05
Jan
10

All these wars: some questions

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How quaint! We once had to pay for wars

Who among us has the time, or indeed the inclination, to pore over the myriad (and I think deliberately obtuse) reports in the major media outlets about our five, count ’em, FIVE fronts in the glorious global war on terror? Tom Englehardt does, thank God! In The Year of the Assassin, Englehart and Nick Turse ponder ten pretty fricking important questions about the coming year for America and its multiple battle fronts, so bizarrely disconnected from daily life in the homeland.

We, of course, think of ourselves as something like the peaceable kingdom.  After all, the shock of September 11, 2001 was that “war” came to “the homeland,” a mighty blow delivered against the very symbols of our economic, military, and — had Flight 93 not gone down in a field in Pennsylvania — political power.

Since that day, however, war has been a stranger in our land.  With the rarest of exceptions, like Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan’s massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, this country has remained a world without war or any kind of mobilization for war.  No other major terrorist attacks, not even victory gardens, scrap-metal collecting, or rationing.  And certainly no war tax to pay for our post-9/11 trillion-dollar “expeditionary forces” sent into battle abroad….

Although our country delivers war regularly to distant lands in the name of our “safety,” we don’t really consider ourselves at war (despite the endless talk of “supporting our troops”), and the money that has simply poured into Pentagon coffers, and then into weaponry and conflicts is, with rare exceptions, never linked to economic distress in this country.  And yet, if we are no nation of warriors, from the point of view of the rest of the world we are certainly the planet’s foremost war-makers.  If money talks, then war may be what we care most about as a society and fund above all else, with the least possible discussion or debate.

The article really deserves to be read in full, but I’ll just offer an excerpt from the first question, “1. How busted will the largest defense budget in history be in 2010?”:

If you want to put a finger to the winds of war in 2010, keep your eye on something else not included in that budget: the Obama administration’s upcoming supplemental funding request for the Afghan surge. In his West Point speech announcing his surge decision, the president spoke of sending 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan in 2010 at a cost of $30 billion. In news reports, that figure quickly morphed into “$30-$40 billion,” none of it in the just-passed Pentagon budget. To fund his widening war, sometime in the first months of the New Year, the president will have to submit a supplemental budget to Congress — something the Bush administration did repeatedly to pay for George W.’s wars, and something this president, while still a candidate, swore he wouldn’t do. Nonetheless, it will happen. So keep your eye on that $30 billion figure. Even that distinctly low-ball number is going to cause discomfort and opposition in the president’s party — and yet there’s no way it will fully fund this year’s striking escalation of the war. The question is: How high will it go or, if the president doesn’t dare ask this Congress for more all at once, how will the extra funds be found? Keep your eye out, then, for hints of future supplemental budgets, because fighting the Afghan War (forget Iraq) over the next decade could prove a near trillion-dollar prospect.

Ethics, tactics, drones, counterterrorism (“which is just terrorism put in uniform and given an anodyne name”). We should all be up to speed on each of these subjects, and there should be a ferocious debate in our media and Congress. Fat chance.  Last week, a truly horrible story surfaced and was pretty much ignored by our major news outlets. “The occupied government of Afghanistan and the United Nations have both concluded that U.S.-led troops recently dragged eight sleeping children out of their beds, handcuffed some of them, and shot them all dead.”

Really, you’d think there would be more of a fuss…..

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