•Here’s a Great Way to Reduce the Budget: Slash Outrageous U.S. Military Spending
By Victor Thorn
Leaders in Congress have shown that they don’t have the political will to decrease runaway federal spending, and no other area of the budget more clearly demonstrates this than what America spends on war. In this issue, AMERICAN FREE PRESS takes a hard look at war spending, including what taxpayers could save if Washington’s top policymakers suddenly grew spines and stood up to the military-industrial-banking complex.
Tragically, three men in the House of Representatives who have most frequently spoken out about the need to cut Pentagon expenditures will no longer be serving after next year. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) lost his bid for re-election in the 2012 Democratic primaries. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) will retire at the end of this term. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced that he plans to walk away from politics at the conclusion of 2013.
On November 7, Kucinich blasted President Obama for his continued use of drone strikes overseas.
“I expect that the Obama administration will continue their policies of drone strikes, which have killed hundreds of innocent people and have put to death, through drone strikes, thousands of individuals who were just determined to be combatants, often because they happened to be the wrong age,” he said. “This is repugnant to morality. It’s morally depraved, these drone strikes. And whether you’re a Democrat or Republican doesn’t matter. This is about what kind of human beings we are.”
During the September 12 GOP presidential debates, Paul angered the majority of his party by criticizing what he felt was wasteful spending due to rampant imperialism.
“We’re under great threat because we occupy so many countries,” Paul said. “We’re in  countries. We have 900 bases around the world. We’re going broke.”
Frank, too, bucked his party during a March interview with George Zornick of The Nation, a magazine characterized as a “flagship of the left.”
“[Obama] needs to be pressed to do more in reductions,” said Frank. “The president is for too much military spending.”
The Economist, a premier business and financial publication, recently opined that Obama has not taken serious measures to reduce war spending.
On September 5 the magazine’s editors wrote: “The cuts Barack Obama has pushed (outside of sequestration) are meager, despite what you may hear from Republicans. They are cuts to a 10-year plan that assumed annual increases. As Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute noted, ‘Over the next decade, the Pentagon’s annual base budget, which excludes most war costs, will average $517B in constant 2012 dollars, 11% higher than what Americans spent during the George W. Bush years.’ ”
Why Not Cut Foreign Military Handouts?
“The requested amount is not just the largest assistance request for Israel ever, it is the largest foreign assistance request ever in U.S. history.”
By Victor Thorn
As Congress and the White House debate tax increases and cutting much-needed tax deductions for mortgages as a way of preventing the country from plummeting over the proverbial “fiscal cliff,” an important topic has been left out: the billions in military giveaways to foreign nations. After all, why are hardworking citizens, who are pursuing the American dream, penalized while other nations receive free money in the form of missiles, rifles and bullets?
In fiscal year 2010, the U.S. forked over $6.5B in armaments to nations such as Israel, Egypt, Pakistan and others. Not included in this figure were direct expenditures for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. When bombs and weapons sent to these two countries are factored into the equation—at a total of $7.8B—overall U.S. outlays on military aid surpasses $14B.
It goes without saying that Israel was the number one recipient of American military handouts in 2010 at $2.8B. In 2011 that amount rose to $2.99B and in 2012 it topped $3B.
On February 14, the National Jewish Defense Democratic Council, an organization that “maximizes Jewish support for Democrats at federal and state levels of government,” boasted on its blog about the current administration’s dedication to preserving their security. “Underscoring his commitment to the U.S.-Israeli relationship, President Barack Obama requested a record $3.1B in military assistance to Israel for the 2013 fiscal year,” noted the council. “The requested amount is not just the largest assistance request for Israel ever, it is the largest foreign assistance request ever in U.S. history.”
A September 4 commentary by Egyptian-born Israeli-American television mogul Haim Saban casts a great deal of light on this situation: “Even though he [Obama] could have done a better job highlighting his friendship for Israel, there’s no denying that by every tangible measure, his support for Israel’s security and well-being has been rock solid.”
Peace Group Details Toll of War on Soldiers
“Since war isn’t on the nightly news anymore, it’s become more conceptual than real.”
By Victor Thorn
While in the Air Force, Mike Reid worked on conventional and nuclear weapons during his tenure as an aircraft armaments specialist. On November 29, AFP talked at length with Reid, now the executive director of Veterans for Peace, who spoke on a number of different subjects. He began: “The U.S. dwarfs other nations in terms of military spending, more than the next 13 countries combined. In fact, 20% of the federal budget goes to the Department of Defense, about the same as Social Security.”
When discussing the subject of waste, Reid drew upon firsthand knowledge.
“I personally saw perfectly good $600 Snap-On spanner wrenches thrown into the trash because Air Force training orders required that new ones were bought each year,” he said. “If you tried to take these tools out of the garbage, you’d get thrown in jail.”
Reid turned his attention to other areas where money is squandered.
“In Afghanistan, the U.S. is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on every soldier we keep there, while we pay $737M for every B-2 Spirit stealth bomber,” he said. “People can’t wrap their brains around those kinds of numbers. If you stacked the billions of dollars that we pay for a whole squadron of these bombers, it would reach higher than those aircraft can fly.”
And the costs of war include more than just those calculated in terms of dollars.
Reid brought up the case of a woman who once worked as an administrative nurse.
“Before she went to the first Gulf War,” he said, “this woman received an anti-anthrax vaccine that hadn’t been FDA approved. None of the GIs were told what had been given to them. Her life is hell.”
When asked for details, Reid elaborated: “This woman’s teeth fell out. She lost her eyesight. Her pancreas deteriorated and she has glaucoma. As a result, she can’t work but disability only covers 10% of her medical expenses. As a social worker, some days I go home crying after hearing these stories. On the other hand, these people are the fuel that keeps us going at Veterans for Peace so that we can help others.”
On the changing face of war, Reid provided these insights: “As a kid, I remember watching Walter Cronkite and the body-count ticker on TV during Vietnam. Today, war is almost like a video game, especially with the use of drone aircrafts. During missions, pilot-less drones can be made to rub out men from the air—wait for first responders to arrive on the scene—and then kill them, too. Afterward [those who remotely control the drones] turn it off and go home to their kids or buy groceries at the store with their wife. Since war isn’t on the nightly news anymore, it’s become more conceptual than real.”
On top of post-traumatic stress disorder and the sickening effects of depleted uranium, a weapons component, Reid also cited substance abuse and rampant unemployment as major problems.
“You have to remember, the average age of recruits is still 19 years old,” he said. “These kids are babies when they’re thrown into places like Afghanistan. If these guys come from the inner city and then self-medicate while in the service, once their tours of duty are over they’re war-torn and battle ready. But once they go back home there are few opportunities with the sluggish economy. It’s not like they have the safety of a dorm room. . . .”
When AFP inquired about what Veterans for Peace wanted to accomplish, Reid said, “Our number one goal is abolishing war and healing the wounds of war, plus finding other means of dealing with conflicts other than war.”
Do We Need Bases in 148 Nations?
By Victor Thorn
All countries in the world, when combined, spend a whopping $1.5T per year on their militaries. Of this total, the United States Department of Defense budget alone comprises 47%, or a staggering $707.5B. But even this figure is misleading. In 2010, military expenditures accounted for 20% of the U.S. federal budget. But since the U.S. has run annual trillion-dollar deficits over the past five years, military outlays eat up 28% of all tax revenues. If other Pentagon-related expenses are added to this sum, researchers estimate that these disbursements consume approximately 50% of all collected taxes in the U.S.
Compared to other nations, communist China ranks as the undisputed number two military spender at $129B, or about 20% of what the U.S. goes through. Russia only sets aside half of what China does for its military, followed closely by France, England and Japan. Rounding out the top ten—all of whom spend in the neighborhood of $40B—are Saudi Arabia, India, Germany and Italy.
One of the primary reasons America tops all others is its insistence on maintaining bases in as many as 148 countries. The Pentagon deploys nearly 200K active military personnel on foreign soil, though in 56 of these nations the total number of U.S. occupying soldiers is under a dozen.
Why does the U.S. have 238 troops in Diego Garcia, which some people might think is the name of a Spanish soap-opera star? Why does the Pentagon have 1,380 men living in the tiny country of Djibouti, an African nation whose main exports are live animals? And why does the Defense Department keep 1,250 troops in Belgium, a country that hasn’t declared war on anyone since 1940, and when they did, it was against only one country: Italy.
Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and author of over 30 books.