Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wars, Warming, and All Levels of Governments


Possible title:   Global Warming, Military Expenditures, and Public Investment

Greg Harton in the NAT urged national politicians to follow their reduction of taxes with real solutions about where to stop spending money (6-27).   The problem will become increasingly difficult as average global climate temperature rises further, with consequential extreme weather, rising seas, floods in some areas and droughts in others, fresh water scarcity, and from them political disorder, public rebellions, and refugee flows,
       Consequently, the problem may become the impossibility of not spending money, if we are to mitigate the causes of climate change and adapt to its effects in a world already burdened by poverty and violence.  We need the money to drastically cut our production of C02 and other greenhouse gasses that hold the sun’s heat, to quickly develop clean, renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, and especially to close coal plants or invest in carbon-capture.   And we need the money to enable us to live with the damages already wrought, to protect our coastal cities, to prepare our agriculture to cope with changing weather, to develop ways of avoiding the poverty and violence that climate change can worsen.
       The problem will not inevitably be the scarcity of money. Cost estimates vary from $4 to $6 trillion dollars for the Iraq and Afghan wars alone.  Neither war was necessary.   Mitigating and adapting to the effects of warming are necessary.   And the Pentagon knows it.   At least by 2004 the Pentagon recognized global warming and the insecurity to ensue.   But their solution was massive, violent counterinsurgency, as though the US lifeboat, bristling with armaments, could protect us from the chaos and fear ahead.
        The need then is the need now not for global war on evil but for creativity, rebuilding, rescue, and global cooperation.     Think of our achievements.   By the early nineteenth century, US industrial cities were disasters of cholera and yellow fever epidemics (and tuberculosis, typhus, typhoid) and like climate change hurting the poor mostly.   Citizens organized as local and state governments to collect refuse, build sewers, pipe in safe water, design and enforce housing codes, increasing prosperity..  And the epidemics ceased.
     Or take the microchip.   The US government assisted in creating both the technology and guaranteeing its market by consuming the device.   The government bought over 50% of IBM’s supply, for example, and the chip spread throughout the world..
       We can duplicate these spectacular successes, once we have converted to human needs the money wasted for unnecessary wars of conquest.   The present US energy economy (our cholera/yellow fever/typhoid epidemic) costs $2 to $3 trillion annually.   The U.S. local, state, and federal government, particularly including the Pentagon, is the world’s largest consumer of energy and vehicles, and therefore the nation’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.  As with microchips, once government purchasing on all levels is redirected to create mass markets for clean power, green buildings, paper, supplies, food, and to leverage green procurement, prices will go down, the tech will spread to the private sector, and C02 and temperature could steady.
      But such a solution must be thorough and soon, or the opportunity is lost.

Dick Bennett

Chief reference:  
Christian Parenti, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (2011).  

LTE TFW 8-14-10 COSTS OF AFGHAN WAR  (rejected, exceeds TFW 350 limit).  Next sent to:
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).


On February 15, 2003, occurred the largest global protest against war the world has ever seen.   Over 12 million people came out in the streets in over 60 countries and on five continents.   So impressive was this outpouring of anti-war feeling that the New York Times claimed there were now two superpowers: the US National Security State and global public opinion.  But that day of worldwide action did not stop Bush and Cheney from illegally attacking Iraq, did not stop them from replacing diplomacy with aggressive war.  And now we see the consequences, and the importance for all people and especially people in official positions of influence to choose publicly not to be complicit in silence but to speak up with the truth.  

Consider the financial consequences alone.    In 2008, the military spent $976, 121,986,000; that’s $1.9 million spent every single minute for wars falsely labeled “defense.”   In July 2009 the $636 billion Pentagon spending bill passed 400-30.   But that didn’t include money for the Afghan and Iraq wars, or in the Energy Dept. for nuclear weapons,  or for “Homeland Security.”   A special aspect of the appropriation is the unneeded pork money—for a new presidential helicopter fleet, new cargo jets, an alternative engine for the next-generation F-35 Fighter, and more.  But this is peanuts compared to the $128 billion for the Iraq and Afghan wars, which brings the total appropriated by Congress just for these wars to above $1 trillion.   (As stated in ADG 7-31-09, but Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes in The Three Trillion Dollas War estimated $3 to 5 trillion, and recently Stiglitz raised the estimate to $4 to 6 trillion because of the unexpectedly large number of wounded vets.)  

These costs play out in our individual taxes.   Andrew Bacevitch ( “Unequal Sacrifice,” The Nation, 9-20-10, in a review of Kriner and Shen, The Casualty Gap), writes:  “Since 9-11, the Pentagon budget has more than doubled to approximately $700 billion per year,” and “current war costs [are] $400 billion annually.”   Thus “the per capita cost of ongoing US wars comes to more than $3,300 per annum.  Add that as a surcharge to every American’s tax bill (or subtract that amount from the annual payout to Social Security recipients).”    This taxation for wars will not change in the foreseeable future, argue Kriner and Shen, because officials of the US Security State will continue to successfully cover up US soldier casualties and the fact that the majority of them are poor.   

And now, by extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, shrinking the estate tax, and freezing discretionary spending on everything except war, Pres. Obama is leaving less for education and infrastructure.

Yet these wars, these sacrifices, have not shielded the US, nor defended liberty.    We hear from all who choose armed-force over negotiation and diplomacy that once in a war we must “support the troops” for their sacrifice in our defense.   But name one US war after WWII in Europe that comes close to being a war of defense.   What does it tell us that the VA provides health care for more than 23 million US veterans; as many as a quarter of the nation’s population qualifies for VA coverage; and federal cemeteries are running out of space?   Have that many citizens defended the country from attack?   Name the wars caused by another country attacking the US.  

So let us remember Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  great sermon, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” (April 4, 1967):  “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”   Silence about the wars–US permanent war-- must end.  The myth of US defensive wars is not sacrosanct; casualty facts must no longer be kept secret; the enormous financial and human costs, the true costs of US wars, must be disclosed.    We must “break the silence of the night” of these wars, just as King urged light for the Vietnam War. 



Dear Bobby Ferrell and Justin Tennant: 

I write to you as a resident of Ward 3 to express my curiosity regarding the way our mayor and other city managers handled their recent ward meetings.   Their presentations were excellent, clear and factual—very professional.   Importantly, they confronted the shortage of funds to carry out all of the needs of our community.

But they did not explain it, and that made me curious.    Why were they silent about the major cause of our budget shortfalls—the cost of the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq of $4 to 6 trillion (est. by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes in their The Three Trillion Dollar War).   We borrow $2 billion a day from China to pay for these wars.  

Here’s a small example of these costs: one type of drone aircraft, the Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance plane, costs the taxpayers $11.1 billion for 77 planes, the per-aircraft procurement cost having increased 11 percent to $100.8 million since the project began in 2000.  (ADG 9-16-10).   

A democracy depends upon informed citizens.   How can we make budgetary decisions, when our own officials withhold causes of financial shortages?   (Or is there some other explanation?)  

Please ask our mayor and his assistants why they are silent about these immense expenditures for wars, wars that are illegal, based upon lies, and have killed so many innocent women and children and our own soldiers, when that money could do so much good for Arkansas and for Fayetteville.   Think of it:  Since 2001 Fayetteville taxpayers have so far paid more than $221,860,000 million for the wars:   for the war in Iraq more than $147,760,000, and for the war in Afghanistan more than $74,100,000.

How can our officials remain silent?  And you our Council members?  

Thank you,
Dick Bennett
2582 Jimmie Ave.
Fayetteville, AR 72703

These three websites provide information on the costs of these wars and the breakdown of the Federal Budget by category.

        1.    Interactive map - click on Arkansas balloon (25).

        2.     Shows costs of wars for United States (by entire USA, household, person, and taxpayer), by State (entire state, city & state)

        3.     mibazaar in (1) above claims National Priorities as its source.


11-28-10  (pub. 12-16-10)
To the Editor
Doug Thompson

      The inability of Fayetteville and Washington County to afford a broad range of needs and desires can be traced directly to the wars our leaders have led us into.   These wars are an enormous drain on our finances.      Of President Obama’s 2011 Recommended Discretionary Spending, over 50% goes to the military (the wars, the Pentagon, Veterans Affairs, Nuclear Weapons).  But for the urgent needs of Fayetteville and Washington County?   For Health and Human Services, the 2011 budget provides only 6%; for Transportation, 6%; for Education, 4%; for Housing and Urban Development, 3%; for Justice, 2%; for Agriculture, 2%; for Environmental Protection Agency, 1%.    Everything is shorted for the military.
          Yet We, the people are largely silent.  Why is that?   We are not entirely to blame.   Particularly, we are deceived about the real financial costs of the wars.  We are not paying as we go the present costs of the wars directly by taxes, because payment has been delayed through loans from Japan and China, for our children and grandchildren to pay.  
     Also, the true costs are hidden from us through Pentagon secrecy, government subsidies to corporations, corporate public relations, media complicity, and sheer complexity.  The cost of gasoline for the tanks and planes, for example, is substantially higher than the price the Pentagon pays, because much of this cost is hidden from the public.   Especially uncounted and unmeasured is the destruction to the environment by U.S. wars.
               Even our local officials are complicit in the cover-up.   When lamenting the shrunken budget, our public officials do not confront the major cause in the four to six trillion dollars the Iraq and Afghan wars are to cost (not including the expansion of the wars into Pakistan and Yemen, and throughout the world via our network of some 900 military bases).    Not until the people are told the real costs of the wars and the true causes of municipal and county shortfalls will the public ever know enough to be motivated to change the war economy of the U.S. National Security State.  
      I turn to our officials then:  the next time you speak to the public about your struggle to find money for the services We, the people need, don’t omit the facts of the wars.

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Dick's Wars and Warming KPSQ Radio Editorials (#1-48)

Dick's Wars and Warming KPSQ Radio Editorials (#1-48)