Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

Tag Archives: afghanistan war

400,000 Brain-Injured Veterans a Fair Price for American Empire

Bush and veteran burn victim

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.

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Obama Boasts of Troop Reductions in Afghanistan, The Machine Trudges On

Tahrir Square

For the last ten years, we’ve been hearing about troop withdrawals in Afghanistan.  It’s not at all surprising that politicians will try to manipulate the masses with promises of an end to the war, but it is somewhat shocking that we seem to fall for it over and over again.  So with the latest reports that Obama is pledging a reduction in troop numbers in Afghanistan, it’s a good idea to ignore the corporate puppet and listen to what Pentagon officials have to say:

 U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy reminded lawmakers the U.S. troop force in Afghanistan will still be larger than it was when Obama took office, despite the President’s pledge to reduce the military presence in the country.

Michele Flournoy: “Even after the recovery of the surge forces, totaling about 33,000 troops, we will still have 68,000 U.S. service members in Afghanistan. That is more than twice the number as when President Obama took office. Clearly, this is not a rush to the exits that will jeopardize our security gains. More importantly, at the end of summer 2012, when all of the surge forces are out, there will actually be more Afghan and coalition forces in the fight than there are today.”

We’re not leaving Afghanistan, or Iraq, Libya, Yemen or Pakistan at any point in the foreseeable future.  As long as there is something to be gained by maintaining a troop presence, we will be there.  Such is the nature of empire, and ours is no different.  It doesn’t matter if the nation bankrupts itself in the process, because the wealthy elites that are pulling the strings have rigged the system in such a way that they always profit.  When the masses lose, they win.  When we’re struggling to survive on the unemployment line, they’re greedily lining their pockets with our national wealth, and laughing all the while.

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The Myth of a “Strong Defense”: No Offense is the Best Defense

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:

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Biden Speaks Out Against WikiLeaks, Cites Bogus Link Between Secrecy and Security

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:

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The Real Welfare State: Military Spending Accounts for 58% of Federal Budget

The United States was once a nation of unprecedented prosperity.  Given our abundance of natural resources, excess of land (courtesy of the brutally ravaged native Americans) and the inexhaustible work ethic of a motley crew of immigrants, we sailed to the pinnacle of human progress and created a standard of living unmatched in any country in history.  Though clearly imperfect in many ways, for generations the sheer girth of the American middle class exemplified the reality of the American dream as being accessible to virtually anyone.

But those days are long behind us, squandered by the insatiable greed of war-mongers and corporate villains.  Our nation has from its very inception had an unquenchable thirst for blood.  Wars have simply always been a part of who we are – which perhaps explains why people are so willing to accept the absurdity of our current economic quagmire.

Today millions of Americans stand on the metaphorical breadline, while hundreds of thousands more are literally tossed out of their homes and onto the streets.  Official unemployment figures hover at the 10% mark, but the reality is much starker.  And in the midst of such devastation, unseen since the days of the Great Depression, the corporate-controlled media has masterfully turned the public debate away from the most urgent issues of the day, and instead convinced the frenzied masses that government spending is the enemy.

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American Theocracy: Obama prays for envoy Holbrooke’s recovery

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.

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American Empire: US Soldiers Stationed in 150+ Countries

Countries with more than 100 US military personnel

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.

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