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The True Cost of War: A Moral Balance Sheet
One Day in Iraq
To date, more than 3,100 American military members have
been killed in Iraq, and another four hundred have been killed in Afghanistan. On
average, another college-aged soldier (between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two) is killed
The money the U.S. spends on average in just one day in Iraq,
$259 million, could have provided 22,615 college-aged students with a full year's tuition or enrolled 35,500 three and four-year-olds a full year in Head Start pre-school programs.
One Week in Iraq
The toll of the war on Iraqi civilians has been
devastating. Estimates of the number of Iraqi dead range up to half a
As many as 3.8 million Iraqis have already fled their homes, and
an additional 10,500 civilians become refugees on average every week.
money spent in one week in Iraq could have provided three meals a day for nearly
an entire year for six million children, the same number that dies from hunger and
malnutrition every year.
One Month in Iraq
In addition to the tens of thousands of injuries
American service members have sustained in fighting in Iraq, more than five hundred have
undergone "major amputations"—the loss of arms or legs. In the four years of
fighting in Iraq, that totals ten servicemen and women losing a limb every month
(or one every three days).
For less than the amount spent in one month
in Iraq, New Orleans' neighborhoods could be completely rebuilt and improved to
meet standards that would better protect them against another hurricane.
One Year in Iraq
More than 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in Iraq in
2006 alone. That is equivalent to ninety-three civilians killed every day.
money spent in Iraq in one year could have paid the health insurance premiums
for half of all uninsured Americans, including all uninsured American
Four years in Iraq
More than 3,100 American service members have been
killed since the invasion, and more than 23,500 soldiers have been wounded. As
many as 300,000 veterans have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from
post-traumatic stress disorder, two-thirds of whom are not being
What could we have purchased with $400 billion, had our national
priorities matched our moral potential?
We could have funded full American compliance in the Kyoto Protocol, which is estimated to cost $75
billion less than what we've already spent in Iraq.
We could have
purchased life-giving treatment, including costly antiretroviral drugs, for
every person in the world infected with HIV/AIDS. For almost six full
The Years Ahead
Even if it ends tomorrow, we will be paying for this war
for decades to come. When we factor in the future costs of veterans' medical
care, disability payments, and the price of rebuilding our depleted military,
the total cost could exceed $1.2 trillion.
Imagine what our world might look like in a few years if we had focused those resources on making the world healthier, wealthier, better educated, and safer.
As Americans, it is our duty to hold ourselves and our government accountable for any decision to spend
American lives and money on a futile war. These are moral choices, and they have
© Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), 2007. References and source material are available upon request. This document maybe be reproduced in its entirety and freely distributed. When material is excerpted we ask only that it be attributed to the UUA.