Brown University Releases 'Cost Of War' Project Last week the Cost of War Project at Brown University released its annual report. NPR's Lulu Garcia Navarro speaks with political scientist Neta Crawford about the report - and war's actual costs.

Brown University Releases 'Cost Of War' Project

Brown University Releases 'Cost Of War' Project

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Last week the Cost of War Project at Brown University released its annual report. NPR's Lulu Garcia Navarro speaks with political scientist Neta Crawford about the report - and war's actual costs.


What are the costs of the war on terror? There is, of course, the human toll measured in injuries and fatalities, military and civilian. And then there is the financial cost. And a report out this past week tries to put a price tag on that mission set in motion on a fall morning 17 years ago.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: The breaking story that we're following out of New York City - two separate planes crashing into the World Trade Center.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The September 11 attacks launched 17 years of American military action abroad and counting.


GEORGE W. BUSH: On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against al-Qaida terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: U.S. warships and planes launched the opening salvo of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And then in the ensuing years, America's war effort spread.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: American forces are carrying out previously unannounced military exercises in Syria...


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #4: We're learning more about U.S. military activity in Yemen.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The Costs of War Project, led by political scientist Neta Crawford, has tabulated the trillions of dollars spent in those high-profile conflicts as well as in the U.S. military's more secretive missions.

NETA CRAWFORD: There was about 80 to 90 in special operations forces engaged all over the world. We're not exactly sure what they're doing. But much of this work is counterterror. And sometimes these operations come to the fore when U.S. soldiers were killed or injured.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #5: This morning, chilling new details about the ambush that left four American special operations soldiers dead in Niger.

CRAWFORD: But, often, we don't really know what's going on with them. And I include those operations in my accounting of the costs of these wars.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Crawford told me that to capture the full cost of the war on terror she not only looks at the Pentagon's budget but also at the billions of dollars the State Department has contributed.

CRAWFORD: Money that's given to counternarcotics.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #6: As U.S. airstrikes have targeted poppy fields in Afghanistan's booming heroin trade...

CRAWFORD: ...So that the Taliban and other militant organizations cannot actually fund their operations.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #7: South Korean and U.S. Marines have held their joint winter training to enhance combined operations and strengthen their alliance.

CRAWFORD: There's military training, which actually the DOD but the State Department funds.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #8: The Taliban carried out a brazen attack today against a military base in southern Afghanistan.

CRAWFORD: There is increased security at bases in Pakistan, in Africa, in Iraq. So there's lots of State Department spending that is actually part of the war on terror.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to look also at this costs that we often don't think of as a financial cost, which is of course helping the veteran population in the United States.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #8: Many of the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars survived injury that would have killed them in earlier conflicts and now cope with unprecedented mental and physical challenges.

CRAWFORD: We have about 300,000 people who have traumatic brain injuries. We have over 1,600 major limb amputations. And there are many thousands of veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #9: One in 5 U.S. military personnel serving in combat will suffer some form of PTSD.

CRAWFORD: All of these soldiers - the 3 million who are in the system and many more who will join the system - require health care through the rest of their lives. And those costs will not peak immediately. Those costs will peak in 30 years.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: According to your report, what is the total cost of war to the U.S. so far?

CRAWFORD: We've spent an appropriated $4.9 trillion so far. And then if you add the expected costs of veterans, their care will cost an additional trillion dollars. That gets us to a total of almost $6 trillion.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And next year - already approved - we have $716 billion to give you the finest planes and ships and tanks...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why is it important to know these numbers? Why are you tracking this?

CRAWFORD: Well, there's a couple of reasons. First of all, we were told at the outset of both of these conflicts - that they would be quick.


BARACK OBAMA: After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.

CRAWFORD: They'd be successful...


BUSH: We will win this conflict by the patient accumulation of successes.

CRAWFORD: ...And that, essentially, you know, the United States would be secure.


TRUMP: ...And make America safe again.

CRAWFORD: So we have to ask ourselves, when we're thinking about cost risks and benefits, are we more secure? If we're not more secure, what else could we be doing with this money? There is no plan to actually counterterrorism other than killing people. And this is a failure of imagination. It would be interesting to see the next Congress take up these questions and talk about a strategy to end these wars.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In many ways - and some in the military themselves would say this - these wars have been forgotten by the American population.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #10: The reporting by all of us in the media about these wars and our service members who die has become spotty, leading some to think that perhaps these wars are over. They most certainly are not over. They aren't over...

CRAWFORD: I don't think we've forgotten that we're at war. But it's kind of like high blood pressure. We think that it's a problem, but we feel OK generally. And we don't know that these conflicts are actually sapping us and harming us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Nita Crawford of the Cost of War Project.

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