Charts: The Real Cost of Killing Bin Laden

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/20371597@N00/5570510654/">daniel_littlewood</a>/Flickr

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

In a message released in November 2004, Osama bin Laden declared, “We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.” The United States’ reaction to the September 11 attacks, he reasoned, proved that terrorism’s power lay not simply in its potential for carnage but in its ability to prod a superpower to incur costly, crippling financial expenses in its pursuit of security. “The real loser,” he concluded, would be “the American people and their economy.”

Bin Laden was killed a year ago, ending what was arguably the most costly manhunt in history. However, his death did not mark the end of the massive expenses racked up during the decade following September 11, many of which will be with us for the forseable future. A quick look at the numbers:

Estimated amount Al Qaeda spent on the September 11 attacks:
$400,000 to $500,000
Estimated homeland security spending, 2002-2011:
$690 billion
Estimated costs of airport delays due to security screening, 2002-2011:
$100 billion
Estimated economic impact of the September 11 attacks on New York City:
$82.8 billion

 

Freedom Isn’t Free
Homeland security expenditures and opportunity costs (in billions of 2010 dollars)

Share of federal terrorism cases since September 11
that did not involve any terrorism-related charges:
53%
Estimated cost of US military operations in Afghanistan, 2001-2011:
$443.5 billion
Estimated annual cost per soldier of US operations in Afghanistan in 2011:
$694,000
US soldiers killed in action by hostile forces in Afghanistan, 2001-2012:
1,507
US soldiers wounded in action in Afghanistan, 2001-2012:
15,560

Outspending the Cold War
Pentagon spending including supplemental funding and overseas operations after 2002 (actual and projected, in billions of 2011 dollars)

Reported US drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2004-2012:
296
Estimated share of drone casualties who were not militants:
17%
Civilians killed in Afghanistan, 2006-2011:
12,793
Death toll on September 11:
3,389

Sources:

Cost of 9/11 attacks: 9/11 Commission (PDF)

Homeland security costs: John Mueller and Mark Stewart, Slate

Economic impact of 9/11: New York City Comptroller (PDF)

Homeland security costs (chart): John Mueller and Mark Stewart, Slate

Terrorism prosecutions: Mother Jones (See our special report on these cases.)

Costs of military operations in Afghanistan: Congressional Research Service (PDF)

US military casualties: Department of Defense

Pentagon spending (chart): Congressional Budget Office (PDF)

Civilian casualties: United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, The Guardian

Drone attacks and casualties: Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, New America Foundation

9/11 death toll: the New York Times (Does not include hijackers.)

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate