On November 11th, America celebrates Veterans Day. It was initially called Armistice Day. It was to commemorate the end of World War I and move the world toward peace. On that day, we honor the men and women who’ve worn or wear the Armed Forces uniform. One can be supportive of the military and veterans, not for endless war.
The United States has not known peace since after the events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Today, service members will be sent to a theatre of war that has been waged since before they were born. After almost 20 years of war, maybe we could give peace a chance? The War on Terror has come at a high human and financial cost for the country and the world.
“Politics is war without bloodshed, and war is politics with bloodshed.” – Huey P. Newton
The so-called War on Terror launched by the United States government in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks has cost at least 801,000 lives and $6.4 trillion according to a pair of reports published Wednesday by the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
Over 6,900 US troops have died, as have approximately 7,800 contractors.
Over 970,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veteran disability claims have been registered with the VA.
Over 110,000 allied troops and national police in Iraq and Afghanistan have been killed. At least
800,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan. The number of people who have been wounded or have fallen ill as a result of the conflicts is far higher, as is the number of civilians who have died indirectly as a result of the destruction of hospitals and infrastructure and environmental contamination, among other war-related problems.
Millions of people living in the war zones have also been displaced by war. The US post-9/11 wars have forcibly displaced at least 37 million people in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria. This number exceeds the total displaced by every war since 1900, except World War II.
The cost of war has been high in previous generations as well:
In contrast, during the first Gulf War (1990-1991), 382 American service members died in-theater; 147 (38 percent) of those were a result of direct combat.
During the Vietnam War (1964 to 1975), there were 47,413 U.S. military battle-related deaths, and 10,785 service members died from other causes.
In the five years of World War II (1940-1945), 291,557 American troops lost their lives in combat, and 671,846 were wounded.
Over 14 trillion dollars has been spent on the War on Terror, and countless lives lost in its wake. Nations have been devastated. The United States could have used that money to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, cancel student loan debt, or establish a universal healthcare system. We should have tried diplomacy and peace-building instead of boots on the ground, bomber jets, and drone strikes.
The world is a more unstable place nowadays. The fallout from a global economic recession has led to a new rise in right-wing strongmen taking over democracies worldwide. The Middle East is more divided than it has ever been; the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have only created more state enemies. All while endless war has made military contractors and the weapons industries the wealthiest and most prosperous they have ever been. The Military-Industrial Complex has a stranglehold on the American political system. Citizens continue to elect the most hawkish of politicians. Nevertheless, their children will never fight in the same war I fought fifteen years ago. We should listen to the haunting words of President Eisenhower:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
As a military veteran, I urge that my fellow Americans finally give peace a chance. Vote for elected officials who will wage war only when all diplomatic options have been exhausted. Our tax dollars can be spent in far better ways than sending poor and middle-class people’s children to die or get injured in a foreign land. All while war profiteers make money off death and devastation. Countless civilians have been displaced or killed during twenty years of conflict. War has changed me so much, and now I am a veteran for peace.