September 8, 2005

“War on terror” saves few lives: expert

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - 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

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.