One in three U.S. veterans of the post-9/11 military polled believes that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, and a majority think that America should be focusing more on domestic issues and less on foreign affairs according to an opinion survey released Wednesday.
Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops have died in Iraq and about 1,700 in Afghanistan. The costs of both wars combined has topped $1 trillion.
The survey also showed that post-9/11 veterans are more likely than Americans as a whole to call themselves Republicans and to disapprove of President Barack Obama’s performance as commander in chief. They also are more likely to have no religious affiliation than earlier generations of veterans.
The Pew Research Center conducted two surveys and polled two groups between late July and mid-September. The first group was made up of 1,853 veterans, including 712 who had served in the military after 9/11 but are no longer on active duty. Of the 712 post-9/11 veterans, 336 served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The second group was made up of 2,003 adults who had not served in the military.
Nearly half of post-9/11 veterans said deployments strained their relationship with their spouses, and a similar number reported problems with their children. On the other hand, 60 percent said they and their families benefited financially from having served in combat.
Asked for a single word to describe their experiences, the war veterans offered a mixed picture: “rewarding,” “nightmare,” “life-changing,” “eye-opening,” “interesting,” “lousy” and “hot.”
The report’s key findings were:
- Half of post-9/11 veterans say the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, while about 44 percent view the conflict in Iraq the same way. Only one-third (34 percent) say that both wars have been worth fighting and 33 percent say that neither war has been worth the cost.
- Forty-four percent of post-9/11 veterans report that they have had difficulties readjusting to civilian life, and 37 percent say that — whether or not they have been diagnosed – they have suffered from post-traumatic stress.
- Eighty-four percent of these modern-era veterans say the general American public has little or no understanding of the problems they face, with 71 percent of the public agreeing.
- Overall, 16 percent of post-9/11 veterans report they were seriously injured while serving in the military, and most of the injuries were combat-related. Forty-seven percent say they know and have served with someone who was killed while in the military.
- Many Americans agree that since the terror attacks in the U.S., the military and their families have made more sacrifices than the general public. But even among this group, only 26 percent say this gap is “unfair,” while 70 percent say that it’s “just part of being in the military”.
- A vast majority expressed pride in the troops and three-quarters say they thanked someone in the military. But a 45 percent plurality say neither of the post-9/11 wars has been worth the cost and only a quarter say they are following news of the wars closely. Half of the public said the wars have made little difference in their lives.
- About half (51 percent) of post-9/11 veterans say that the use of military force to fight terrorism creates hatred that breeds more terrorism; 40 percent say it is the best way to defeat terrorism. These views are nearly identical to those of the general public.
- When asked about the draft, both veterans and the public agreed: The nation should not bring back the military draft, which was ended in 1973. Among post-9/11 veterans, 82 percent said they’re against reinstating the draft, compared with 66 percent of pre-9/11 era veterans and 74 percent of the general public.
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