September 9, 2005
‘War on Terror’ Saves Few Lives: Expert
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. "war on terror" is saving fewer lives than just spending the money on disease prevention and research, and has probably caused deaths by taking money away from basic services, an expert said on Thursday.
The accusation is not new, but Dr. Erica Frank of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta said she has calculated the cost, in terms of lives, of the Bush administration's terror policies.
"The most recent effects of these diversions of funding have been seen in the unfolding tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the surrounding area," Frank wrote in a commentary published in the British Medical Journal.
"Governments must protect their citizens, and anticipating these possible future threats is appropriate and could prove essential to Americans' health."
Frank warned there is a threat that because of the U.S. government's policy, enormous numbers of Americans will die unnecessarily.
On September 11, 2001, 3,400 people died because of the four intentional plane crashes in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. But 5,200 other Americans died that same day from common diseases, according to Frank.
To estimate how many Americans died of routine causes on September 11, Frank used national estimates of mortality from various causes.
"Predictable tragedies happen every day. We know strategies to reduce deaths from tobacco, alcohol, poor diet, unintentional injuries, and other predictable causes. And we know that millions of people will die unless we protect the population against these routine causes of death," she wrote.
Yet more money is spent to protect against deaths that are not likely to happen.
"For example, in September 2002, New York was awarded $1.3 million to reduce heart disease, the leading killer of New Yorkers, while $34 million was awarded for bioterrorism preparedness in the state," Frank added.
Proponents have argued that bioterror preparedness would build up the public health structure in general.
"If this is an improvement it sure is frightening to think what this might have looked like before," Frank said in a telephone interview.
She cited numerous reports showing the federal government cut spending to reinforce the levees built to protect New Orleans from the flood that has devastated the city.
"Since the point of investing in counterterror is to protect American lives, the question is a dollar better spent in Iraq or is it better spent here?" she asked.