Washington has brought suffering to many countries post-9/11, report says
The wars the United States waged and fueled in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan following 9/11, under the pretext of counterterrorism, have brought untold suffering to the local communities and plunged their governments and people into more complex and agonizing circumstances, according to experts and a recent report.
The report, "How Death Outlives War: The Reverberating Impact of the Post-9/11 Wars on Human Health", published by the Costs of War project at Brown University's Watson Institute, put the toll at 4.5 million, a figure that continues to rise as the effects of conflicts reverberate.
Among those fatalities, the report estimates, some 3.6 million to 3.7 million were "indirect deaths", caused not by outright violence but by consequent, ensuing economic collapse, loss of livelihoods, food insecurity, destruction of public health services, environmental contamination and continuing trauma.
Such deaths grow in scale over time, it said. For instance, in Afghanistan, where the war ignited by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion ended in 2021, the indirect death toll and related health problems are still rising.
"There are reverberating costs, the human cost of war, that people for the most part in the United States don't really know enough about or think about," said Stephanie Savell, the paper's author and co-director of the Costs of War project.
"We talk about it being over now that the U.S. has left Afghanistan, but one significant way that these wars are continuing" is that "the people in the war zones are continuing to suffer the consequences", said Savell, as cited by The Washington Post.
Meng Qingtao, a professor of human rights studies at Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing, said that despite the immediate casualties on the battlefield, wars often inflict immense and long-term harm upon local governments and populations.
"The indirect damage caused by war can be considered as secondary disasters, leading to far-reaching ripple effects such as ensuing waves of violence and hunger, and the resulting losses of the indirect toll may even surpass the direct ones," said Meng.
In a separate study in 2021, Brown University's Cost of Wars project found that the U.S.' post-9/11 wars displaced at least 38 million people — more than any conflict since 1900, excluding World War II.
Meng said the U.S.-style solution to terrorism — waging wars — ironically has given rise to more "terrorism" and "post-terrorism" problems, causing more damage to local communities and plunging their governments and people into further complex and agonizing circumstances.
"Terrorism is often the activity of a small minority and cannot be attributed to any sovereign state. Yet, the U.S., under the pretext of counterterrorism, arbitrarily and inconsistently defines terrorism, with everything being determined to serve its own interests," said Meng.
The U.S.-led war on terror, cloaked under the guise of counterterrorism, has broadened and escalated conflict, even encroaching upon the sovereignty of other nations, he added.
One can still discern the double standards and hegemonic values of the U.S. from the wars it waged, Meng said, adding that it is obvious that while the U.S. emphasizes democracy, its foreign policies are guided by pragmatism and hegemony.
Although the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, today Afghans are suffering and dying from war-related causes at higher rates than ever, the report said.
In addition to the staggering death tolls, millions more civilians were wounded and suffered other incredible hardships due to these wars.
"For instance, for every person who dies of a waterborne disease because war destroyed their access to safe drinking water and waste treatment facilities, there are many more who sicken," the study highlighted.