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The high cost of terrorism

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Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013 12:29 pm

Beyond terrorism’s life and limb costs are the cold, hard dollar sums.

On a strictly return on investment analysis of the recent Boston Marathon murder and mayhem as well as the 9/11 attacks, terrorist-sponsoring nations have performed impressively.

During the April 19 Boston lockdown, the city absorbed slightly more than $400 million in financial losses. The Tsarnaevs spent only a few hundred dollars in bomb-making materials.

Compared to 9/11, a $400 million hit is nothing. According to a detailed New York Times study titled “9/11: The Reckoning,” al-Qaida spent roughly half a million dollars to destroy the World Trade Center and cripple the Pentagon. The cost to the United States however, both in the public and private sector, is $3.3 trillion and still rising, or about $7 million for every dollar al-Qaida spent planning and executing its attacks. The $3.3 trillion total represents roughly one-fifth of the current U.S. national debt.

Remember that the 9/11 terrorists initiated the need for the nation’s $3 trillion response with $2 box cutters and the nominal expense of a few airline tickets. The attacks devastated the stock market, closed down — at least temporarily — airlines and hotels, caused massive lay-offs and may have, because of lost market equity, kept thousands of kids out of college.

Based on raw data from the Congressional Research Office and the Congressional Budget Office, the Times calculates that the individual costs are as follows: Iraq and Afghanistan war funding, $1.65 trillion; future war and veterans care, $867 billion; homeland security, $589 billion; economic impact, $123 billion; and physical damage, $55 billion.

Since 9/11, Department of Homeland Security and FBI officials claim to have thwarted 30 other terrorist plots aimed at either military or civilian targets, including the 2005 Lodi case against Umer and Hamid Hayat. In 2007, Hamid Hayat was sentenced to 24 years in a federal prison.

In 2004, a period during which he could have been planning another devastating attack on the U.S., Osama bin Laden produced a video gloating about his plan of “bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.”

Today, bin Laden is dead and al-Qaida is splintered. So, in retrospect, bin Laden’s claim may have fallen short of its goal.

However, the Times presents an interesting footnote to its study that it calls “The Price of Lost Chances.” Less than $1 trillion of the $3.3 trillion was for direct responses, including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that crippled the Taliban. But the remaining $2 trillion-plus could have been spent on rebuilding the nation’s broken education system, developing better methods to compete economically with China, or simply reducing the national debt.

Any of these three alternatives would eventually create a better, stronger America. Nevertheless, the Bush and subsequently the Obama administrations opted for the “whatever-it-takes” global war on terror philosophy, long-term consequences be damned.

Let’s be honest: Almost anyone can walk into a big-box store with a backpack to blow the building sky high. The sad truth is that, given the current Washington, D.C., globalist agenda which allows easy access into the country for terrorists like the Tsarnaevs, the chance of preventing another small-scale attack is slim.

Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. He lives in Pittsburgh, Penn. Contact him at

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