WASHINGTON, D.C. – At least 37 million people have been displaced as a direct result of the wars fought by the United States since September 11, 2001, according to a new report from Brown University’s Costs of War project. That figure exceeds those displaced by conflict since 1900, the authors say, with the exception of World War II, The New York Times reported.
The findings were published on Tuesday, weeks before the United States enters its 20th year of fighting the so-called “War on Terror”, which began with the invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001; yet, the report says it is the first time the number of people displaced by US military involvement during this period has been calculated.
The report accounts for the number of people, mostly civilians, displaced in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya and Syria, where fighting has been the most significant and says the figure is a conservative estimate — the real number may range from 48 million to 59 million.
The calculation does not include the millions of other people who have been displaced in countries affected by smaller US operations, according to the report, including those in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Niger.
“This has been one of the major forms of damage, of course along with the deaths and injuries, that have been caused by these wars,” said David Vine, a professor of anthropology at American University and the lead author of the report.
“It tells us that US involvement in these countries has been horrifically catastrophic, horrifically damaging in ways that I don’t think that most people in the United States, in many ways myself included, have grappled with or reckoned with in even the slightest terms,” Vine added.
People fled their homes for all of the reasons common in armed conflicts, such as aerial bombing and drone strikes, artillery fire and gun battles that destroy housing and neighborhoods, as well as death threats and large-scale ethnic cleansing, according to the report.
Fighting, which in some countries has gone on for nearly two decades, has eliminated most jobs, businesses and entire industries, threatening people’s ability to provide for themselves. In many instances, the wars have removed access to food and water sources, hospitals, schools and other local infrastructure, making daily life unsustainable.
In Somalia, 46 percent (nearly half) of the population has been displaced since American forces once again entered combat there in 2002. Hundreds of thousands have sought refuge in neighboring countries in the last 18 years, and for the last decade, US warplanes have routinely dropped bombs and fired missiles on the country.
While the Pentagon has either denied or been very slow to acknowledge killing civilians in jet and drone strikes around the world, it recently admitted to having killed civilians for the third time, although only after it was forced to do so due to reporting by Amnesty International.
The report from the Costs of War project also estimated the number of people who have returned to their home countries or regions, 25.3 million, though that number includes children born elsewhere to refugee parents. Some of those returning are victims of involuntary deportation from their host countries, and others return only to encounter more of the same violence that they once fled.