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Why the Huge Military Deficit?

On September 6th 2011, I listened to Diane Rehm as she interviewed former Senator George McGovern. McGovern talked about why he had written an open letter to President Obama (published in Harper's magazine, September 2011 Issue). McGovern stated:

Well, it was the fact that I watched that, what seemed to me, almost senseless debate over the national debt and the deficits and the fact that people were so negative all the way through and that not a single senator that I heard, I'm sure there were some that I didn't hear, but not one that I listened to said anything about the cause of this national debt. (http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2011-08-29/former-senator-george-mcgovern/transcript).

According to the 1972 Presidential candidate, "we're exaggerating the need for these huge military operations...I don't want to see it go unnoticed that we're still spending $700 billion a year on the military and I think that's too much."

In McGovern's view, "we've got to think of alternative ways of putting people to work, other than simply sending them into the military" (http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2011-08-29/former-senator-george-mcgovern/transcript). For instance, he cited Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes's article "True Cost of the Iraq War." They write:

But today, as the United States ends combat in Iraq, it appears that our $3 trillion estimate (which accounted for both government expenses and the war's broader impact on the U.S. economy) was, if anything, too low. For example, the cost of diagnosing, treating and compensating disabled veterans has proved higher than we expected. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/03/AR2010090302200.html)

According to Stiglitz, an award winning economist, and Bilmes, a public policy lecturer, the costs of any war go far beyond actual dollar values spent. Personally, I can't help pondering how one can weigh out factors such as spiritual corruption, national reputation, lost lives, dislocated families, disabled veterans, trauma victims, broken homes, and environmental degradation.

It is even more difficult to imagine the size of the total deficit---estimated at over ten trillion. To even grasp how much a trillion dollars is, I can only compare it with the average human lifetime of 70 years which lasts 2.2 billion seconds. An annual war budget of 500 billion divided by 365 days per year equates to about 1.37 billion spent per day.

These numbers are verifiable at various websites since it is the taxpayers' debt. One website which keeps a ticker on the numbers spent each second can be found here http://costofwar.com/en/. Other sources include "World Military Spending" by Anup Shah ( http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending ), and "Military Spending Worldwide" ( http://www.visualeconomics.com/military-spending-worldwide/).

Even when the exact figures and percentages vary, most sources revealed that since 2001, military spending has steadily increased, especially taking into consideration the fractional interest payments owed, into a trillion dollars per year all told. In fact, the United States is the biggest military spender in the world accounting for nearly half of the world's budget. The War Resisters League shows just how the numbers stack up against the bar graph: "U.S. military spending – Dept. of Defense plus nuclear weapons (in $billions) – is equal to the military spending of the next 15 countries combined" ( http://www.warresisters.org/pages/piechart.htm).

This doesn't even include the amount of waste and fraud occurring from embezzlement, poor planning, favoritism, lack of oversight and public accountability. In "Panel: Widespread waste and fraud in war spending," Richard Lardner recorded:

The bipartisan [Wartime Contracting] commission, created by Congress in 2008, estimated that at least $31 billion and as much as $60 billion has been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade due to lax oversight of contractors, poor planning, inadequate competition and corruption. "I personally believe that the number is much, much closer to $60 billion," Zakheim said.( http://news.yahoo.com/panel-widespread-waste-fraud-war-spending-053533054.html)

What is really alarming is that not only money is stolen, but also munitions of all kinds--types that can be redirected in reverse attacks, new wars, or assembling dirty bombs.

What is disappointing is that during his 2008 campaign, Senator Obama suggested in various speeches that he disapproved of the 700 billion dollars being spent by President Bush in Iraq as if he planned to reduce military spending. In fact Senator Obama's recommendation for troop withdrawals from Iraq did not amount to reductions in military spending; on the contrary, in Senator Obama's speech dated July 15th 2008 ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSSWpe79MNI), he offered a new vision for addressing terrorism by refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Could this alliance-building, with time-tables unknown, have been planned out long ago by the Pentagon?

Progressive peace activists worry that these anti-terrorist campaigns will not end our dependence upon foreign oil because the winners will be the oil conglomerates. When Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama started a new war in Libya, it also upset many independent voters. This seems diametrically opposed to Obama's campaign promise of building green partnerships to seek new ways to explore alternative energy resources.

Under what pretext will a puppet vote allow NATO (aka the US) to strike Syria? Of course the underlying motivation is for oil pipeline construction, including the oil-rich sea-beds in the Mediterranean. No one seems to care if this pushes the world into war...

My opinion is that these foreign invasions contradict this nation's earlier tradition of calling minutemen to voluntary service through consent for defensive purposes only.

Colonel Washington was a beloved hero because he was ever mindful of the people's sentiments. The Life of George Washington by Washington Irving describes the founding father as having been always ever reserved, unwilling to lead except by popular vote, and even then, he left himself at the behest of the universal good of the country.

Works Cited:

Irving, Washington. The Life of George Washington, Vol. 1. Gutenberg.org. Project Gutenberg, 2004. Web. 06 Oct. 2011.

Lardner, Richard. "Panel: Widespread waste and fraud in war spending." Yahoo News. Associated Press, 31 Aug. 2011. <http://news.yahoo.com/panel-widespread-waste-fraud-war-spending-053533054.html>. 06 Oct. 2011.

McGovern, George. Interview by Diane Rehm. The Diane Rehm Show. WAMU, Washington, 06 Sep. 2011. <http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2011-09-05/former-senator-george-mcgovern-rebroadcast/transcript> 06 Oct. 2011.

McGovern, George. "Easy Chair: A Letter to Barack Obama." Harpers.org. Harpers Magazine, Sep. 2011.  <http://harpers.org/archive/2011/09/page/0012>. 16 Oct. 2011.

"Military Spending Worldwide." Visualeconomics.com. Visual Economics, 2009. <http://www.visualeconomics.com/military-spending-worldwide/>. 06 Oct. 2011.

National Priorities Project. Cost of War. National Priorities Project, 2011. <http://costofwar.com/en/>. 06 Oct. 2011.

Obama, Barack H. "Obama delivers an address on Iraq Policy." BarackObamadot. com. YouTube, 15 Jul. 2008. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSSWpe79MNI>. 06. Oct. 2011.

Shah, Anup. "World Military Spending." Global Issues. Global Issues, 02 May 2011. <http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending>. 06 Oct. 2011.

Stiglitz, Joseph, and Linda Bilmes. "The True Cost of War in Iraq." Washington Post. Washington Post, 05 Sep. 2010. Web. 06 Oct. 2011.

War Resisters League. "Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes." Warresisters.org. WRL, 2009. <http://www.warresisters.org/pages/piechart.htm>. 06 Oct. 2011.

 ---Prepared by chriswong






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