Your Military Taxes at Work: Human Carnage

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Appeared as Time to Reconsider Perpetual War in Orange County Register, 15-Sept, 2019 (p. H2)

The United States is well into the 18th year of its Global War on Terror. We’ve heard hope-inspiring names for the military’s operations, like Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom, but where are the pride-evoking outcomes?

Given that this is the longest war in US history and that taxpayer dollars pay for every mess kit, rifle, bomb, and airplane, it’s the public’s duty to take a serious look at the price tag and what we’ve bought. The Watson Institute for International Affairs’ public website Costs of War details the economic and human costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and runoff violence in Pakistan and Syria.

What you paid:
Military spending is the second largest chunk of the federal budget, after healthcare (Medicare & Medicaid) and accounts for over half of discretionary spending.

Consider 2018.  The US allocated $670.6 billion to fund the Department of Defense and its “overseas contingency operations” (currently fighting the Islamic State) plus $186.5 billion for the Veterans Affairs Administration, totaling $857.1 billion in military and war-related spending (excludes Department of Homeland Security’s spending on counter-terrorism). Of the $4.1 trillion in total federal spending in 2018, more than one in five dollars (20.9 percent) went to fund the military & veterans.

In 2018, you personally spent 29.5 cents of every federal tax dollar on military (24 cents) and veteran (5.9 cents) support, according to the National Priorities Project which tracks where tax dollars go.

Anyone concerned about the size of the federal budget should know that the United States spends more on defense that the next nine countries combined. The Watson Institute calculates that the real cost of the post-9/11 wars from 2001 through the end of fiscal year 2019 is $5.9 trillion.

Consider also that, in 2014, the Pentagon hired 1,200 auditors to comply for the very first time with a 1990 Congressional order that all governmental agencies provide yearly audited financial statements. After four years and at a taxpayer cost of $400 million, the auditors threw up their hands in December 2018 because the military’s record keeping was impossible to decipher.

What you purchased:
Over the 17 post-9/11 years (through Oct. 2018), between 480,000 and 507,000 people died from direct violence in the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq. Civilian deaths outnumbered slain opposition fighters more than two to one. The combined number of dead US military and US contractors (14,771), though heart-wrenching, pales in comparison to the total deaths in these three countries among their civilians, opposition fighters and national military & police (at least 462,674). Iraq has sustained by far the most civilian casualties, well-over 184,000.

These tallies do not include the over 500,000 deaths of foreigners in Syria’s war which started in 2011 and the U.S. joined in 2014.

Moreover, injured troops bear immeasurable hardship and suffering. Over 53,000 US soldiers and sailors have been wounded in post-9/11 wars and over 300,000 have suffered traumatic brain injury. Roughly 20 die daily from suicide.

It’s imperative to also acknowledge the 21 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons attributable to the four major US war zones (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan & Syria), as reported in a 2017 accounting by the United National High Commission for Refugees.

What you can do:
Whether or not you personally find justification for US’s Global War on Terror, support for war is blind faith without understanding the real costs and outcomes. Fault for the information deficit lies not only with the government’s secrecy and the public’s complacency, but also with failure of the media to report. Recall that support for the Vietnam War tanked as the press focused on the disparity between the official government accounts of the war and what journalists on the ground were seeing.

Contact your elected representatives and hold them accountable for their position on military spending. Demand they prioritize diplomacy over aggression and divert funding for waging wars to domestic policies that yield tangible peace dividends, like improving healthcare and education and building a green economy.

One Response to Your Military Taxes at Work: Human Carnage

  1. techcommapprentice says:

    Good info, Stevie. Thanks.

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