A Billion Here, A Billion There

War is expensive:

The United States has spent more than $1 trillion on wars since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, a recently released Congressional report says.

Adjusting for inflation, the outlays for conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the world make the “war on terrorism” second only to World War II.

The report “Cost of Major U.S. Wars” by the Congressional Research Service attempts to compare war costs over a more than 230-year period — from the American Revolution to the current day — noting the difficulties associated with such a task.

Since the the 9/11 terror attacks, the United States has spent an estimated $1.15 trillion. World War II cost $4.1 trillion when converted to current dollars, although the tab in the 1940s was $296 billion.

That’s just what we’ve spent on the military. The other costs- taking care of wounded, the PTSD we will be dealing with for decades, and other things are not factored in. And, as the excellent Washington Post piece this week is pointing out in painful detail but seemingly everyone is ignoring, we aren’t going to stop funding the War on Terror any time soon.

Better cut social security soon so we can afford to invade Iran.

54 replies
  1. 1
    Jay B. says:

    Well hell, Karzai thinks the Afghan forces will be ready in 2014, so the end’s in sight! Two or three years after that we’ll be ready to start thinking about withdrawal, I’m sure.

  2. 2
    MikeJ says:

    While not a direct cost to the government, oil is $50/bbl more now.

    Who would have thought letting oil men invade and destroy oil producing countries would drive up the price of commodities they own?

  3. 3
    Derelict says:

    Don’t despair! Wars, like tax cuts, are free! Just ask any Republican!

  4. 4
    Cacti says:

    Other than for a handful of profiteers, war is a money consuming rather than producing activity.

    And yet, “small-government conservatives” couldn’t live without it.

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Nellcote says:

    Why isn’t the VA a part of the DOD budget?

  7. 7
    kid bitzer says:

    ” Iraq and elsewhere around the world make the “war on terrorism””

    iraq? terrorism? iraq had nothing to do with terrorism.

    the iraq war was just the war for bush’s willy, that’s all. it was just a single family, the bush crime empire, using the u.s. treasury to satisfy its personal grudges and egos.

    there has never been a deeper betrayal of america. even by the rosenbergs, klaus fuchs, or benedict arnold, than what the bush crime family did to us by draining our blood and treasure for their private jollies.

  8. 8
    bkny says:

    today’s wapo installment has some really infuriating nuggets:

    And because competition among firms for people with security clearances is so great, corporations offer such perks as BMWs and $15,000 signing bonuses, as Raytheon did in June for software developers with top-level clearances….

    General Dynamics spent $30,000 on the event. On a perfect spring night, it hosted a party at Chase Field, a 48,569-seat baseball stadium, reserved exclusively for the conference attendees. Government buyers and corporate sellers drank beer and ate hot dogs while the DIA director’s morning keynote speech replayed on the gigantic scoreboard, digital baseballs bouncing along the bottom of the screen. …

    and that’s all taxpayer $$$ paying for those bmws.

  9. 9
    Jay B. says:

    More good news! From Greenwald:

    Charlie Savage just noted on Twitter that Marty Lederman — the former blogger, Georgetown Law Professor, and vociferous critic of Bush executive power and Terrorism policies — is leaving his position at the Office of Legal Counsel to return to Georgetown Law. Late last month, David Barron — the acting OLC Chief — also announced that he is leaving, to return to Harvard. With Dawn Johnsen never having been confirmed and her nomination to head the office now withdrawn, what had originally seemed to be such a promising team at OLC — the office which determines for the Executive Branch the legal limits of presidential authority — no longer exists. It will be interesting to see if Lederman comments on any of the theories and policies that were continued and/or adopted during his tenure.

    Why it just seems like yesterday when someone said the Johnsen debacle was no big deal because Lederman was there to pick up the slack…Oh, wait, it was.

    The War on Terror: Now With Almost No Real Opposition!

    The only possible help: The right’s reflexive hatred of Obama will turn them into civil libertarians because it’s plain we don’t have many allies in the Administration. But, knowing the right, they only give a shit about guns and a runaway United Nations. Not a Security State.

  10. 10
    Ailuridae says:


    Umm, why would it be?

  11. 11
    cat48 says:

    They can’t cut social security because people would have less to spend and just like those taxcuts for the rich that MUST be extended or else, EVERYONE would have less to spend and that HURTS THE ECONOMY really, really bad because the rich tell me people must spend to get the economy moving and all will be better!

  12. 12
    lamh32 says:

    Okay, I know this is a serious post, but John Cole tell me you did not get this title from Lil Wayne song?

    Whatcha know ’bout Lil Wayne, there white boy? (said in my best carribean momma voice)

    Lil Wayne – A Milli
    (check in at about 1:37)

  13. 13
    JCT says:

    Some return on investment for Bin Laden, no?

    And Bush and his neocon assholes pals fell jumped right down that rabbit hole along with our long-term solvency.


  14. 14
    cleek says:

    That’s just what we’ve spent on the military.

    and that’s just the non-routine, “emergency” stuff. there’s easily another $6 T on the basic military budget.

  15. 15
    ellaesther says:

    Well, there is all that money we saved by not investing enough in the stimulus. I’m sure that makes up some of the difference.

    (I’m not being a whiny twat! I’m referencing Paul Krugman! Mercy!)

  16. 16
    ellaesther says:

    @cleek: How cleekian to make me realize that the already-bad is in fact worse-than-I-thought….

  17. 17
    Mike in NC says:

    Karzai thinks the Afghan forces his new 100-room palace will be ready in 2014, so the end’s in sight!


    GWOT today, GWOT tomorrow, GWOT forever!

  18. 18
    Jay B. says:


    Well, at least we’ve righted the ship now and we’re not spending vast sums of money to get “50 to 100” key people in remote areas in the Hindu Kush or to intercept so much raw data from overwhelmingly innocent people that it makes our intelligence nearly worthless!

    I mean it’s not like the Administration increased the defense budget over what the fucking Pentagon asked for.

  19. 19

    What the fuck… John says War is Expensive, talking about the money, I post this http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10703075 saying yes it is, and you guys go merrily along talking about the fucking money. What the ever loving fuck? Have you guys lost your fucking minds or what? It isn’t about the fucking money, it is about 18 year olds being killed for the sake of a fucking pipedream that will never come to pass. We are putting our children in the line of cannons and then crying when they die. What the fucking fuck?

  20. 20
    El Cid says:

    I don’t want to sound like some lunatic, fringe hippie, but it’s almost as if wars are such tremendously dangerous, deadly, costly, and with such an unpredictable legacy of aftereffects, that maybe we should really, really, stop waging so many of them.

  21. 21
    Mark S. says:

    @El Cid:

    Geez, I can smell the patchouli from here.

  22. 22
    El Cid says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: From what I see, it seems like very little of the US public ever give a shit about the number of locals killed in US military or client operations, and since THE SURGE no one seems to think there’s much to US/allied deaths in Iraq, and it seems for the moment there is another rise in concern about US/allied deaths in Afghanistan.

  23. 23
    ellaesther says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: Oh honey, that’s true. It’s very, very true.

    And the money matters, too — for the very reason that the money translates to human lives. How many people have died, or lived miserable, cramped lives, because that insane, obscene amount of money was being poured into everything that’s wrong with being human, rather than trying to make it all less wrong?

    If I begin to think about it like that, my brain caves in on itself, but that is the reality. Every dollar mentioned above could have been used differently, to the ends our better angels might devise, but instead, we’ve used it to kill other people and our own.

    Occasionally, very occasionally, war is necessary, but its human costs are always much greater than we ever honestly consider.

  24. 24
    Roger Moore says:


    Why isn’t the VA a part of the DOD budget?

    Because that would make it really obvious how much money we’re spending on the military. Spreading the expense from DOD into DVA, DOE, CIA, and various other agencies helps to make it look cheaper. Besides, having a separate DVA means we can screw over veterans without making DOD look bad.

  25. 25

    @El Cid:

    Exactly my problem with this bullshit, you people need to see the flag draped coffins coming home, you people need to see the toll that this war has taken, you people need to see the families that are destroyed, you people need to see that 18 year old kids are dying over there. Lets hear it for the freedom of the press. What a bunch of bullshit.

  26. 26
    Mark S. says:

    What’s surreal to me about Afghanistan is that the former commander could make a comment like this:

    However, to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it. . . We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.

    and nobody gives a fuck.

  27. 27
    frankdawg says:

    Hey, my kid was there & it hasn’t cost the government a dime to treat his PTSD. Well thats probably not completely true it has probably cost the VA a few cents to deny him any help.

  28. 28
    burnspbesq says:

    @Jay B.:

    Why it just seems like yesterday when someone said the Johnsen debacle was no big deal because Lederman was there to pick up the slack…Oh, wait, it was.

    Yes it was, and that was me, and you have no idea how pissed I am.


    The only good thing about this is that if Marty resumes blogging at Balkinization, no one will have any reason to pay any attention to Greenwald.

  29. 29
    El Cid says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: You’d think. In some other, better world, we’d also see on the news those killed by ‘our’ operations. With details, and biographical information, not just “17 Iraqis killed”.

  30. 30
    burnspbesq says:


    I’m not being a whiny twat!

    Some days, being a whiny twat (or whatever the Y-chromosome equivalent is) is the only logical response, and today is shaping up to be one of those days.

  31. 31
    ellaesther says:

    @burnspbesq: Or, in the words of a bumper sticker I recently saw:

    The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off.

  32. 32


    I suppose I am just bereft, we have sent our boys into a war of America’s making, cause of the “special relationship”

  33. 33
    burnspbesq says:


    Your point is exactly why having volunteer armies of mostly poor people has turned out to be such a bad deal for both the US and the UK. Far too many of us have no skin in the game, in the sense of not being exposed the the possibility that somebody we know and care about might go away and come back in a box.

    If we had a draft, we would never go to war, because people with political influence would never allow their kids to be put in harm’s way.

  34. 34
    ellaesther says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: Bereft makes sense. It makes more sense than most any other response.

    I would say that the wars would have happened absent the “special relationship,” because it’s my impression that America has been trying on Imperial England’s shoes for many decades now. I would say that no matter what, GWB wanted a war, and some deeply, unambiguously evil people handed him an excuse that he could shape to his own designs on an airplane-shaped platter.

    But regardless of the reasons, these are not wars that should have been fought. The war against the Taliban, perhaps, had it been pursued as it should have been and allowed to conclude in a way that made any kind of sense, but what we have now? Should never have happened. In either place.

    And our “special relationship” is just making them that much more difficult to get out of.

    (Are you sending your own boys? If you are, please know that I hold them, and you, in my thoughts tonight).

  35. 35

    @El Cid:

    Actually El Cid I am not up with that. I do not want a family hearing that their loved one was killed by friendly fire, and not by enemy fire. If someone is killed, let it be believed that it was by the enemy, let the family believe that, let the family believe that their loved one died fighting. I think this friendly fire bullshit is just that, bullshit. But that is just me.

  36. 36
    JCT says:


    Because wars are fought by the “little” people and these wars also take the lives of indigenous “little” people (who are muslins no less). Since neither of those groups are wealthy (as $$ = importance) they are nothing more than pieces in a gigantic game of Risk.

    Bush and his gang of merry chickenhawks sucked at Risk, but they kept trying to get better at it. Over and over again.

    I am not giving the current admin a pass — I just wish I knew what the best trajectory would be besides pretending to be Brave Sir Robin.

  37. 37
    El Cid says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: I wasn’t talking about ‘friendly fire’. I’m talking about the fact that, whether we’re ready to understand this or not, each and every death is of a person who’s equal. The death of a US or UK service member is not one, tiny, little bit more important or, in a grander sense, ‘news worthy’, than the people whom our invasions and occupations are killing.

  38. 38


    Ella my nephew is in the Navy, other than that I have no skin in the game so to speak, but it breaks my heart that our finest are being sent to die in a senseless war, that can never be won. I spent 14 years in the RN, I knew a bunch of people who would have died for their cause, and during the Falklands War they did. This war makes no sense.

  39. 39

    @El Cid:

    Got you. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  40. 40
    Restrung says:

    “The other costs- taking care of wounded, the PTSD we will be dealing with for decades, and other things are not factored in.”

    And the memorials. Those cost money too. I hope it doesn’t take too long. Everybody knows that Bush and Cheney were lying. Just gotta admit it.

  41. 41
    Hiram Taine says:


    If we had a draft, we would never go to war, because people with political influence would never allow their kids to be put in harm’s way.

    We’ve been there and done that and it doesn’t work.

    Check out GW Bush’s resume for details.

  42. 42
    fucen tarmal says:


    its only tax payer dollars when it goes to “poor” people.

  43. 43
    Ruckus says:

    @Hiram Taine:
    The only way the draft works is if everyone has to go. With the draft in Vietnam (which is what I suspect you are saying) it was of course who you knew and blew that counted.

  44. 44
    Restrung says:

    or you could be Ted Nugent and humiliate yourself and later brag about lying. Now that’s an American. He’s right up there with Liddy and North, but not as lavishly compensated. Sorry, Ted.

  45. 45
    Corner Stone says:

    @Jay B.:

    Why it just seems like yesterday when someone said the Johnsen debacle was no big deal because Lederman was there to pick up the slack…Oh, wait, it was.

    Until the end of time, I believe we were told. All would be well.

  46. 46
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @lamh32 #12:

    I think John had in mind a quote from that splendid Senator from Illinois, Everett McKinley Dirksen, who famously said “A billion her, a billion there: pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

    Dirksen was a good Republican, back when that wasn’t an oxymoron.

  47. 47
    Annamal says:

    What really confuses me is that these wars were voluntary and done in the face of crumbling vital infrastructure like bridges,levies,power supply, sewers and fresh water supplies.

    Surely even the most hardcore rightwinger can agree that these things are important?

  48. 48
    Ruckus says:

    Surely you jest.

  49. 49
    ellaesther says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: Well that is plenty of skin, and honestly, even without one’s own relatives in the game, I still think that “bereft” is about the most reasonable response.

    If we allowed each other greater latitude to feel the horrors and the sorrows of war, perhaps we’d get into fewer of them.

  50. 50
    Sly says:

    Stiglitz and Hilnes estimated the combined cost of everything would reach three trillion, and the JEC put it at three and a half. Not including regular military (and veteran-related) spending, which is perfectly appropriate. A very large chunk of the money we spend on our war machine would be spent whether U.S. forces were in SW Asia or “collecting dust” stateside.


    Certainly. “Hardcore rightwingers,” however, place the burden of public infrastructure at the state level. In their universe, state governments are perfectly capable of governing the country wall-to-wall (and are required to do so) except for items related to foreign policy.

  51. 51
    Whammer says:

    @sly — Stiglitz and Bilmes, that would be.

  52. 52
    ET says:

    All that money for the wars is going down a rabbit whole and is completely unquestioned by Congress – including all those voting against extending unemployment benefits. Wow, all that money on a war/wars we aren’t “winning” (whatever that means) and they dick around and play politics with unemployment benefit for US citizens. Just goes to show you their priorities.

    The only people the GOP speaks for are the white ones with jobs that pay $100,000+, donate hefty sums to the party, and themselves. They don’t speak for you, they only use you. So for all of you that are unemployed and about to loose benefits, continue to vote republican if you must. But you can’t complain when your ass is living in the park .

  53. 53
    Steeplejack says:


    If we had a draft, we would never go to war, because people with political influence would never allow their kids to be put in harm’s way.

    We had a draft during the Vietnam War. Those with political influence removed their kids from harm’s way by getting them exemptions, deferrals or sinecures in the Coast Guard Lake Michigan Beach Patrol. That didn’t do a thing for everybody else’s kids.

  54. 54
    RSR says:

    >>second only to World War II.

    I’ve long thought that part of the motivation of the Chairborn brigade was to usurp the “Greatest Generation” which had been heavily fawned over in the last decade of the 20th century.

    They’re almost there.

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