Is Afghanistan worth the sacrifice?
Texans have paid dearly for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The highest cost is tallied in casualties. As this issue went to press, 467 Texas men and women had lost their lives since the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003—9 percent of the total American casualties.
That death toll keeps climbing as the Obama administration shifts troops and resources from Iraq to Afghanistan (see chart here). In recent months, an average of one Texan per week has been killed in the “graveyard of empires.” (For some of their stories, click here).
Of the 27 Texas soldiers who’ve died in Afghanistan thus far in 2009, 13 were victims of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Eight Texans were killed in combat. Six died as the result of what the military calls “non-hostile” or “non-combat” incidents—catch-all terms for unspecified causes of death including suicide, homicide, vehicle accidents and disease. Such cases are under investigation. Families do not know, and may never know, what happened.
In the aftermath of the recent shootings at Fort Hood, mental-health problems among returning soldiers and those stationed on Texas’ 16 military bases have garnered fresh, and overdue, attention. This year, the military estimates that more than one-fifth of soldiers serving in Afghanistan suffer from depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress—double the number of cases reported in 2005. (For first-person accounts of Texas veterans with PTSD, click here.) The number of suicides in the army is at an all time high. The Lone Star State is also a national leader in profiting from the wars. From 2000 to 2008, Texas defense contactors raked in $255 billion, according to federal data compiled by governmentcontractswon.com. Data are not yet available for 2009, but 2008 yielded the highest profits of the decade.
Halliburton, the Houston-based oil-field services company once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, has been the state’s most notorious war profiteer. KBR, formerly a subsidiary of Halliburton and also headquartered in Houston, is the U.S. Army’s largest construction and contracting group in Iraq and Afghanistan. Aerospace giants clustered in the Dallas-Fort Worth area—Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, CSC Technologies and DynCorp, to name a few—have also swept in huge defense contracts to produce military aircraft, conventional missiles and military satellites.
As Texas elites grow fatter off the wars, ordinary folks are left to shoulder not only the personal losses but also the mounting costs. In tax dollars, the American invasion and occupation of Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan had cost $944 billion as of September, according to the Congressional Research Service—$232 billion of it in Afghanistan. Fifty-eight percent of the proposed federal budget for 2009 was slated for defense spending. By contrast, just 5 percent went to health care.
Taxpayers in Texas have paid $74.2 billion for these wars since 2001, according to data collected by the National Priorities Project. That amounts to $3,163 per taxpaying Texan.
Data on these pages was compiled by Observer intern Laura Burke. Numbers accurate as of Nov. 12.
Texans killed in Afghanistan, hometowns
1. 2nd. Lt. Darryn D. Andrews, Dallas, TX2. Lance Cpl. Travis T. Babine, San Antonio, TX3. Lance Cpl. Christopher S. Baltazar Jr., San Antonio, TX4. Staff Sgt. Clayton P. Bowen, San Antonio, TX5. Cpl. Peter J. Courcy, Frisco, TX6. Pfc. Peter Cross, Saginaw, TX7. Sgt. David A. Davis, Dalhart, TX8. Sgt. Fernando Delarosa, Alamo, TX9. Spc. Joshua R. Farris, La Grange, TX10. Sgt. 1st Class Alejandro Granado, Longview, TX11. Spc. Jarrett P. Griemel, La Porte, TX12. Sgt. Jay M. Hoskins, Paris, TX13. Staff Sgt. Shawn H. McNabb, Terrell, TX14. Capt. Joshua S. Meadows, Bastrop, TX15. Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Mills, El Paso16. Sgt. 1st Class Raymond J. Munden, Mesquite, TX17. Staff Sgt. Michael C. Murphrey, Snyder, TX18. Pfc. Matthew D. Ogden, Corpus Christi, TX19. Sgt. Gregory Owens Jr., Garland, TX20. Lance Cpl. Matthew G. Reza, Austin, TX21. Spc. Andrew J.J. Roughton, Houston, TX22. Sgt. Cesar B. Ruiz, San Antonio, TX23. Staff Sgt. Chris N. Staats, Fredericksburg, TX24. Lance Cpl. Cody R. Stanley, Rosanky, TX25. Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton II, Houston, TX26. Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Darren E. Tate, Canyon, TX27. Staff Sgt. Archie A. Taylor, Tomball, TX