What do wars cost

According to the latest report by the "Costs of War" project at Brown University in Rhode Island, more than 900,000 people have been killed in the wars unleashed by the US and its allies after September 11, 2001. Taking into account the large gaps in coverage and the far higher number of indirect fatalities, the actual number may exceed four million. Far more people in the affected countries have been wounded and traumatized by the wars, and more than 38 million have been displaced.

Nearly 20 years ago, four weeks after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, the US launched its "Global War on Terror" on October 7, 2001, with the invasion of Afghanistan, which it has now expanded to over 80 countries. In March 2003, the campaign against Iraq followed. Although the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq were initially justified by the US and its allies with preventive or "preemptive self-defense", their continuation was mainly justified by humanitarian goals, such as the defense of human rights. The latter also applies to the NATO war against Libya and the intervention in Syria. But no effort has ever been made to determine the humanitarian costs of this type of "humanitarian intervention". A meta-study by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), which evaluated the available investigations, estimated the total number of all victims in the initially mainly affected countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, to be at least 1.3 million after the first ten years.

For the second decade of the "post-9/11 wars", as the Western world order wars of this century are called in the US, a similarly careful analysis is still pending.

Neta Crawford and Catherine Lutz from the renowned "Costs of War" project, however, have repeatedly published case numbers for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, later also for Syria and Yemen. According to their latest report, over 900,000 people had been killed in combat operations in these five countries by August 2021, around 375,000 of which they classified as civilian casualties. However, these figures are only based on passively observed cases, i.e. cases reported by the media and similar sources or registered by clinics. Under war conditions, however, only a fraction can be captured, depending on the intensity of the fighting.

Actual number of victims is probably higher

The distinction between civilians and combatants is also usually difficult. The authors therefore assume that both the actual number of killed is much higher, as is the proportion of civilians.Not included are the indirect victims of the wars who died due to the collapse of food, water and electricity supplies, blocked access to health facilities or the outbreak of epidemics caused by the war.Their number exceeds that of direct victims, as a rule, several times. In general, according to "Costs of War" employee David Vine, one must assume a total of four times as many deaths as they have determined. At the end of October 2019, he estimated it already at 3.1 million.

Vine referred to a comparative study of the "Geneva Declaration" initiative, according to which the number of indirect deaths in most armed conflicts was three to fifteen times as high as the number of direct. The IPPNW study came to a similar conclusion. The comparison with mortality studies on Iraq showed that the realistic estimates obtained by representative surveys are at least five to eight times higher than the casualty figures obtained by passive observation.

According to Crawford and Lutz, around 170,000 Afghans were killed directly in combat in Afghanistan during the almost twenty-year US and NATO war. So we have to assume at least 800, 000 victims in this country alone, but possibly also more than a million direct and indirect victims, over 40, 000 a year.

Around 284,000 Iraqis fell directly victim to the war in their country, according to the information collected by the two scientists. Compared to the 165,000 war deaths they recorded for the first eight years, the number almost doubled again after 2011. Based on the mortality studies in Iraq, the IPPNW study quite conservatively estimated the total number of Iraqi victims to be at least one million dead by 2011. If these figures are extrapolated accordingly, we now have to assume that over 1.8 million people have died in Iraq. According to a representative study published in the journal PLOS Medicine in May 2018, 90,000 of them alone were victims of the recapture of the megacity Mosul from the hands of the "Islamic State".

Up to 3.6 million victims – Libya not taken into account

David Vine's extrapolation therefore sounds entirely plausible. Overall, the total number of victims in the wars considered by "Costs of War" would now be 3.6 million. However, Libya, the third country against which NATO countries waged direct war after 2001, has not yet been taken into account. According to a plausible estimate by Nicolas Davies, a journalist and researcher at the US peace organization Codepink, over 250,000 Libyans fell victim to NATO aggression and the subsequent collapse of the state.

Finally, Somalia, where the US has long intervened with air strikes, covert operations and the arming and support of local forces, is also missing. Davies estimates that this war may have claimed more than 500,000 victims since the US-backed Ethiopian invasion in 2006. It is therefore likely that the total number of victims of the wars and interventions of the United States and its allies in the last two decades already exceeds four million.

Even more difficult to assess is the enormous human toll that the wars also took on the countries concerned. These include those seriously injured and often permanently disabled in the wars. According to the UN, their number is usually more than twice that of those killed. Far greater is the number of those who had to flee the war. While the number of refugees and internally displaced persons covered by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR was already very high at the beginning of the century at 38 million, it has more than doubled since then to 82.4 million.

As David Vine and colleagues found in another recent study, at least 38 million fled the "eight most violent wars the United States has fought since 2001". These include Libya, Somalia and the Philippines in this investigation. The number of displaced persons exceeds that of all wars since 1900, with the exception of the Second World War. But it is still a very conservative estimate, according to the authors. The total number of deaths caused by the US wars after the 11th century. The number of people displaced in September is likely to be 49-60 million, which could even exceed that of the Second World War.