Saturday, June 16, 2007

Merchants Of Death

In Salon, Robert Dreyfuss discusses the disappointment of war critics in the failure (thus far) of Congressional Democrats to stop Bush's Iraq disaster:
Still, Democratic criticism of administration policy in Iraq looks muscle-bound when compared with the party's readiness to go along with the president's massive military buildup, domestically and globally. Nothing underlines the tacit alliance between so-called foreign policy realists and hard-line exponents of neoconservative-style empire building more than the Washington consensus that the United States needs to expand the budget of the Defense Department without end, while increasing the size of the U.S. armed forces. In addition, spending on the 16 agencies and other organizations that make up the official U.S. "intelligence community" -- including the CIA -- and on homeland security is going through the roof.
He then points out that of our Presidential candidates, only Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Gov. Bill Richardson are calling for cuts in the defense budget, while Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are actually calling for additional 80,000-100,000 military personnel!

How astonishing are the budgetary numbers? Consider the trajectory of U.S. defense spending over the past nearly two decades. From the end of the Cold War into the mid-1990s, defense spending actually fell significantly. In constant 1996 dollars, the Pentagon's budget dropped from a peacetime high of $376 billion, at the end of President Reagan's military buildup in 1989, to a low of $265 billion in 1996. (That compares with post-World War II wartime highs of $437 billion in 1953, during the Korean War, and $388 billion in 1968, at the peak of the Vietnam War.) After the Soviet empire peacefully disintegrated, the 1990s decline wasn't exactly the hoped-for "peace dividend," but it wasn't peanuts either.

However, since Sept. 12, 2001, defense spending has simply exploded. For 2008, the Bush administration is requesting a staggering $650 billion, compared with the already staggering $400 billion the Pentagon collected in 2001. Even subtracting the costs of the ongoing "global war on terrorism" -- which is what the White House likes to call its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- for fiscal year 2008, the Pentagon will still spend $510 billion. In other words, even without the president's two wars, defense spending will have nearly doubled since the mid-1990s. Given that the United States has literally no significant enemy state to fight anywhere on the planet, this represents a remarkable, if perverse, achievement. As a famous Democratic politician once asked: Where is the outrage?
Let me repeat that: the defense budget for items that have nothing to do with 9/11 is being doubled! Except, of course, that it has everything to do with 9/11. Politically. As with every other aspect of governance, 9/11 is being used to justify political machinations that have nothing else to do with it! And with weapons proliferation, the numbers are simply staggering. Using figures from the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation (CACN), Dreyfuss points out:

-28 weapons systems will, by themselves, cost us $44 billion.

-Missile "Defense" will cost us $11 billion a year!

-Our 2008 defense spending will be 29 times the combined spending of our most hyped potential enemies: Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

-Our "defense" budget is now exactly double that of the world's next six largest military powers: China, Russia, the U.K., France, Japan and Germany

-Our "defense" budget now accounts for about 48% of the entire world's military spending!

Of course, all this military spending isn't doing much good in actual wars. As the McClatchy Newspapers reported, in April:
A State Department report on terrorism due out next week will show a nearly 30 percent increase in terrorist attacks worldwide in 2006 to more than 14,000, almost all of the boost due to growing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. officials said Friday.
And it's not only not helping national security, it's actually hurting it! While our politicians like to claim that we're working to stop weapons proliferation, around the world, the Stockholm-based Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission concluded, on June 1:
There are even some waves of new armaments: the United States missile shield may be triggering countermeasures by China and Russia in the nuclear weapons area; and nuclear weapons with new missions may be under development in the United States and elsewhere. While the peaceful uses of space and satellites are developing at a dizzying pace, which facilitates global information exchange and communication, the most advanced military Powers are calculating how they can most effectively pursue war in this environment.
The International Herald Tribune also reported, earlier this month:
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned in an interview published Sunday that U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe would force Moscow to target its weapons against sites in Europe.

The threat, voiced in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera and other foreign media, marked one of Putin's most strident statements to date against the U.S. plans and came just days before the Russian president is to join other leaders at a Group of Eight summit in Germany.
And the CACN concluded, in March:
The proposed nuclear cooperation deal between India and the US has raised concerns that it could severely weaken the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and unravel the international non-proliferation framework by setting a dangerous precedent for single-country exceptions from the non-proliferation establishment and giving India, which is not a party to the NPT, an increased ability to produce nuclear weapons. To take effect, this agreement requires that Congress make changes to long-standing US laws and international guidelines enacted to prevent transfers of nuclear technology to states outside the NPT. Legislation to do so was recently introduced in the House and Senate.
But let's not waste time trying to imagine how we could better spend all that money, how many lives would be saved, and how much more stable we would be, in both military and geopolitical terms. Let's cut to the chase: who is benefiting? You can check the company profiles here.

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