The Guardian April 7, 2004


The costs of perpetual war

David Eisenhower

The War Resister's League estimates that in fiscal year 2005 the 
Bush administration's imperial war budget will top US$935 
billion.

Their maths is as follows:

US$536 billion for current military expenditures;

US$50 billion for the conduct of the Iraq/Afghan wars; and

US$349 billion for the interest payments on past military 
expenditures.

This represents 49 percent of all outlays from federal funds. 
(Federal fund expenditures are distinct from payments drawn from 
trust funds like Social Security. However, since the 1960s, 
surpluses from trust funds have been commingled with federal 
funds in order to give the impression that the US budget is 
something other than a war budget.)

Basing his analysis on a recent Congressional Budget Office 
report on "The Long-Term Implications of Current Defense Plans", 
Steven Kosiak of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary 
Assessments (CSBA) warns that the Bush administration's defence 
budget projections understate the true costs of their 2005-14 
defence plan by some US$765 billion.

CSBA also warns that "if these additional outlays were not offset 
by a tax increase, or cuts in entitlement or domestic spending", 
the interest payments on a larger federal deficit would increase 
by US$185 billion. 

When the additional costs of the administration's 10-year defence 
plan are added in, total military spending for FYs 2005-14 
increases to US$5.8 trillion. This would deepen federal deficits 
by some US$3.635 trillion over the coming decade, hardly a 
fiscally responsible way to prepare for the retirement of the 
baby boom generation.

In calculating the cost of war, Greg Speeter, executive director 
of the National Priorities Project, warns that the budgets needed 
to carry out the Bush administration's pre-emptive war strategy 
"are so enormous and the weaponry so expensive that the Pentagon 
will have to take money from already under-funded social programs 
and renege on long-standing federal commitments to address such 
domestic concerns as child poverty, deteriorating schools and 
access to adequate health care."

Other programs such as affordable housing, environmental clean 
ups, education and public works projects to address the 
deteriorating infrastructure would be shortchanged. In addition, 
revenue sharing to help cash-starved states and cities to deal 
with their fiscal crises would be off the table. The costs of 
empire are so enormous that if they are not radically reduced the 
domestic "body count" will rise dramatically.

Helen and Harry Highwater keep track of the casualties of the 
Iraq and Afghan wars on their web site, "Unknown News". Their 
work focuses on the human costs of war. The following is their 
accounting of the dead and wounded:

* The number of US troops killed in Afghanistan is 100; the 
number seriously wounded, 564 (as of January 2004).

* The number of Afghan troops killed is 8000; the number severely 
wounded, 2400 (May 2003).

* The number of Afghan civilians killed is 24,000; Afghan 
civilians seriously injured, 5924 (December 2003).

* The number of US troops in Iraq killed is 539; seriously 
injured, 3040 (February 2004).

* The number of Iraqi civilians killed is 8245; seriously 
injured, 14,841 (February 2004). 

* Casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan: estimated killed 27,880; 
seriously wounded 71,761 (as of Feb. 14). 

There are additional costs of perpetual war. These include:

* the truth, as a permanent state of fear is maintained by neo-
conservative practitioners of "noble lies";

* the environment, as wars for oil are fought to preserve an oil-
based economy;

* liberty, as the so-called Patriot Acts unfold; and

* freedom, as the military draft is reinstated.

While the Machiavellian disciples of the late neo-conservative 
guru Leo Strauss currently occupying the Pentagon embrace the 
crazy theory of perpetual war, there is no reason why the rest of 
us should allow our children to be sent off to war by a cabal of 
chicken hawks.

* * *
The author can be reached at pww@pww.org People's Weekly World

Back to index page