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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
In searching for information for my recent post on the pervasiveness of US troops in the world today, I came across an interesting NY Times article from early 2008 entitled “Pentagon Seeks Record Level in 2009 Budget.” The article was written in the waning days of the Bush era, as the 2008 primaries were in full swing. The buzzword “change” was sweeping the nation, and the mood was one of cautious optimism: although times were grim, there was genuine hope that this time, with Obama, things would be different.
Fast forward nearly three years, and it is remarkable to note just how little has changed. The issues and concerned discussed in the article could readily be applied to the present, with a few minor changes here and there — such as replacing “Bush” with “Obama.” For instance:
“As Congress and the public focus on more than $600 billion already approved in supplemental budgets to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for counterterrorism operations, the
Bush[Obama] administration has with little notice reached a landmark in military spending.
When the Pentagon on Monday unveils its proposed 2009 budget of $515.4 billion, annual military spending, when adjusted for inflation, will have reached its highest level since World War II.” [edit mine]
The only significant difference between then and now is that in 2008, the public was, to a limited extent, the public was actually paying attention. Today the topics of military spending and our two ongoing wars are apparently taboo – no one mentions them, and no one seems to care. Beyond that, it should be noted that the figure of $515.4 billion is a rather modest estimate; other sources place the actual 2009 Pentagon budget at $688 billion.
“That new Defense Department budget proposal, which is to pay for the standard operations of the Pentagon and the military but does not include supplemental spending on the war efforts or on nuclear weapons, is an increase in real terms of about 5 percent over last year.”
The most pertinent point here is that the aforementioned figure “does not include supplemental spending on the war efforts,” meaning that our obscenely bloated military budget does not, for some reason or another, pay for our actual wars. It is here, however, that the article takes an interesting turn:
“About 14 percent of the national economy was spent on the military during the Korean War, and about 9 percent during the conflict in Vietnam. By comparison, when the base Pentagon budget, nuclear weapons and supplemental war costs are combined, they total just over 4 percent of the current economy, according to budget experts. The base Pentagon spending alone is about 3.4 percent of gross domestic product.”
The gist of the article seems to be that even though military spending is skyrocketing, it’s okay because we have more money now. $600 or $700 billion may seem like a lot of money, but since it only represents a paltry 4% of the GDP we are supposed to accept it. The slant of the article becomes more apparent with the following excerpt:
“‘The secretary believes that whenever we transition away from war supplementals, the Congress should dedicate 4 percent of our G.D.P. to funding national security,’ Mr. Morrell said. “That is what he believes to be a reasonable price to stay free and protect our interests around the world.’”
The real agenda of the Pentagon reveals itself here: “a reasonable price to… protect our interests around the world.” Let’s be frank: there is no immediate danger to our precious freedom. In spite of the incessant fear-mongering of the mainstream media and right-wing lunatics everywhere, there is no vast army of conspirators plotting to destroy our country and subject us to fascistic rule simply because, as Bush so eloquently put it, “they hate our freedom.” Yes, we have enemies in the world, but it essential to consider these enemies in light of crucial facts.
First, these enemies are vastly outnumbered and overpowered; we have the most expensive military in the history of the world, they have homemade bombs and antiquated Soviet-era weaponry. Second, the vast majority of our enemies exist because we created them. And in saying this I do not mean to imply a sort of conspiracy by which the US government trained its own adversaries (although there is ample evidence of this in some cases), but simply that many people around the world hate the United States with good reason. The US government and its corporate masters have done some atrocious things throughout the world. We have troops present in more than 150 countries, with corporate connections and World Bank and IMF influences in perhaps even more. Quite simply, our strongest possible defense would be to withdraw all US troops from foreign soil, and refrain from interfering in the economic and military concerns of other nations.
“’I believe that we need to have a broad public discussion about what we should spend on defense,’ Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday.”
I do, too, Mr. Mullen. Sadly, that discussion hasn’t taken place yet. But in light of the current economic plight we face, the imperative of that discussion is more urgent than ever. Military spending may account for a meager 4% of the GDP, but that represents the gross total of the next top 26 military spenders in the world. And the hundreds of billions of dollars thrown away each year to sustain the vast military-industrial complex could be used in an infinitely more productive manner.
The United States is broken. Our schools are in shambles, our infrastructure is crumbling, tens of millions of people lack access to health care. Yet in light of the dilapidated state of our nation, our brilliant solution is to wreak more havoc and destruction throughout the poorest parts of the world. Such behavior is the very definition of psychopathy.