Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Costs of the Afghan War

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, leaders of the US military complex called Afghans fighting the Soviets “freedom fighters” and now call many of the same people fighting us “terrorists.” After the collapse of the US/SR, the US chose to imitate and exceed the Soviets in militarization, imperial expansion, deficit, and debt Now the US suffers from over 100 military bases around the world and financial crisis. All accompanied by enormous waste of lives and resources without producing “national security.”

This history is bipartisan. When George W. Bush became president in 2001, the Pentagon budget amounted to $305 billion and the national debt stood at $5.7 trillion. By 2007 the Pentagon received $440 billion. By the time Bush left office, the national debt had reached $10.6 trillion. Under the Obama administration, Pentagon spending has continued to rise, as have deficit spending and debt. The 2010 Pentagon budget was $533.8 billion. The present budget is $693 billion, dwarfing the Russian and Chinese military budgets, and in fact equals the combined military budgets of the next 15 countries behind us. And this does not include the hundreds of billions of dollars supplemental appropriations for the wars, or the costs of the nuclear weapons programs under the Energy Department, and other costs. A recent study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office of Obama administration spending forecast trillion-dollar deficits for the next decade, suggesting a national debt surpassing $20 trillion by 2019, exceeding the nation’s GDP.

Let’s bring these figures home. Compare the Pentagon’s $693 billion to the $59 billion to be spent on education, $50 billion on children’s health insurance, and $8 billion on the Environmental Protection Agency. By 2019, expenditures required to service the national debt could be the equivalent of the interest on your monthly credit card statement exceeding the size of your mortgage payment. The average U. S. family spends monthly $1,100 on housing, $600 on transportation, $450 on food, and $200 on health care. Imagine that on top of these expenses you’re paying $1,400 a year to maintain the Army tank you keep in your back yard.

Regardless of the president or party, the basic edifice of the U.S. National Security State has remained unchanged: 1) a worldwide military presence; 2) armed forces not for defense but for dominance; and 3) intervention in other nations from influencing elections to military invasion. From Harry Truman to Barack Obama, these 3 principles have remained sacrosanct. The result has been over 60 years of war. What is most extraordinary is that the consensus has existed so long despite a record of recurring failure the consequences of which have been disastrous to the U.S. and to the world, especially when one considers how U.S. resources and money might have been used for jobs, alternative energy, health, education, water, food, shelter.

A new national security policy is possible--that rejects militarism, aggression, waste, and slaughter and embraces the universal principles of the golden rule and stewardship of mother earth.

--Bacevich, Andrew. Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. Metropolitan, 2010.
--Blum, William. Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. Common Courage P, 1995. Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. Common Courage P, 2000.
--Engelhardt, Tom. The American Way of War: How Bush’s War Became Obama’s. Haymarket, 2010.
--Holland, Matt. “There’s a Tank in Your Backyard.” Northwest Arkansas Times (October 23, 2009).
--Johnson, Chalmers. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. Holt, 2000. The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic. Holt, 2004. Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. Holt, 2006 --Stiglitz, Joseph and Linda Bilmes. The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. Norton, 2008.
--Wheeeler, Winslow. “How Much will Each F-35 Cost?” The Defense Monitor (April-May-June 2010).

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