Veteran’s voice: The human cost of war is too high

With the Iraq war ending and the Afghanistan war still going on, and a possible conflict with Iran about to begin, as a veteran of the Afghanistan war who made it home safely. I reflect on the fact that there are many who did not. They came home in body bags, or injured and maimed. How many service members, noncombatants and contractors were actually hurt or will be in these imperialist wars?

Watching the national news outlets, you may only hear about one or two service members being “hurt”, however it is much worse then they want you to know. Let’s look at some numbers.

According to, as of November 14, 2011, the estimated number is well over a staggering 100,000 in combat-related injuries according to some sources, and this is just Iraq. Now let’s look at some numbers from Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan has been officially going on for 10 years and as of few months ago, the number of U.S service members killed has been 1,896. The total wounded since the beginning of the Afghan war is 14,342.

How much does it cost to treat these wounded service members? reports:

What has the U.S. already spent on veteran’s care to date?: How much has the federal government spent on veterans’ medical care and disability benefits since 2001? To date, $13.2 billion has been spent directly on veterans’ medical care and $18.1 billion has been paid out in disability compensation and other benefits, for a total of $31.3 billion. However, these figures significantly understate the total costs for the following reasons:

* The $13.2 billion number is for veterans only – not for medical costs to those who are still serving. A service member who is wounded on the battlefield is first treated within the military medical system, for example in battlefield medical centers and then transferred to Army or Navy hospitals, such as Walter Reed.  It is not until after the service member has been discharged that he or she is eligible to use the veterans’ medical system.  Therefore there is a lag between when the injury takes place and the initial treatment is conducted (paid for by DoD) and the later period in which that troop receives medical care from the VA and shows up as a direct cost to the VA medical system.

* For disability benefits, the service member again becomes eligible to apply for benefits after  discharge.  However, this is the beginning of the process, and there is a 6-12 month backlog of  pending claims from veterans who have applied for disability compensation and benefits.  Therefore, once again there is a lag between the time when veterans are discharged and when the benefits paid out are shown as expenditures for the VA.

Why are these young men and women dying? Is it because we were attacked on 9/11? If that is the case, Osama bin Laden has been killed. So again why are we still there?

These young men and women have lost their lives, or returned home injured, or maimed because of the capitalist, imperialist policies of the United States. The U.S. government has allowed these young men and women to go through these hardships to get a foothold in an area they have been long after. We were sent over there to remove what the U.S. called dictators because they wouldn’t “play ball” with us anymore. The U.S government says that we are over there because they are murderers, but if we look at the real reason we’re over there, then we must be murderers as well. Support our troops by bringing them home, not by sending them back into harm’s way.


Gregory McLaughlin is an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran. Photo via U.S. Army.