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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
In addition to the trillion dollar price tag, 600,000+ dead civilians, 1 million orphans and 6,100 dead American soldiers, we can now add 400,000 brain-injured veterans to the cost of our latest wars of aggression:
Independent experts suggest that more than 400,000 American service members will return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries that could lead to severe personality disorders, and little is being done to help them.
Having wasted countless billions – trillions, in all likelihood – on our five concurrent wars and exposed hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to the dangers of the battlefield, our gifted military leaders have identified the true culprit behind our reckless spending: health care for soldiers.
Afflicted veterans have every reason to expect their government to continue to treat them as expendable waste, as the Pentagon actively opposes formal diagnoses of the condition, known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and denies the validity of treatment that its own researchers have said could help. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for a cut in the military’s $50-billion-a-year health budget, saying “health care costs are eating the Defense Department alive,” according to a Huffington Post article in January.
And that in a nutshell is the very essence of American empire. Exploit the little guys for all they’re worth, using them in any way necessary to reap maximum profits. Because war is, after all, little more than a business venture for the giant corporate entities within the military-industrial complex. Just as the private sector throughout America has little interest in providing health care for the workers it underpays and overworks, so too does our for-profit military increase it profits for its shareholders by cutting corners on such luxuries as medical care for the severely wounded.
In its usual half-assed manner, the NY Times has finally broached the largely taboo topic of our indefensibly bloated military budget. As with most issues deemed “controversial” by our ultra-conservative corporate press, the impression here is that the NY Times addressed the subject, via its opinion page, out of absolute necessity only. In a time of such dire economic conditions, with the right and pseudo-left Dems screaming for budget cuts, even the NY Times realizes that it must at least mention what is obviously the most wasteful example of government spending.
Nicholas Kristof deserves some credit for daring to criticize the sacrosanct altar of military expenditures, and his piece, The Big (Military) Taboo, does address some critical issues:
• The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.
• The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad, many of them a legacy of a world war that ended 65 years ago. Do we fear that if we pull our bases from Germany, Russia might invade? …
• The U.S. will spend more on the war in Afghanistan this year, adjusting for inflation, than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War combined. …
It was President Dwight Eisenhower who gave the strongest warning: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
Clearly, there are some powerful points here, points that need to be addressed on a much broader scale by both the MSM and the nation as a whole. Kristof even highlights the oft forgotten fact that it was the presence of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia which, in part at least, precipitated the attacks of September 11. But the problem with Kristof’s piece, as with most coverage by the NY Times which borders on being genuinely relevant, is that it doesn’t go far enough, and it’s couched in terms that reinforce the status quo:
The Obama administration grows more similar to the Bush regime with every day that passes. Today we observed more of that transformation as smilin’ Joe Biden flashed his true, Cheney-esque colors:
Vice President Biden today said that by disclosing classified documents and diplomatic cables, Wikileaks has endangered lives and “done damage” to U.S. diplomacy. In an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Biden confirmed reports that the Justice Department is looking at possible charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“Look, this guy has done things that have damaged and put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people in other parts of the world,” Biden said. The Vice President went on to say that Wikileaks has “made it more difficult for us to conduct our business with our allies and our friends,” citing his own meetings with world leaders.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that those in positions of power are the most vocal opponents to WikiLeaks. And unfailingly, the argument has to do with national security: we need secrets, they claim, in order to protect the American people. After all, there are evil boogeymen out there who are intent on destroying America merely because, in the words of the immortal ‘tard, “they hate our freedom.”
Sadly, the American people seem to be buying the lies:
Only in the United States – and perhaps Saudi Arabia – would this make headlines:
Obama prays for envoy Holbrooke’s recovery
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Saturday night called Richard Holbrooke “a towering figure in American foreign policy” and said he is praying for the critically ill diplomat’s recovery. …
“Richard Holbrooke is a towering figure in American foreign policy, a critical member of my Afghanistan and Pakistan team, and a tireless public servant who has won the admiration of the American people and people around the world,” Obama said in a statement.
Obama said he had spoken to Holbrooke’s wife, Kati, on Saturday “and told her that Michelle and I are praying for Richard.”
“We continue to pray for his recovery, and support his family in this difficult time,” said the president.
Let’s ignore for a moment Obama’s dubious appraisal of the war-mongering Holbrooke as “a towering figure in American foreign policy,” and focus instead on our nation’s morbid fascination with the intermingling of politics and religion.
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.