This week marks 10 years since the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq. What began as a mission to find weapons of mass destruction has become a decadelong war that has cost hundreds of billion of dollars so far.  At home, this resonates in many ways: What does it mean for veterans returning home? How has public opinion on the war changed?

How much is the war actually costing?

It depends on how you calculate. These costs can include the billions we spend on military operations, the cost of sustaining peace-keeping efforts, future expenses, the cost of caring for returning veterans and the money that has been wasted.

Do the math yourself with PBS Frontline’s interactive calculator.

Frontline calculator Iraq photo

 PBS Frontline

How many people have died?

According to The Associated Press, nearly 4,500 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis have died since Saddam Hussein’s ouster.

When you include the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, at least 330,000 soldiers, militants, police, contractors, journalists, humanitarian workers and civilians have died, according to Brown University’s “The Costs of War” project. 

Costs of War photo

Brown University

How have our views of the war changed?

When the war first started, a majority of Americans supported it. Ten years later, 53 percent of Americans think the war was a mistake, a recent Gallup poll shows. 

Another survey by the Pew Research Center found that the percentage of those who think America has reached its goals in Iraq is declining, particularly among Republicans. In 2006, 82 percent of Republicans surveyed said the U.S. had succeeded or was going to succeed in Iraq. Today, 56 percent of Republicans say the U.S. has succeeded in Iraq. 

Gallup poll photo

Gallup

What are the consequences of the war at home?

Aaron Glantz of the Center for Investigative Reporting wrote in February that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs “upped its estimate of the total number of veterans who commit suicide from 18 to 22 a day. Even when controlling for other factors, the suicide rate for veterans remains double that of people who never served in the military.” 

Mother Jones reports that post-traumatic stress disorder is the most common symptom of war – even more common than physical wounds. It will cost the VA an estimated $600 million for PTSD treatment alone in 2013. According to Mother Jones, veterans make up 7 percent of the American population, but account for 20 percent of suicides. 

Mother Jones PTSD photo

Mother Jones

What is the situation for veterans now?

There’s a huge backlog of veterans waiting for benefits. Glantz wrote that the number of veterans waiting for benefits for PTSD, brain injuries and Vietnam-related claims for Agent Orange-related illnesses is expected to top 1 million by the end of this month. 

How has the war affected homeland security spending?

During the war, the U.S. also has beefed up homeland security efforts. From the 9/11 attacks to 2011, the Center for Investigative Reporting found the federal government allocated more than $34 billion in grants to improve surveillance within our borders.

CIR examined how some state and local law enforcement agencies spent that money.

 

My First TN3 Photo Album

1st album I’ve built.
  1. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    More than 14,000 people ¬– including a Long Beach, N.Y., police lieutenant (right) – attended the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago in October. Some 800 booths were set up in a 180,000-square-foot expo hall, where businesses displayed everything from tank-like trucks to assault rifles.

  2. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    This enhanced Sig Sauer M400 tactical rifle is a semi-automatic weapon that can hold up to 30 rounds of ammunition in its magazine and is similar to what combat troops use overseas. Local police in the United States are increasingly arming themselves with greater firepower.

  3. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    Tactical vests marketed to police can hold several magazines for both handguns and assault rifles. Police departments frequently purchase apparel like this, which resembles the attire combat troops wear abroad, with federal homeland security grants.

  4. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    This 19,000-pound tactical protector vehicle, the Pit-Bull by Virginia-based Alpine Armoring, is nearly 8 feet tall, more than 7 feet wide, and comes standard with nine gun ports and a V-10 engine.

  5. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    At the police chiefs association convention, Pennsylvania-based Combined Tactical Systems displays its Sting-Ball grenade (right) for indoor or outdoor crowd control. When exploded, the Sting-Ball projects small rubber balls and produces a bright flash and loud bang. It can be thrown or fired from a 12-gauge shotgun.

  6. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    An armored law enforcement vehicle used by the Department of Homeland Security resembles mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks that U.S. troops drive in Iraq.

  7. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    At a booth run by IES Interactive Training, visitors choose between a handgun, shotgun or assault rifle and practice live-action scenarios involving armed criminals who appear on a large simulation screen.

  8. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    The Tiger, an all-terrain combat vehicle by Textron Marine & Land Systems of Louisiana, has a turbo diesel engine and roof hatch. Armored vehicles are a common purchase for local police using federal readiness dollars.

  9. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    Fearing more than just airline hijackings, communities bought thousands of gas masks and chemical protective suits with federal grant dollars after 9/11.

  10. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    Thermal imaging devices enable authorities to see human forms in low-visibility conditions. This one, the Thug FindIR by Georgia-based Integrated Technology Systems, sells for $6,600 or more.

  11. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    Local police in the United States are increasingly swapping out traditional shotguns for assault rifles. Smith & Wesson offers an array of assault rifles to the law enforcement community, like the M&P15 shown at the top.

  12. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    Massachusetts-based Lenco Armored Vehicles, which produced this truck, says it has sold more than 300 trucks to law enforcement agencies around the country. Police and sheriff’s departments in Fargo, N.D.; Phoenix; Oxnard, Calif.; and Wilmington, Del., have purchased SWAT trucks with homeland security grants.

  13. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    Police increasingly are seeking to bulletproof themselves with equipment and attire containing Kevlar, which can limit gunfire damage. Also sometimes called ballistic gear, local police have used federal homeland security grants to buy protective helmets, shields, vests, leg and arm guards, and even gloves.

  14. ANDREW BECKER/CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    Fargo police Capt. Patrick Claus displays the Colt M4 semi-automatic rifle. The Fargo Police Department and many others nationwide have switched from shotguns to military-style assault rifles, like the M4, as standard issue in patrol cars.

  15. ANDREW BECKER/CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    Fargo police Capt. Patrick Claus logs in to a patrol car’s computer. The military-style assault rifle in the car is now standard issue for many police departments.

  16. NOLAN WELLS FOR CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    Fargo police Capt. Patrick Claus shows a trailer that houses riot shields, helmets and other gear purchased with about $9,000 in federal funds. The equipment has never been used.

  17. ANDREW BECKER/CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    Farmer Tim Kozojed, 31, of Hillsboro, N.D., stands in his family’s soybean field after fertilizing part of the 156-acre plot. He says police should be equipped for threats they may face, but is skeptical that North Dakota would be a target.

  18. ANDREW BECKER/CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    Farmer Tim Kozojed, 31, of Hillsboro, N.D., says police should be equipped for threats they may face, but is skeptical that North Dakota would be a target. “I’m very reluctant to get anxious about a terrorist attack in North Dakota,” he says. “Why would they bother?”

  19. ANDREW BECKER/CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

    The U.S. Homeland Security Department has spent $34 billion to help state and local law enforcement and other agencies prepare for terrorist attacks and other catastrophes. Police around the country have used such funds to buy military-style equipment, like the SWAT truck pictured here, since 9/11.

Kelly Chen is a news engagement specialist at The Center for Investigative Reporting. She manages the day-to-day social media strategies and online engagement for CIR. In addition, she works to break down complex issues and ideas and create content for CIR's online communities. Kelly also works to increase engagement on cironline.org and on other online platforms. Previously, she produced discussion segments for PBS NewsHour and oversaw social media and engagement efforts for the American Graduate project, a public media initiative on the high school dropout crisis. She's also worked at Southern California Public Radio and National Geographic TV. A native of Los Angeles, she studied international relations and English at UC Davis.