The Human Costs of War: Assessing Civilian Casualties since 9/11

published 2 months ago by The Cato Institute

On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists killed nearly 3,000 innocent men, women, and children in four coordinated attacks, the deadliest such incident in history and the bloodiest day on American soil in over a century. Since that time, the Pentagon says more than 7,000 Americans have been killed in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Greater Middle East, as well as in other military operations associated with the War on Terror. Many Americans still recall the trauma of 9/11 and are aware of the scale of death and destruction wrought that day. Some have a sense of the numbers of U.S. troops killed in wars since. Very few, however, are aware of the others who have died in these wars. For example, the Costs of War Project counts at least 244,000 civilian deaths in just three countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Much higher estimates may be derived from episodic reporting of incidents involving noncombatants killed as a result of U.S. military action worldwide. At this special policy forum, a distinguished panel of experts will explore the nature of these casualties, why the U.S. military’s efforts to limit harm to innocent men, women, and children sometimes fail, how and if recent congressional oversight has helped to shed light on the issue, and whether the U.S. media’s inconsistent coverage of noncombatant deaths is a symptom or a cause of the public’s relative ignorance of the true costs of America’s ongoing wars.

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