Calculating the Costs of War, Including the Walking Wounded

A regular part of the president's political presentations is that we have brought home/are bringing home American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. The unspoken point is: Mission Accomplished (as a previous president termed it).

Nothing could be further form the truth.

In keeping with my motivational interviewing style, I think of asking the president the following questions (which he would most likely be unable, or unwilling to answer).

Mr. President, how much money have we spent thus far on the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan? How much has been spent since you became president?

How many American deaths have we experienced in those countries, both before and after you assumed the presidency?

How many civilian deaths have occurred in that period?

How many civilians have been dislocated/become refugees?

How would you describe -- and what are your reactions to -- the levels of violence currently in those countries?

How would you describe -- and what are your reactions to -- the political situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. How would you rate the status of democracy in those countries?

Was our involvement in each country worth the costs we experienced? How would you rate the return on investment in them since your became president (Afghanistan in particular, since you expanded our presence there)?

Recently, there has been much talk about the financial and emotional costs of the wars in terms of the wounded who return home. Could you give us a sense of the dimensions of that burden for the country going forward?

Could you focus specifically on the massive emotional trauma our armed forces have suffered -- the number of suicides and the PTSD rate in general? How well are we responding to these problems, and what kind of investment would it take to measure up in this area? How do you personally factor that into your cost/benefit analysis of the war?

What are your emotional reactions to our recent wars?

Finally, would you have sent your daughters to fight in Iraq/Afghanistan?

Stanton Peele's new book, with Ilse Thompson, is Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim your Life with The PERFECT Program.