In the lead up to Christmas 2004, US Defense [sic] Secretary Donald Rumsfeld courageously stood before some of the troops in Kuwait to field questions. National Guard Spc. Thomas Wilson had the temerity to ask, “Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?”
It was a shame-evoking query for the war president’s defense chief. Rumsfeld responded peevishly: “You go to war with the army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
There was much negative fallout over the Rumsfeld’s lump-it declaration. But as was reported, inexplicably the number of armored Humvees increased shortly thereafter.
Approximately one month later, the money is flowing in Washington DC. The second inauguration party for President George W. Bush is set to be a whopping shindig. Monetary contributions to the party are legally uncapped, but officials of Bush have set a maximum of $250,000.
In a move designed to stultify any quibbling among taxpayers, a startling display of Bush family magnanimity unfolded. It was made known by the office of the first lady that Laura Bush would personally pay for her outfits to inaugural events.
The inauguration shindig is speculated to cost $40 million even though a little while ago there was no money to outfit Humvees with armor.
There was ostensibly not enough money either to rebuild a functioning Iraq. Electricity, strained healthcare, and lengthy queues at gas stations in oil-rich Iraq are the norm. The oddity is that what Saddam Hussein could rig together for Iraq under UN sanctions following the slaughter in 1991 is not manageable for the military hyperpower and its transnational behemoths Halliburton and Bechtel.
In the seat of empire, not everyone is well off. The US Census reported that almost 36 million Americans were in the ranks of the poor. One missed party could mean 36 million folks being a little less poor. Or it could provide coverage for some of the 45 million Americans without health insurance. Having $40 million poses the difficult choices of what to do with it.
There are some poopers out there. New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, wrote the war president to suggest that since this is wartime, perhaps the inaugural festivities should be toned down.
There are other sundry costs to factor in. DC Mayor Anthony Williams estimated that it will cost the district $17.3 million to help pay for security for the inauguration. There is the $2.8 million to spruce up the ceremonial grounds at the West Front of the Capitol. Then there is holiday pay for federal workers, street closures, beefed-up security, which put taxpayers, as assessed by the Office of Personnel Management, on the hook for another $66 million.
New boundaries for moral reprehensibility were set when the war-president Bush, who sits safely ensconced thousands of kilometers away, goaded on the Iraqi resistance while leaving US troops to scrounge through garbage heaps to armor their vehicles because of a supposed lack of funds. But Bush’s war administration can lavish tens-of-millions upon itself in an opulent outburst of vainglory. The incongruity of the spending priorities is blatant. The compelling conclusion is that merrymaking among elites supersedes the dehumanizing poverty of Americans and others, and it supersedes the strata of American society that ignorantly fills the military ranks so that the elites can party.
Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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