“This will be a big week for Infrastructure. After so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR Country!”
— President Trump, in a tweet, Feb. 12, 2018
“As of a couple of months ago, we have spent $7 trillion dollars in the Middle East, $7 trillion, what a mistake.”
— President Trump, in remarks ahead of an infrastructure roundtable, Feb. 12, 2018
This article has been updated to include more figures from the study in question and to clarify a reference to it
So where is Trump getting this figure? It seems that the president is referring to a study by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University on the cumulative cost of the wars from 2001 to 2018. The study includes estimates for the total cost of war — not just overseas operations. That means the estimates include peripheral services such as veterans care ($277 billion), terrorism prevention programs ($783 billion) and interest on the debt issued to pay for the wars ($534 billion). It also estimates future spending both for the 2018 fiscal year and future obligations through 2056 for veterans care ($1 trillion).
The study includes combines data for both the wars in Iraq (in the Middle East) and Afghanistan (in Central or South Asia). But President Trump is just referring to the Middle East. Together overseas operations for both wars cost about $1.9 trillion from 2001 to 2017. If Trump was referring to the total cost of war and not just overseas operations, his number still is high. The war on terrorism, including homeland security and military action in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, is estimated by the Watson Institute to have cost about $4.4 trillion from 2001-2017.
Plus, it’s worth noting that Trump has expanded war expenditures since taking office, which will only increase these estimates. Our video above explains the problems with this oft-repeated stat.
The Pinocchio Test
Trump is using an overall estimate for a total of future spending — not past expenditures, as he claims. While the cost of the combined wars will likely surpass $7 trillion by 2056, when interest on the debt is considered, that is almost four decades from now and still includes geography outside the Middle East. The president has had ample time to correct his facts. For his exaggerations, the president earns Four Pinocchios.
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