As the 10th anniversary of the Terror Attacks on 9/11 approaches, commentator
and Marlboro College teacher Jay Craven finds himself reflecting on
the sometimes hidden costs of war.
(CRAVEN) One of the
chief legacies of 9/11 has been continuous war and an expanded
national security apparatus that has pre-occupied our anxious nation.
More than two dozen Vermonters have been killed in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Whole communities have mourned the loss of very
promising young people. Families have been disrupted, as loved ones
have packed off to war as an unexpected part of their National Guard
service. They have served with distinction.
More than 100
Vermonters have returned bearing the wounds of war. In total, more
than 8,000 U.S. soldiers and contractors have been killed. 150,000
more have been wounded. Hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and Pakistan have been killed or wounded. The World
Health Organization says that 70% of Iraqi children suffer from
We can only hope – and insist – that our government
provide the best treatment available for returning veterans.
Vermonter Matt Friedman has pioneered the recognition and treatment
of soldiers experiencing Post Traumatic Stress. Friedman now leads
the National Center for PTSD, based at the Vermont VA hospital. We’re
fortunate to have him here. This tenth anniversary should
nevertheless prompt us to recognize and weigh the painful truth that
for many of the people we send into battle, there will be lasting
costs and life-altering consequences.
We also need to address
other challenges of re-integration. Vermont’s unemployment level is
below the nation’s 9.1% but the Congressional Joint Economic
Committee says 16.8% of Vermont’s post-9/11 vets are without jobs.
Vets also suffer higher rates of homelessness, and many are able to
find only low paying work.
When they left, National Guard
members and reservists expected that they would fully re-integrate
when they returned. This has not always happened. The new GI Bill
provides important educational opportunities – but it apparently
lacks coverage for important vocational training programs.
financial costs of war will persist for years – and will complicate
current efforts to trim government spending. Some of these costs are
not openly recognized – as we’ve learned from Nobel Prize winning
economist Joseph Stiglitz and from a new study by Brown University’s
Watson Institute. They project the combined costs of our Iraq and
Afghanistan wars at $6 trillion – when we include long-term
treatment for wounded soldiers, war related foreign aid, homeland
security spending, social costs to military families, and interest on
money borrowed to pay for the wars.
I hope it’s not too
late, after spending so much on war, to still make vital investments
in our own nation. During our next ten years we must turn the corner
to address our country’s pressing needs for affordable education,
transportation, energy, health care, food, housing, culture, and
recreation. I worry that today’s financial anxieties will blind us
to the lasting value of these essential community assets – and to
our looming potential. And that we’ll somehow overlook the human
and material costs of war.