Oratory can be nice, but budget numbers tell us where an administration is headed. In 2010, this one is marching up a steep military escalator, under the banner of “defense.” Legitimate defense would cost a mere fraction of this budget.
By autumn, the Pentagon is scheduled to have a total of 100,000 uniformed U.S. troops -- and a comparable number of private contract employees -- in Afghanistan, where the main beneficiaries are the recruiters for Afghan insurgent forces and the profiteers growing even richer under the wing of Karzai-government corruption.
After three decades of frequent carnage and extreme poverty in Afghanistan, a new influx of lethal violence is arriving via the Defense Department. That’s the cosmetically named agency in charge of sending U.S. soldiers to endure and inflict unspeakable horrors.
New waves of veterans will return home to struggle with grievous physical and emotional injuries. Without a fundamental change in the nation’s direction, they’ll be trying to resume their lives in a society ravaged by budget priorities that treat huge military spending as sacrosanct.
“At $744 billion, the military budget -- including military programs outside the Pentagon, such as the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons management -- is a budget of add-ons rather than choices,” says Miriam Pemberton at the Institute for Policy Studies. “And it makes the imbalance between spending on military vs. non-military security tools worse.”
Of course the corporate profits for military contractors are humongous.
The executive director of the National Priorities Project, Jo Comerford, offers this context: “The Obama administration has handed us the largest Pentagon budget since World War II, not including the $160 billion in war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The word “defense” is inherently self-justifying. But it begs the question: Just what is being defended?
For the United States, an epitaph on the horizon says: “We had to destroy our country in order to defend it.”
As new sequences of political horrors unfold, maybe it’s a bit too easy for writers and readers of the progressive blogosphere to remain within the politics of online denunciation. Cogent analysis and articulated outrage are necessary but insufficient. The unmet challenge is to organize widely, consistently and effectively -- against the warfare state -- on behalf of humanistic priorities.
In the process, let’s be clear. This is not a defense budget. This is a death budget.
Norman Solomon is national co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” For more information, go to: www.normansolomon.com