The past more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have served as a stark reminder of the immense costs that war imposes on our troops, their families, and society. The best way to honor our veterans this Veterans’ Day, and every day, is to work to ensure that we send our soldiers into harms way only when there are compelling reasons and no better option, and that we fully support our troops and their families while at war and after they return home.
Many of the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been documented in a June 2011 report titled Costs of War by the Eisenhower Study Group, which is based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. As that report documents, the impacts of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the men and women who serve our country in the military include:
* more than 6,000 US troops killed, 99,000 injured, and 552,000 disability claims
* rates of suicide, divorce, and spousal or child abuse have doubled or more among military families since the wars began
* Other reports have found that at least 217,000 of the 1.6 million troops that have returned from the wars suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome (“PTSD”), 165,000 have been diagnosed with depression, and 1,600 have lost at least one limb.
The impacts of these deaths, suicides, injuries, divorces, etc. are magnified, as it is not only the soldier who is affected, but also their spouse, children, parents, etc. And, of course, war also imposes a huge economic toll on our society which, in turn, uses up resources that could otherwise be spent creating jobs, alleviating poverty, expanding health insurance coverage, or strengthening the safety net. According to the National Priorities Project, we have spent more than $1.33 trillion on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to date ($803 billion on Iraq, $532 billion on Afghanistan), while total economic cost for the US of those wars is estimated at $3.2 to $4 trillion once interests payments, veterans’ benefits, etc. are accounted for.
Given the immense individual and societal impacts of war, we share President Dwight Eisenhower’s sentiments when he said “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” There are times, however, that war may be necessary, such as to rein in one country from invading another or to stop genocide. As such, we believe that the best way to honor our brave men and women in uniform is to:
* avoid putting our troops in harms way unless compelling circumstances require it and there are no better options
* provide our troops with the resources they need to do their jobs
* provide for our troops and their families financially, medically, and psychologically when at war
* support our veterans by providing the medical and mental health services they need, and easing the return to civilian life with financial and other assistance
One way to help achieve these goals is to get involved with the following organizations that are working to promote peace, avoid unnecessary military conflicts, and support our troops and their families.
Veterans For Peace – an organization of veterans from all eras working to promote peace, increase public awareness of the costs of war, and seek justice for veterans and victims of war.
Military Families Speak Out – an organization of the families and loved ones of troops who have served since September 11, 2001 that is working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, prevent a war with Iran, and support our troops when they come home.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America – an organization that works to assist veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, increase public awareness of the challenges facing those veterans, and advocate for policies that benefit veterans’ health, education, employment, and community.
These goals can also be advanced by ensuring that we withdraw all US combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014; not get mired in unnecessary military action against Iran or Syria; fully fund the Veteran’s Health Administration, G.I. Bill, and other programs designed to assist soldiers after they return from war; and oppose proposals to privatize veteran’s health programs and replace them with vouchers.
On this Veterans’ Day, let’s truly honor our veterans’ service by contacting our Congresspeople and writing letters to the editor at our local newspaper to urge our elected officials to send our soldiers into harms way only when there are compelling reasons and no better option, and to fully support our troops and their families while at war and after they return home.