Is The Military-Industrial Complex A Trillion Dollar Bonus To The Rich? You Betcha!

Ed Raymond

North Dakota lost two good men in a bad war a couple of weeks ago. We have 1,100 military bases scattered around the world in very hot and very cold places just daring our “enemies” to expose themselves to our influence and firepower. We have members of Congress fighting among themselves to see what new and expensive military widgets can be produced in their district, which keeps the employment up and the peaceniks down. Facts don’t seem to matter anymore—but let’s try anyway.
   The nations of the world spent over $1.7 trillion last year on national “defense.” No matter that a big share of it was actually spent on “offense,” but that’s another topic. I guess one could make the argument that firing a nuclear-tipped missile at an enemy 6,000 miles away is actually a defensive tactic because he fired an offensive nuclear-tipped missile at you from 6,000 miles away. That’s about how much sense there is in weapons procurement for defensive purposes.
   Back in 1795, when muskets fired missiles, James Madison made this observation about war: “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes... known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

When Have We
Not Been In War?

   I was born in that vintage year of 1932. In my first years, we were fighting to save rich landowners, bankers, and U.S. corporations from the ravages of the poor in such places as Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and other Latin American countries too numerous to mention. When you have a minute, read Marine General Smedley Butler’s famous statement about his illustrious career in those countries during that period.
   Then came the almost endless list in our participation in more deadly armed conflict: World War II, Korea, the very expensive Cold War with Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, the Gulf War, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Syria—and now we have bases scattered around the entire continent of Africa, just waiting to pounce on some miscreant. And such “defense” is very expensive. I would like some researcher to determine how many days we have been at war in the last 80 years compared to when no shots were fired. I think it would be an interesting number.
   The world spends $236 per person for national “defense.” We spend 41 percent of the world total of $1.7 trillion on our military. China spends 8.2 percent, Russia 4.1 percent, and the United Kingdom and France each spend 3.6 percent. There are 15 countries that spend 81 percent of the total.

The Defense Budget
Is Now The Third
Rail Of Politics

   For many years, Social Security was the third rail. No more. To hell with the disabled and old people. Suddenly the defense budget is the most important political death awaiting kooks and nuts challenging it. We have fewer military veterans in Congress than ever in our history, so to remain elected they must worship the F-35, the $22 billion nuclear aircraft carrier we are building, the $8 billion submarines, and the $150,000 personal drones with tiny bombs.

   Both President Barack Obama and his political opponent Mitt Romney insisted in the last campaign they would increase the defense budget. Romney wanted to increase the budget way beyond what the Pentagon had requested. The only person with any national clout who was against increasing military budgets was former chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen. He has said again and again that our huge national debt is the greatest threat to our national security, not the absence of weapons programs. We are living in a period when we can say to a military death in some far-off valley: “Well, he did volunteer...” Actually, most of our volunteers had the pistol of poverty in their mouths before “enlisting” or “re-upping.” They didn’t attend the Superbowls and the World Series and have the four F-15s stir the blood in a flyover before the kickoff or the first pitch. They did watch the football field-sized flags drape the entire field and the veterans with prosthetics throwing out first pitches. “Support Our Troops” is on a lot of windows and bumpers. I have done my share of marching to “Semper Fidelis” and the “Marine Corps Hymn” on various parade grounds, but the military-tinged ceremonies I see today don’t make the heart go faster. They make my gorge rise at the paper tigers stalking reality.

“The Crass Business
Of Politics And

    Aaron O’Connell, a Marine officer who teaches history at the Naval Academy and is the author of “Underdogs: The Making Of The Modern Marine Corps,” has written about the permanent militarization of America. He says his students at the Academy can’t remember a time when their country was not at war. Military ceremonies are regular parts of sporting events, and few Americans even think of the “violent activities the government undertakes in their names.” His summation of our times: “Were Eisenhower alive, he’d be aghast at our debt, deficits and still expanding military-industrial complex, and he would certainly be critical of the ‘insidious penetration of our minds’ by video game companies and television networks, the news media and the partisan pundits. With so little knowledge of what Eisenhower called ‘the lingering sadness of war’ and the ‘certain agony of the battle field,’ they have done as much as anyone to turn the hard work of national security into the crass business of politics and entertainment.”
   In his “military-industrial complex” speech, Ike talked about guns vs. butter. I have repeated the speech many times, but here we go again. This paragraph should be yelled by town criers in the offices and halls of Congress. It should be printed above congressional door portals and inscribed on all martini glasses used in D.C. fundraisers: “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. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.” (By the way, paying for a new F-35 fighter plane today would require selling 16,284,100 bushels of hard winter wheat.)

We Need Some
Are they?

   The New Yorker had a perfect cartoon about defense spending in the last issue. With a smoking city in the background filled with burning skyscrapers and branchless trees, a small group of people in tattered clothing is huddled around a small fire. One man in a torn Armani suit is saying, “Yes, the planet got destroyed. But for a beautiful moment in time we created a lot of value for shareholders.”
   In the Dec. 6 Star Tribune, Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune covers several issues in his article “Defending The World Is Bankrupting America.” First, he writes that it may be reasonable to leave 10,000 troops in Afghanistan to save it if it goes off the rails. At last estimate, it takes $1 million to keep a pair of boots on the ground in that Allah-forsaken country for a year. Multiply $1,000,000 by 10,000. Isn’t that $10 billion? What are the Republican neo-cons like Cheney, Bolton, Kagan, and John McCain thinking?

   We are paranoid about our safety. We spend more than the next 17 countries combined on our security, and of the next ten biggest spenders all are allies, except Russia and China. And what are they? Romney tried to get us to hate the Russians again by using them as boogeymen in the presidential campaign. Even the Russians were saying, “What the hell is he talking about?”And then we have some idiots proclaiming, “Of course, China with all those yellow hordes will eventually run all over us again—like they did to Dugout Doug MacArthur in Korea.” At this time, China has 1.477 million active military personnel while we have 2.285 million. We have 18,234 military aircraft, China 5,176. We have 2,384 naval units, China 972. We have 71 submarines, all nuclear; China has 63, mostly diesel. We have 15,097 major airports, China 502. We have 11 top-of-the-line aircraft carriers; China has a used one they bought from Ukraine several years ago. They have been remodeling it for years. Last week they showed a video of a jet fighter taking off from the carrier. They didn’t show the landing, which is the difficult part.
   Rumors are that China has more carriers under construction in Shanghai. Gee, I wonder if our spy satellites can pick up the keels of 1,000-ft. carriers being built. We spend about $80 billion spying on other countries. If we can’t see carriers being constructed, we had better fire the whole bunch.

The Consequences Of
Waste, Stupidity,
And Greed

   We started to develop the F-22 jet fighter in 1986 to counter a new one the Russians were planning. We had planned to build 750 F-22s to maintain air superiority. In the meantime, Russia imploded from disastrous five-year plans and left the world, stage right. We still planned to build 381 F-22s for some illogical reason. But the F-22 had troubles staying in the sky. All were grounded for a long time because pilots were fainting in the cockpits from lack of oxygen. Airplane manufacturers don’t do recalls like Chrysler and Toyota. If they build a pile of junk, the purchaser has to pay to fix it. We are currently paying for piles of junk.
  Familiar with the V-22 vertical take-off Marine Corps Osprey? It’s been around for years, killing Marines during tests. It has a nasty habit of being almost impossible to fly while tilting the huge propeller-rotors in the landing position. Anyone with any sense could see that a single well-placed bullet could send it spinning like a quail hit with a 10-gauge. Notice it wasn’t used to enter Pakistan to kill Bin Laden. Old, trusty helicopters were used instead. No V-22, no F-22, and no F-35 has been in combat yet.
  We are currently building 2,457 F-35s estimated to cost a total of $385 billion. Called the most advanced fighter-bomber in our history, only 20 percent of the testing has been completed! Do we build combines that can’t harvest? Computers that can’t compute? Only if they are built for the military! The F-35 has so much difficulty staying in the air that even the Pentagon procurers are calling the program “acquisition malfeasance.”

Other Little
Defense Items
We Need To Look At
** Do we really need to spend $320 million a year on military bands to stir the blood?
** In World War II, we had 12 million men under arms and 2,000 admirals and generals to lead them. Today we have 1,000 admirals and generals to lead 1.2 million eligible for combat. Is this why the Pentagon is so messed up? Do they really deserve $200,000-a-year retirements?
** We still have 28,500 troops in South Korea to defend it against North Korea, 58 years after that 38th Parallel business and the DMZ. South Korea has an economy that is 80 times North Korea’s! Anybody think South Korea might be able to protect itself?
** Should we upgrade over 400 bases in Afghanistan before we run with our tails shot off?
** We now have 60,000 troops in over 100 countries conducting “special operations.” The CIA is actually fighting “sorta kinda ” secret wars around the world. Isn’t this just asking for trouble? Since when are we the world’s cops?
** First-quarter profits for two top military contractors: Lockheed $668 million, Boeing $923 million.