, 170,000 Americans were stationed in more than 500 military bases across the country. In total, more than 2 million US troops have served in Iraq; now we are down to the last 18,000, with hundreds leaving every day.

With the end of the war looming, we can say for certain that the total cost will be at least $4 trillion. This figure could climb much higher, depending on the number of veterans who require long-term care, the cost of replacing equipment, and the full social and economic impact of the war. The human toll has been equally high: 4,486 Americans have been killed in Iraq, 32,000 wounded in action, and tens of thousands seriously injured. More than one-third of recent veterans report having a service-connected disability.

Despite a concerted effort to train Iraqi forces and help reconstruct the country, Iraq remains insecure and politically unstable, with constant threats from Shi’ite militias loyal to Iran, as well as Sunni militants such as Al Qaeda. Millions of Iraqis are still displaced from their homes, either living in exile outside the country or unable to return to their old neighborhoods after the sectarian violence of 2005 to 2007. Meanwhile, the balance of power in the region, which President Bush hoped to tip in favor of the West, is precarious and depends on many factors outside US control. Amid this gloomy picture it is timely to ask what lessons the war should hold for America.

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The Watson Institute at Brown University, funded by the Eisenhower Institute, has published a wide-ranging new study of Iraq and Afghanistan war costs that was compiled by some 20 academic contributors and led by Professors Catherine Lutz (Brown) and Neta Crawford (Boston University).  Contributors include Andrew Bacevich (BU) , Winslow Wheeler (Center on Defense Information), Anita Dancs (National Priorities Project), Ryan Edwards (Queens College, NYU) and many others.  Linda Bilmes wrote the section of the report that estimates the costs attributable to veterans medical care and disability benefits.

The study focused particularly on war costs that have occurred (or been incurred but not yet paid) during the past decade since September 11, 2011.  It features important new work on the casualties and costs to defense contractors, and the social impact on military families.   The section by Winslow Wheeler analyzes the increases in the defense base budget over the past decade.  Portions of the report focus on costs to Iraq and to the region.   The website includes a range of charts and tables.    The study covers overlapping, but somewhat different ground, from the Stiglitz-Bilmes study.


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