After 9-11, the United States and its allies went to war, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq, ostensibly for the purpose of punishing those directly responsible for the attacks that day on the US. For the 2,996 who died on 9-11.
What has been the price the world has paid in the 16 years of war since?
Some facts from Brown University’s Watson Institute:
Approximately 370,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, 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.
Thousands of United States service members have died in combat, as have thousands of civilian contractors. Many have died later on from injuries and illnesses sustained in the war zones. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and contractors have been wounded and are living with disabilities and war-related illnesses. Allied security forces have also suffered significant casualties, as have opposition forces.
However, the vast majority of people killed are Afghan, Pakistani, and Iraqi civilians. At least 200,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting.
Millions of people living in the war zones have also been displaced by war. To date, 10.1 million Afghans, Pakistanis, and Iraqis are living as war refugees in other countries or are displaced from their homes.
The US could have pursued several nonmilitary alternatives to holding accountable those responsible for perpetrating the 9/11 attacks. These alternatives would have been far less costly in human lives. For example, the US invasion of Iraq has turned the country into a laboratory in which militant groups such as Islamic State have been able to hone their techniques of recruitment and violence. The formation of jihadi groups now spreading throughout the region counts among the many human costs of that war.
Meanwhile, the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in those attacks (perpetrated primarily by its citizens) is slowly coming to light. KSA is supposedly a US ally in the “Global War on Terror.”
Today isn’t a day for chest thumping, or stirring up old wounds. It should be a day of reflection on everything the past sixteen years have brought us and the world, on the wars we have fought–and on the nation we have become.