$US2,000,000,000,000 not the only cost

The war in Iraq could cost the United States $US2 trillion

The study takes into account long-term costs such as lifetime health care for thousands of wounded US soldiers.

Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes included the disability payments for the 16,000 wounded US soldiers, about 20 per cent of whom suffer serious brain or spinal injuries and the health-care bills for treating long-term mental illness suffered by war veterans.

Citing army statistics, the study said about 30 per cent of US troops had developed mental health problems within three to four months of returning from Iraq as of July 2005.

The projection of a total cost of $US2 trillion ($A2.66 trillion) assumes US troops stay in Iraq until 2010, but with steadily declining numbers each year.

They projected the number of troops there in 2006 at about 136,000. Currently, the US has 153,000 troops in Iraq.

One study has examined the mental health impact on soldiers who were part of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (Hoge et al., 2004). This study evaluated soldiers’ reports of their experiences in the war-zones and reports of symptoms of psychological distress. The results of this study indicated that the estimated risk for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from service in Iraq was 18%, and the estimated risk for PTSD from service in Afghanistan was 11%.

Studies indicate that more frequent and more intense involvement in combat operations increases the risk of developing chronic PTSD and associated mental health problems. Evidence indicates that combat operations in Iraq are extremely intense. Soldiers in Iraq are at risk of being killed or wounded themselves, are likely to have witnessed the suffering and/or death of others, and may have participated in killing or wounding others as part of combat operations.

All of these activities have a demonstrated association with the development of PTSD. The study found that:

94% of soldiers in Iraq reported receiving small-arms fire
86% of soldiers in Iraq reported knowing someone who was seriously injured or killed
68% reported seeing dead or seriously injured Americans
51% reported handling or uncovering human remains.
77% of soldiers deployed to Iraq reported shooting or directing fire at the enemy
48% reported being responsible for the death of an enemy combatant
28% reported being responsible for the death of a noncombatant – Hoge et al.

An additional set of unique stressors stems from the fact that much of the conflict in Iraq, particularly since the end of formal combat operations, has involved guerilla warfare and terrorist actions from ambiguous and unknown civilian threats. In this context, there is no safe place and no safe role

Participation in combat activities is not the exclusive source of danger and stress in a war zone. There is some evidence that the stress of war is associated with an increase in the perpetration of sexual assault and sexual harassment, with both male and female soldiers at risk for this type a victimisation.

While Australia has nothing like the 153,000 strong US military in Iraq – 1320 Australian military personnel are in and around Iraq.  

And while our 1320 soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen often perform safer duties than the Americans do, and we do not have the high fatality rates, we will have people who will develop a range of mental health problems, including PTSD.

War technology is science in the service of obscene bodily destruction – this includes the mind.

There is a reason we never see images of the wounded or dead US soldiers that are the day-to-day reality of this war.  If we did, public acquiescence to Australia being a part of the illegal war in Iraq would evaporate. 

Let’s bring them home before more damage is done.  

Mike Hoffman  

Image from here  

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29 Responses to “$US2,000,000,000,000 not the only cost”

  1. Link Says:

    A compelling argument, with a logic neo-con beancounters would have to agree. I suspect the majority of soldiers however, affected by this ‘war’ will be never see compensation for their injuries and suffering.

  2. J Says:

    Yep, if you’re prepared to send people to their death via war, then you should at least be prepared to receive a dossier every day containing the details of death, maiming and carnage. You should at least have the balls to look at the bodies that your support is producing.

  3. jennifer Says:

    Read Trauma and Recovery by Judith Lewis Herman, as it details the ways in which medical discoveries of trauma inflicted during various wars, as well as by rape and sexual abuse, have been routinely covered up in history, so that the victims can be blamed for their own conditions.

  4. Suki Says:

    Thanks jennifer,
    I didn’t know of this book.
    I’ll find it and read it.

  5. Pottsy Says:

    With Australian Vietnam Vets having to struggle to have a study conducted on the effects of the conflict on their children and grandchildren 30 years on, and the Bush administration cutting veterans entitlements and health budgets, things don’t look good for our iraq diggers or for the US troops.
    In 30 years (If we’re still here) governments will still be stalling, covering up and flat out denying the widespread emotional and physical carnage experienced.
    The fallout from any conflict or war echoes silently into society, the families of those who have served or of those “non combatants” who died or were injured know only too well the true cost.

  6. smellydeadjesus Says:

    Suki – I do hope you are right in saying: “There is a reason we never see images of the wounded or dead US soldiers that are the day-to-day reality of this war. If we did, public acquiescence to Australia being a part of the illegal war in Iraq would evaporate”.

    But my more realistic (and depressed) globs of grey brain goo tell me that the bastards can get away with almost anything.

  7. Manicboy Says:

    That’s an extraordinary stat that 28% admit being responsible for the death of a non-combatant.

    I’ve heard something like it’s the fact that the combat is so close-up and disorganised (like Vietnam) that exacerbates the trauma. And since before Vietnam the military has been putting soldiers through training designed to make them suppress their natural reluctance to kill. PTSD is a matter of degree so just about everyone would have some damage. It permanently alters the structure of your brain, and children born years after the damage have trauma passed onto them. If people really wanted to support the troops, they and their families would be provided with full, long-term, free psychological support.

  8. Suki Says:

    I hope veterans affairs gets a big chunk out of every Defence budget, but somehow I know it won’t.

    smellydeadjesus – what a great name J
    Of course you are right.
    I find little optimism pockets now and again, which sadly don’t last long.
    I know you are right because I went to the anti-war rally in February 2003 in Sydney. There were north shore against the war women (they had printed T-shirts) who were talking in the queue for the bus. I overheard one saying “HoWARd will have to take notice of us now”…fast-forward to October 2004 and HoWARd’s taken us to war and gets another term.
    Dark, dark days.

    I’ve also read that in this war, more so than in Vietnam, the enemy is suspected to be everywhere – Men, women and children.

  9. Helen Says:

    Mike Hoffman:

    Conditions in his hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania, played a major role in his decision to join the Marines, Hoffman explained. “Allentown is an industrial town, he said. “The steel mills and railroads were very big in its history, but by the time I graduated high school most of that had gone away. All of the factories and industries in the area had gone overseas or were completely bankrupt.

    “So if you were looking for a job in the area, there weren’t many chances. At that point in my life, someone comes up and says ‘I’m going to give you full health insurance, a roof over your head, three square meals a day, you get to travel the world and on top of that, you get to defend your country,’ I mean it sounds like a really good idea.”

    Steve Earle:

    Jimmy joined the army ‘cause he had no place to go
    There ain’t nobody hirin’
    ‘round here since all the jobs went
    down to Mexico
    Reckoned that he’d learn himself a trade maybe see the world
    Move to the city someday and marry a black haired girl
    Somebody somewhere had another plan
    Now he’s got a rifle in his hand
    Rollin’ into Baghdad wonderin’ how he got this far
    Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war

  10. Suki Says:

    Helen, some days I could just cry.
    It’s as much rage as it is sadness.

  11. joe2 Says:

    Tears hear and hope this madness stops.

  12. kartar Says:

    As the kid of a Vietnam Vet I follow most of the research into PTSD and veteran’s health fairly closely. The damage doesn’t stop with the veterans – it’ll hit their children and grandchildren. The quote below is from the study that prompted the DVA to launch a feasability study into the health of veteran’s children.

    Information and findings collated from a “grass roots” self-reported study conducted by The Partners of Veterans Association of Australia Inc. based on a sample of approximately 2,500 children and grandchildren revealed the following alarming results.

    These results showed that over 50 per cent of the Vietnam veterans children surveyed, suffered from many physical, psychological or psychiatric illnesses that were impacting on both their quality of life and their ability to work.

    In the children:

    * Approximately 70 per cent have either psychiatric or psychological problems;
    * approximately 55 per cent have a physical illness;
    * approximately 5 per cent have been in a correctional facility;
    * approximately 15 per cent are either on disability pension or unemployment pension;
    * approximately 55 per cent have a deteriorating quality of life according to their parents;
    * approximately 15 per cent are accident prone; and
    * approximately 15 per cent have skeletal abnormalities.

    In the grandchildren:

    * Approximately 30 per cent have physical illness;
    * approximately 30 per cent have behavioural problems; and
    * approximately 8 per cent have skeletal abnormalities

    And don’t get me started on what the Howard Government has done to death and disability benefits for veterans. For shame – they won’t even honour the men and women who are finding their fucking wars. Whilst some days I could just cry – others I am so angry I can’t speak.

  13. Ron Says:

    I can’t add to what I’ve read here: the whole disgusting Howard/Bush/Blair blight on this world just sickens me.

  14. Ron Says:

    I will say one thing:

    can you imagine the good things in poverty, health education etc that could have been done with $2 trillion dollars?

    How can the US taxpayers stand for this stuff? Perhaps the majority never read these sort of reports and only watch FoxNews.

  15. Suki Says:

    Stunning figures kartar!
    HoWARd acts in such an unconscionable way toward anyone who speaks out against the military, their mental or physical health or their deployments. His vision of a soldier is the ANZAC – compliant, silent and stoic.

    He does not want to hear from the spouses, children, bothers, sisters, parents, grandparents of military members struggling with uncertainty, fear and dread.

    He has shown his disregard for the gravity of the problem by placing stunningly incompetent Ministers in the Veterans Affairs portfolio. Recently we endured Danna Vale and Mal Brough (who was ex-army!). Now De-Anne Kelly looks after Veterans affairs. I don’t see any evidence of her having conceptualised that since E Timor, all peacekeepers are now classed as veterans and they and their families are eligible for support through veteran’s affairs. What that may entail who knows, but the very cynical me is watching as this government reduces services as the Vietnam veteran cohort shrinks and the younger veterans are too dispersed to become a political force.
    By dispersed I mean they are all ages, both gender, from three services, some served in E Timor, Afghanistan, tsunami support, the Solomon’s, PNG, medivac post Bali bombings, Gulf War I, Rwanda, and I predict many from Iraq.

    As our military is shrinking, with recruiting and retention initiatives not going well, the military we do have has no ‘b’ team. So if a Hercules needs to take supplies to Iraq and another one needs to evacuate the injured then there are only so many crews and so many specialists and they have back-to-back deployments.
    I am certain we can predict what the very young children of our current veterans will present with in adulthood.

    …kartar, I’ll bring the tissues and it can rain from our eyes.

  16. Suki Says:

    Spot on Ron.
    When surveyed, most Americans thought that Saddam Hussein had a hand in the world trade centre bombings, had WMD’s and the war was ‘just’ – the spin grabbed.

    Americans now don’t support the illegal war in Iraq in such great numbers.
    I hope 2006 is the year it ends.

  17. jennifer Says:

    The Case of Trauma and Recovery – Dr. Judith Lewis Herman

  18. jennifer Says:

    This is my husband’s experience He lived around Scranton in Pennsylvania!

  19. Suki Says:

    jennifer I have just finished listening to Dr. Herman.
    The story of the Algerian woman was harrowing. I cannot listen to stories of sexual abuse without being affected by a mixture of profound sympathy and horror.
    Bearing witness can be as difficult as telling.

    The Dr. is right when she says “Pain is pain!”…

  20. jennifer Says:

    Yes Suki — apparently we humans tend to empathise because of mirror neurons

    Yet, somehow, we do not all empathise with one another to the same degree.

  21. David Collett Says:

    “Yet, somehow, we do not all empathise with one another to the same degree.”

    I think you are right. I think there is a bell curve with empathy and sympathy. There are people on the top of the bell curve, who can sympathise, such as Suki et al, and people on the bottom of the curve who can’t – [insert arsehole’s name here].

    I think it might be neurological – just as some people are better runners than others, some people are better empathisers than other.

    But also I think there are also cultural factors – such as our user pays, “don’t care about the old woman down the street and whether she has enough to eat” capitalism, rewarding people who don’t care about others. For example, if I can rip you off without guilt and reprimand, my company will do better than someone else who can’t.

    I also suspect the environment in which people are raised has an effect. If you are raised in an environment where other people are little more than objects you will not learn to see them as people and to symphatise with them.

    Your thought also makes me think of a paper Brownie put me on to:

    “Capitalist hegemony in large part concerns the capability of the ruling class to present their specific class interests as the interests of society over all. In part we consent to their domination of us because, after all, we could be them and
    they could be us. Believing this, that we are substantially alike; that they have many important things in common with us; that they think and feel just like us; that we share a common world; all this is a part of their power over us. And so we believe this, because it’s easier too, because we believe in common decency, because we are decent people.”

    Hegemony: Explorations into Consensus, Coercion and Culture

    Unfortunately, I think this is a false belief. As the rest of the paper points out, their lives, their spaces, their life styles are so very different. This I think helps explain why skills and values – such as empathy, decency, humanity – are not shared.


    In the face of our war, I weep for humanity and am frustrated from my powerlessness in the face of such pain.

  22. jennifer Says:

    Actually, I’d tend to trace most of the antihumanistic stance which many adopt to the cultural effects of social darwinistic ideology. In a way, although the west has made many advances both intellectual and social, its citizens very often lack the kind of integrity you might see in some of the more impoverished third world countries. I think this is because of an implicit belief, which many people have, in social darwinism. They allow themselves to be dominated, mind and body, by their “bosses”, because they have come to believe that anybody who has a position of power must have qualities which make them psychologically and biologically superior. They all worship the big ape at the top of the tree, and do what he says. This is a failure of critical thinking.

    Also, there is a tendency in the west, to overlook one’s own personal experiences within the system of domination. The sense that many people have is, “oh, I’m just not that important, so I won’t pay close attention to what I’m feeling, what has happened to me to date, or what this might imply about my place within the system.”

    Once again, such deferential and modest tendencies on the part of many lead to a lack of criticism of the way the system operates.

  23. Pottsy Says:

    A joke that was sent me seems to have become sadly true…
    “The business world, your workplace is like a tree full of monkeys. Those at the top look down and see the faces of those making their way up the tree. Those lower down, look up and just see arseholes.”
    Unfortunately, “moving up” in this world is not as easy as climbing a tree.
    Jennifer, I completely agree with the “Oh, I’m just not that important..” comment, I had found myself in that mindset while working in a major bank in my younger years.
    Although now it may be more of a case of deciding wether voicing your discontent or criticism with the system is worth losing your “place” in it.

  24. jennifer Says:

    Hi Potty

    I think therein lies a lesson: That if you don’t speak out when you are young and still have the verve to do so, you never will. Most people find a place in the system because of fear — not creativity, not personal capacity, not intelligence, or anything of that sort. FEAR.

  25. Pottsy Says:

    Yes, it is very sad that our fears are exploited, I have left many workplaces (2 of which where multinationals) because I couldn’t find a “place” where I was comfortable with the standard operational bullshit. That brands you as a trouble maker, simply because you think for yourself, or a whistleblower because your conscience is greater than your fear.
    My greatest fear now is that fewer will stand up and shout out and even if they do they may be heard but not listened to.
    I was so proud to be Australian marching in anti war demo in Melbourne and so disgusted when hoWARd dismissed us all as the usual suspects.

  26. jennifer Says:

    I hear you about the way employers dislike those who can think for themselves. Sometimes when I apply for a job, I can feel them looking out at me and going, “Naaaaaaaaaaaah! Too articulate.”

  27. Suki Says:

    jennifer and Pottsy, bloggers and commenters probably all share this frustration!

    I came to Sydney in April 2001, just as Sydenay was gearing up for the Olympic games.
    There was a saying for those of us that are nonplussed about this world class event – “I’m holding back for bronze.”

    I have made that my credo in every job I have taken here and can therefore avoid the “who does she think she is?” label.

    I’m successful when I work this way – doing no more than my colleagues so that we can all get by with working just enough.
    Sad isn’t it!

  28. Pottsy Says:

    “I’m holding back for bronze.”
    I love that! Yes, sad, but also an honest appraisal of company culture. They love to have employees compartmentalised, “Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes, full of ticky tacky..”
    Sorry, showing my age.
    But I prefer your viewpoint, rather than “how to win friends and influence people”

  29. Syphax Says:

    WHY did Australia get involved in this war? Does anyone still believe there was any principle involved, or does everyone now realise it’s because this man loves being Bush’s butt boy? And, if they do, why don’t more people care?

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