“WAR is a racket. It always has been.”
-- Major General Smedley Butler
Rarely discussed is how the endless war on terror requires a permanent war economy, with taxpayers subsidizing the military industry at the expense of domestic social programs and global security. In 2000, for example, the US military budget was roughly $289 billion, but the administration's military budget request for 2007 has soared to $462.7 -- and that doesn't even include funding for military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The term "permanent war economy" was coined in the mid-1940s by the former CEO of a General Electric subsidiary, who called for increased subsidies and corporate control over the military industry. But this administration has taken the collusion of war and societal restructuring to new and dangerous levels.
Quickly after becoming president, for example, Bush rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty forbidding nuclear-test explosions, thus encouraging other holdouts (such as North Korea) to use US intransigence as justification for building up their own nuclear-weapon programs. He withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, requesting billions for a boondoggle missile "defense" program instead. He abandoned the Biological Weapon Convention draft Protocol which bans the development and use of biological weapons, and he balked at an international agreement to limit the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. Bush also ignored the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by repealing the ban on low-yield nuclear weapons and pumping funding into nuclear weapons programs.
Just last week, the administration rejected future arms-control agreements for outer space, and even more glaringly, the US became the only country in the United Nations General Assembly to vote against a global Arms Trade Treaty. A full 139 countries voted for the Treaty, aimed at limiting weapons transfers to conflict areas and keeping weapons out of the hands of major human rights abusers. Scandalously, only the US voted against it.
Bush's rejection of arms control agreements and heavy funding of domestic weapons programs has been exacerbated by a stunning lack of regulatory controls. Just a few examples:
* A federal report released last month revealed that the US military has not properly tracked almost half a million weapons (ranging from rocket-propelled grenade launchers to machine guns to sniper rifles) meant for Iraqi security forces; it can be assumed that at least some of those weapons were subsequently used against US forces.
* The Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee reported missing 200 keys to protected areas in 2004. This discovery followed reports of missing master keys in both the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
* The same year, news surfaced that security personnel guarding the nation's nuclear stockpiles, including tons of enriched uranium at Y-12, had been cheating on their antiterrorism drills. An Energy Department investigation discovered that contract security guards at the Y-12 plant had been given access to computer models of antiterrorism drill strikes in advance, thus rendering the tests useless.
* In July 2004, all classified work at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico was temporarily stopped due to a security breach; two "removable data storage devices" with top-secret information couldn't be located." Arguably even more troubling, in June 2006, it was revealed that the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) database had been hacked and the personal records of at least 1,500 employees and contractors stolen. The NNSA amazingly took over seven months to report the theft to the Energy Department.
Sloppiness in weapons oversight is just one result of the Bush administration's war-based economy; a ravaged domestic budget is another. When Bush took office in 2001, for example, the annual surplus was $284 billion. He turned that surplus into a deficit of $248 billion by 2006, a staggering loss of over $530 billion in five short years.
And more tough times are ahead. Analysts warn that the US economy is heading for a "correction" in the winter (i.e. post-election nosedive), due to a variety of factors including out-of-control military spending, an unsustainable housing bubble, Asian lenders increasingly eager to dump US assets, and the Bush administration's inclination to stop propping up the economy if the resulting downturn can be blamed on the Democrats come 2008.
Yet few politicians are addressing these bread-and-butter issues. So before you head to the polls next week, make sure that your preferred candidates understand the dangers of perpetuating Bush's permanent war economy - your financial future, if not your life, may depend on it.
1. Read Major General Smedley Butler's 1935 classic "War Is a Racket"
2. Learn about Cracking Down on War Profiteering and ending the Culture of Corruption in Government Contracting at the Corporate Policy site. Find out which industries fund your congressional candidates at Open Secrets.
3. Learn more about the arms trade and military expenditure at Global Issues. An excerpt from fiscal year 2005:
* The US military budget was almost 29 times as large as the combined spending of the six "rogue" states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) who spent $14.65 billion.
* The United States and its close allies accounted for some two thirds to three-quarters of all military spending, depending on who you count as close allies (typically NATO countries, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and South Korea).
Heather Wokusch is a freelance writer and author of the two-volume series The Progressives' Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a Difference Now. This article is partially excerpted from Volume I. For more Action Ideas or to learn more about The Progressives' Handbook series, visit www.progressiveshandbook.com. Heather can also be reached via www.heatherwokusch.com.
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