USA

US Spent $21 Trillion on War and Militarization Since 9/11

A young Iraqi boy stands in front of burning vehicles in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, April 13, 2003.
A young Iraqi boy stands in front of burning vehicles in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, April 13, 2003.

BY: Lindsay KoshgarianOtherWords

Twenty years have now passed since 9/11.

The 20 years since those terrible attacks have been marked by endless wars, harsh immigration crackdowns, and expanded federal law enforcement powers that have cost us our privacy and targeted entire communities based on nothing more than race, religion, or ethnicity.

Those policies have also come at a tremendous monetary cost — and a dangerous neglect of domestic investment.

In a new report I co-authored with my colleagues at the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, we found that the federal government has spent $21 trillion on war and militarization both inside the U.S. and around the world over the past 20 years. That’s roughly the size of the entire U.S. economy.

Even while politicians have written blank checks for militarism year after year, they’ve said we can’t afford to address our most urgent issues. No wonder these past 20 years have been rough on U.S. families and communities.

After strong growth from 1970 to 2000, household incomes have stagnated for 20 years as Americans struggled through two recessions in the years leading up to the pandemic. As pandemic eviction moratoriums end, millions are at risk of homelessness.

Our public health systems have also been chronically underfunded, leaving the U.S. helpless to enact the testing, tracing, and quarantining that helped other countries limit the pandemic’s damage. Over 650,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 — the equivalent of a 9/11 every day for over seven months. The opioid epidemic claims another 50,000 lives a year.

Meanwhile extreme weather events like wildfires, hurricanes, and floods have grown in frequency over the past 20 years. The U.S. hasn’t invested nearly enough in either renewable energy or climate resiliency to deal with the increasing effects climate change has on our communities.

In the face of all this suffering, it’s clear that $21 trillion in spending hasn’t made us any safer.

Instead, the human costs have been staggering. Around the world, the forever wars have cost 900,000 lives and left 38 million homeless — and as the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan has shown us, they were a massive failure.

Our militarized spending has helped deport 5 million people over the past 20 years, often taking parents from their children. The majority of those deported hadn’t committed any crime except for being here.

And it has paid for the government to listen in on our phone calls and target communities for harassment and surveillance without any evidence of crime or wrongdoing, eroding the civil liberties of all Americans.

Fortunately, there’s a silver lining: We’ve found that for just a fraction of what we’ve spent on militarization these last 20 years, we could start to make life much better.

For $4.5 trillion, we could build a renewable, upgraded energy grid for the whole country. For $2.3 trillion, we could create 5 million $15-an-hour jobs with benefits — for 10 years. For just $25 billion, we could vaccinate low-income countries against COVID-19, saving lives and stopping the march of new and more threatening virus variants.

We could do all that and more for less than half of what we’ve spent on wars and militarization in the last 20 years. With communities across the country in dire need of investment, the case for avoiding more pointless, deadly wars couldn’t be clearer.

Lindsay Koshgarian is program director of the National Priorities Project, working for a federal budget that prioritizes peace, shared prosperity and economic opportunity for all.MORE BY THIS AUTHOR…

RELATED
A pickup truck is parked just two blocks from Ground Zero on September 10, 2021 in New York City.

OP-EDPOLITICS & ELECTIONS

The Right Wing “Never Forgot” 9/11 Because It Never Remembered It Correctly

The aftermath of 9/11 exposed how the right values white supremacy over democracy.by Nicholas PowersTruthout September 11, 2021

The early morning skyline is viewed on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan in New York, on September 11, 2021.

OP-EDPOLITICS & ELECTIONS

20 Years After 9/11, Republicans Are the Greatest Threat to the United States

Twenty years later, and all I can say is, “I had no idea it would be like this.”by William Rivers PittTruthout September 11, 2021

A marcher holds a sign that says "NO WAR" with a closed fist as protest outside of Trump International Tower during the Woman's March in the borough of Manhattan in New York on January 18, 2020.

OP-EDWAR & PEACE

We Owe Reparations to the Victims of Our Forever Wars

The only way to effectively counter terror is to end war.by Kathy KellyWaging Nonviolence 

READING LIST

POLITICS & ELECTIONS

20 Years After 9/11, Republicans Are the Greatest Threat to the United States

POLITICS & ELECTIONS

The Right Wing “Never Forgot” 9/11 Because It Never Remembered It Correctly

ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH

“It’s Not Just a Loss of Electricity” — Ida Left People Houseless and Jobless

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

We Have to Stop Limiting Our Focus to Courts in the Defense of Abortion Rights

ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH

Line 3 Resisters Light the Way in a Battle for Life on Earth

WAR & PEACE

Noam Chomsky: The US-Led “War on Terror” Has Devastated Much of the World

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *