Return on Terrorism (ROT) (9/11) Update

On December 8, 2014, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued: The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11 which details U.S. spending on some anti-terror operations post 9/11, as of 2014.

From the summary:

With enactment of the FY2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act on January 1, 2014 (H.R. 3547/P.L. 113-73), Congress has approved appropriations for the past 13 years of war that total $1.6 trillion for military operations, base support, weapons maintenance, training of Afghan and Iraq security forces, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the war operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks.

Contrast that with the 9/11 Commission report’s finding on the cost of 9/11:

As noted above, the 9/11 plotters spent somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 to plan and conduct their attack.

Visualizing the difference between the 9/11 plotters and this one area of U.S. spending:


Spending by the 9/11 plotters is in blue and here is represented by the flat blue square on the left.

That is a return of 3,200,000 percent on the 9/11 plotters investment in terrorism.

But, even that is incomplete. The CRS report leaves out spending on national intelligence (which has doubled since 9/11, currently exceeds $70 billion per year) and some $791 billion on “homeland security (as of early 2013). Even allowing for duplication and the vagaries of government budgets and accounting, appears to easily exceed another $1 trillion dollars. (BTW, the total cost of the New Deal was only $500 billion after allowing for inflation.)

If we include the spending on “homeland security” and increased intelligence work post 9/11, the amount spent (non-productively) to fight terrorism is $2.6 trillion dollars.

Visualizing the difference between $500,000 and $2.6 trillion:


Spending by the 9/11 plotters is in blue but doesn’t even get a full blue square on the left.

That is a return of 5,200,000 percent on the 9/11 plotters investment in terrorism.

That $2.6 trillion dollars does not include loss of the right to free speech:

Police arrest local teen for tweeting terroristic threat

Police arrested a 17-year-old for posting a photo on social media of a rifle’s sights pointed at a marked Fort Worth police car with a threatening message.

Montrae Toliver was arrested for making a terroristic threat, according to Fort Worth police spokesperson Tamara Pena. Toliver allegedly posted the photo on Twitter with the caption, “Should I do it? They don’t care for a black male anyways [sic].”

Authorities said the rifle turned out to be a toy, but they said that doesn’t matter.

“It’s considered a threat,” said Officer Tamara Pena during a news conference Monday afternoon.

On December 22, the Department of Homeland Security became aware of the tweet and the Fort Worth police, among other jurisdictions, launched an investigation into the threat of violence against police. Further investigation revealed Toliver was responsible for posting the tweet, Pena said.

I could continue the litany of what we have lost in the war on terrorism, such as the right to prevent fondling of our children by strangers in airports and a host of other indignities.

But I want to end with a question:

Considering our respective investments and losses, who do you think is winning the war on terrorism?

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