Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Trillions for Defense, But Not One Word Against It

Here’s a quote for the day from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense:

Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.

One of the principle ways in which we’re continually forced to “furnish the means by which we suffer” is defense spending, which is completely left out of Obama’s proposed spending freezes.

While we’re left bickering over what domestic programs to trim down, the US will still manage to cough up $33 billion for our troop surge in Afghanistan, as well an additional $14.2 billion over the next two years to help train Afghan army and police forces. This $14.2 billion comes on top of the $6.6 billion already allocated for that reason. And this doesn’t include the costs of the war in Iraq, and now we learn that Congress has disgorged over $1 trillion dollars for both wars since 2001 …

After a certain number of zeroes, the figures become almost too vast to contemplate. They seem meaningless, unreal. They give you that same shrinking feeling of vertigo that you experience when you look up at the stars on a clear night. But they aren’t meaningless or unreal. This utterly grotesque, utterly pointless level of military spending will, with absolute certainty, bankrupt and ruin this country. The process is well under way.

And for what reason? Allow General David Petraeus to explain. He recently sat down for an interview with the Times of London. When asked to comment about a possible timeline for our withdrawal from Afghanistan, this is what he said:

I haven’t heard of a timetable. Nor of discussions of a timetable other than of course what was in the President’s speech about beginning a transition of certain security tasks based on conditions. Conditions meaning enemy situation, Afghan Security Force capacity and capability and so forth. So what there has been focus on however has been to refine the discussion of indeed what those conditions should include, what considerations should be part of discussions about transition and indeed what transition actually means.

Over eight years and $1 trillion dollars in to this mess, and there is absolutely no end in sight. On the contrary, our resolute warriors are still quibbling about “what conditions should be part of discussions about transition, and indeed what a transition actually means.”

Every day, people die on behalf of this kind of arrogant, evasive, mealy-mouthed gibberish. I can’t think of a more heroic death, can you? And here at home, we’re spending ourselves right into the soup kitchen because of it. But it won’t be seriously discussed or debated in Washington. Heavens, no! You can’t seriously discuss reducing the military budget in Congress any more than you can discuss fellatio in church. No, Obama will only attack deficits with a scalpel — a scalpel labeled “domestic spending,” that is. He may as well use it to cut our throats, because that’s what slowly happening anyway.

We’ll hear the windbags debate, ad nauseam, about the political consequences of Obama’s budget proposals. Do the cuts go too far, or not far enough? Is it all just a political gimmick, just Kabuki Theater? Is Obama caving-in to the right, or does he need to become more conservative to win back those elusive independent voters in the center? Cokie, what does it all mean?

They’ll beat the bones of this dead horse into a fine powder, but the defense budget will scarcely be mentioned, except, maybe, as a passing afterthought. Polite society will ignore the $1 trillion dollar elephant in the house, the one devouring all the food in the kitchen, trampling the furniture, shattering the glass, knocking down the walls and bringing the fucking roof down on our heads. We’ll passively keep on furnishing the means by which we suffer. It’s totally insane.

Then again, who are we puny civilians to argue about what military expenditures are needed to decide “what considerations should be part of discussions about transition, and indeed what transition actually means” in Afghanistan? Better to stick with what we know, like cutting school budgets, laying-off teachers, reducing social services, maybe even getting rid of some of those damn national parks, and leave the big, important stuff to the experts.

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