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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
Even as two wars rage on in Iraq and Afghanistan, most Americans seem to have largely forgotten about military concerns. All eyes have turned towards the staggering economy and the seemingly bottomless abyss of unemployment. With the resurgence of right-wing ideologues around the nation and in Washington, the specter of tax cuts and deficit reduction have reemerged from the rubble of the disastrous Bush era, and the public is – according to the media at least – screaming for reductions in government expenditures. Aided by the corporatist media, the American people seem to have forgotten that the poisonous cocktail of tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and fewer government services represents precisely the witches’ brew which got us into this economic quagmire in the first place.
As politicians and their ignorant, teabagging followers cry out for tax relief and deficit reduction, the conversation shifts to debating which government services are to be cut. The health care reform bill, though not yet active, will undoubtedly be the first item on the chopping block. Next may be education, particularly funding for the fine arts. Funding for scientific research will likely be slashed, including research into alternative energy. A few teabag-elects have even raised the incomprehensibly stupid notion of disbanding the EPA, since clean air and water are apparently luxuries for those elitist lefties.
The most practical solution is painfully obvious, but virtually no one – aside from a few scattered murmurs on the deep left – seems to have the courage to openly propose it. The solution, quite simply, is to drastically reduce funding to the single largest expenditure of the US government: the Pentagon.
The rhetoric of the right has long been to cite the need for “a strong defense.” To an extremely limited extent that might be true, at least in today’s world, but it is impossible to justify today’s insanely bloated annual budget of some $688 billion per year (pdf) — and that ghastly figure excludes so-called “supplementary” spending for our two ongoing wars.
The United States military is now deployed in more than 150 countries around the world. It is hard to imagine a more obvious mark of empire than such a pervasive global military presence. Just what exactly are we doing in these countries? Why are there 1,285 US soldiers in Dijibouti, a country most Americans probably aren’t even aware exists? Why are there 53,130 troops in Germany and 35,598 in Japan? And why aren’t more people asking these questions?
The extent of American military presence throughout the world is an open secret. The information is available to the public, but is buried in an obscure, nondescript website of the “Department of Defense,” entitled SIAD: Statistical Information Analysis Division. On the site you will find detailed lists of US troop deployment around the world since 1994, with archives dating back even further. Yet the information contained on the site is largely unknown to the American public, in large part because the corporate-controlled media fails to cover it.
In no small way, we as Americans shoulder the responsibility for our ignorance. The initial framework of our government, as created under the constitution, allows for a level of transparency and civilian intervention that, quite frankly, we do not deserve. The proof of the empire-building tendencies of our government stares us in the face, yet most of us fail to even learn of its existence, let alone act upon it.
There is absolutely no reason to be spending $688 billion per year on “defense.” There is no need for American soldiers to be present in more than 150 countries around the world. Our economy is imploding. The dollar is collapsing. Millions are unemployed while tens of thousands have lost their homes. The means for universal prosperity lies at our very fingertips, yet we continue to allow our nation’s material and intellectual wealth be squandered on the tools of violence and destruction. Any politician who fails to acknowledge this reality is a corporate shill and should be treated accordingly.