What has the War on Terror cost in lives and dollars?

Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island
Political Science
Open Access
DOI: 10.18258/3457
Raised of $4,000 Goal
Funded on 12/17/14
Successfully Funded
  • $4,825
  • 120%
  • Funded
    on 12/17/14

About This Project

The Costs of War Project is a team of over 30 scholars, doctors, and activists investigating the costs of the War on Terror in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and the US. We examine how many people have died in these conflicts, how much money the US has spent, and the costs to human rights. We want policymakers and the public to know the consequences of a military response to terrorism and the alternatives to war that remain available to the US.

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What is the context of this research?

The US-led wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have killed well over 350,000 people, the vast majority of them civilians. Many more have died from illness and injuries resulting from the wars’ destruction.

The US alone has spent and obligated approximately $4.4 trillion to wage these wars.

Violations of civil liberties and human rights in the US and in the war zones add to the mounting toll.

US government information on these wars is incomplete and omits crucial information on human casualties and financial costs.

We set out to rectify this incomplete public accounting of the wars and to suggest alternatives that avoid or at least pay attention to these heavy costs in the future.

What is the significance of this project?

The Costs of War Project is the only attempt to date to tell an objective, comprehensive story about the costs of the US-led war on terror. Without this information, the public and policymakers have assumed wars are cheaper and less costly, in human lives and well-being, to wage than they in fact turn out to be.

Understanding that the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have gone far beyond the battlefield and will continue for decades after troops and refugees return home is crucial for rational public policy making and democratic deliberation. This knowledge can help reduce the likelihood of wars, ensure that Americans and people in the war zones are guaranteed basic human rights, and put a spotlight on how trillions of US taxpayer dollars are being spent.

What are the goals of the project?

Our immediate goal for this project is to produce one 3-minute informational animation using dialogue, animated images, and photography, to explain the Costs of War to the general public. We plan to:

  1. Illustrate how many people have died in the wars, including what we know about who has died and how;
  2. Explain the financial costs of war to the US government and US taxpayers and illustrate what the US government's accounts of these wars have omitted;
  3. Make this animation available on our public website for downloading by journalists, partner NGOs, and the public, for use in education and advocacy.


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We need the above mentioned funding in order to hire a professional animator who will produce a high-resolution animation that lays out the human and financial costs of war in a clear, engaging, and publicly accessible manner. This kind of design work is expensive and beyond our own capabilities as scholars. It will allow much more extensive and compelling communication of our findings to the public. We will supplement the funding we raise for this animation with $2,000 of our own preexisting funds.

Meet the Team

Catherine Lutz
Catherine Lutz
Andrea Mazzarino
Andrea Mazzarino

Team Bio

Catherine has been studying war and the military for over two decades and has been inspired to work on this research after seeing war's impact in military communities in the US and in war zones overseas from Lebanon to South Sudan. She and Neta Crawford, of Boston University, began the project in 2010. Andrea Mazzarino joined soon after as co-Director of the Project.

Andrea Mazzarino

I'm a cultural anthropologist and human rights activist interested in post-conflict development, disability rights, and children's rights.

Press and Media

Since 2011, major press outlets from around the world have communicated our findings for public audiences, from The PBS News Hour, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, to CNN International, Le Monde, The China Daily, and The Guardian UK, among many others. We are continually sought after for updates by news outlets worldwide. A link to our media coverage can be found here.

Additional Information

Catherine explains what the future holds for the Costs of War project.

Active researchers on the Cost of War project:

Project Backers

  • 32Backers
  • 120%Funded
  • $4,825Total Donations
  • $88.28Average Donation
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