At the Emerging Writers’ Festival on Sunday, I mentioned that the US had spent 900 billion dollars on its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As it happens, my information was out of date. Actually, the bill now stands at a round trillion dollars.
Yep. A trillion. That’s a one and then twelve zeroes.
To put that in perspective, the cost of ending world hunger comes in at approximately $30 billion per year. In other words, for the money already spent, the US could have wiped out starvation across the planet for the next thirty-three years.
What did the money go on instead?
Well, here’s Wiki’s tabulation of the various casualty estimates from Iraq.
|Source||Iraqi casualties||March 2003 to …|
|Iraq Family Health Survey||151,000 violent deaths.||June 2006|
|Lancet survey||601,027 violent deaths out of 654,965 excess deaths.||June 2006|
|Opinion Research Business survey||1,033,000 violent deaths from the conflict.||August 2007|
|Associated Press||110,600 violent deaths||April 2009|
|Iraq Body Count||94,902 – 103,549 violent civilian deaths from the conflict.||December 2009|
You can add to that that the numberless injured and the millions of Iraqis now living as refugees (there’s at least 1.5 million people displaced within the country, let alone those outside). And that’s even before we start talking about Afghanistan.
To put it bluntly, a staggering sum of money – an amount capable of solving any number of the planet’s most intractable problems, from climate change to housing shortages – went instead to spreading misery and destruction. It’s something to bear in mind next time you hear a conservative boasting about responsible economic management.