The Reduction Of The U.S. Military Budget

"The Pentagon, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, taken from an airplane in January 2008." Picture by David B. Gleason, Wikimedia Commons (CC_BY-SA_2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en
“The Pentagon, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, taken from an airplane in January 2008.” Picture by David B. Gleason, Wikimedia Commons (CC_BY-SA_2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

In late February 2014, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the Pentagon would reduce the size of the United States Army “to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets,” according to the New York Times. The current spending proposal, Pentagon officials say, seeks to “aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001.” In other words, there will be a reduction of the military budget.

However, there are two areas given special attention: Special Operations forces and cyberwarfare. The latter point has been unmistakably underscored through the Snowden leaks since last summer. U.S. aircraft carriers will remain at 11.

As it seems, the future of war will continue to involve special forces, drones, and hacking, not the mass armies of World War Two.

But any reduction of the military budget will prompt those working in the interest of the military-industrial complex to cry wolf.

For instance, war criminal former Vice President Dick Cheney. In an interview with Fox News, Cheney claimed that the real reason President Barack Obama wanted to cut the defense budget was because “he would rather spend money on food stamps.”

Do you remember the phrase “food stamp president”? It was used by Newt Gingrich in 2012. Some explanations from the Christian Science Monitor, NPR, CNNMoney, and the Economist.

Here is a quick reminder about the U.S. military budget:

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS),

[t]he United States remained by far the world’s biggest defence spender in 2013, with a budget of $600.4 billion, [. . .] followed by China ($112.2 billion), Russia ($68.2 billion) and Saudi Arabia ($59.6 billion).

Infographic from the AFP (2014) (via Digital Journal)

Here is an older infographic from 2010 (via the Guardian)

If you look at the data, you cannot help but think that the notion that cutting back on the military budget to some extent would render the U.S. militarily incapable is pure propaganda. The magnitude by which U.S. military spending currently trumps all other states in the world is just so vast.

Finally, another point why it might be worth considering to reduce some military spending is that there is some serious waste going on in the Pentagon.

Read more:

President Obama and the defense budget: a factoid that falls short.” (, Washington Post, 2012/01/12)  – Comparing military spending is fuzzy, but nevertheless the U.S. leads, Glenn Kessler shows.

Does America Spend More Than Next 10 Nations Combined on Defense?” (James Joyner, Outside the Beltway, 2012/01/12) – Joyner comments on Kessler’s criticism and concludes that “[the U.S.] and our allies absolutely dwarf and potential foe in military power.”

 

 

 

Reuters: Pentagon Has “Lost” $8.5 Trillion Of Taxpayer Money Since 1996

Reuters: The Pentagon has “lost” $8.5 trillion of taxpayer money since 1996

"The Pentagon, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, taken from an airplane in January 2008." Picture by David B. Gleason, Wikimedia Commons (CC_BY-SA_2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en
“The Pentagon, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, taken from an airplane in January 2008.” Picture by David B. Gleason, Wikimedia Commons (CC_BY-SA_2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

An often-repeated mantra in American politics, mostly (but not exclusively) coming from Republicans, is that the U.S. government should stop “wasting” the hard-earned tax dollars of its citizens.

Usually the proposed solution in Washington then involves some cuts to social programs that disproportionately affect the poor and middle classes. Examples of this modus operandi are cuts to food stamp programs as earlier in 2013.

One department to spend it all

But there is one institution that, according to the mainstream consensus in both the GOP and the Democratic Party, can never have enough funding: the Department of Defense.

Despite the fact that the official military spending of the U.S. unmistakably dwarves that of all other potential rival nations, i.e. China and Russia, lobbyists from defense contractors and the politicians who cannot wait to enter the revolving door after retiring from politics would have the American public believe that unless military spending increases, or is at least kept at its current level, the terrorists and communists might invade Kansas next week.

Don’t audit me, bro!

According to an investigative report by Reuters, the Pentagon cannot account for $8.5 trillion in military spending since 1996. That money is gone and supposedly nobody knows where it went.

Just in case you wonder: In 1996, a law was passed by Congress to audit the Pentagon. But the Pentagon never complied.

Just let that sink in. It is not hundreds of thousand of dollars. It’s not millions of dollars. It’s $8.5 trillion!

My hunch is that if one were to look for “wasteful government bureaucracies,” the DoD would be an excellent place to start.

Read more:

[Video + Article] “Want to Cut Government Waste? Find the $8.5 Trillion the Pentagon Can’t Account For.” (Lauren, Lyster, Daily Ticker, Yahoo Finance, 2013/11/25)

 

German Universities Take Pentagon Cash For Military Research

German Universities Take Pentagon Cash For Military Research

The entanglement of Germany in America’s so-called Global War On Terrorism is happening within academia.

CREECH AFB, Nev. -- A MQ-9 Reaper flies above Creech AFB during a local training mission here. The 42nd Attack Squadron currently operates the MQ-9. 7 August 2008. http://www.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/090609-F-0000M-777.JPG | U.S. Air Force photo by Paul Ridgeway. This image or file is a work of a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image or file is in the public domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MQ-9_Reaper_-_090609-F-0000M-777.JPG
CREECH AFB, Nev. — A MQ-9 Reaper flies above Creech AFB during a local training mission here. The 42nd Attack Squadron currently operates the MQ-9. 7 August 2008. http://www.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/090609-F-0000M-777.JPG | U.S. Air Force photo by Paul Ridgeway. This image or file is a work of a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image or file is in the public domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MQ-9_Reaper_-_090609-F-0000M-777.JPG

As the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reports (via thelocal.de), twenty-two German universities and research institutes have been taking more than €10 Mio. in research grants from the Pentagon since 2000.

Investigative reporting by the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) has found that while some Pentagon funding is going into basic research, a part is directed into military-related research projects. The Federation of German Scientists criticizes military research as unethical.

Among the universities that have accepted Pentagon funding are

  • University of Bremen
  • LMU Munich (military explosives)
  • Fraunhofer society (bullet-proof glass, explosives)
  • University of Marburg (navigation systems for drones and “steered munitions”

The wider German public has been rather critical of America’s wars since 2001, especially the invasion of Iraq under false pretences and the ongoing drone campaigns that terrorize civilian populations through so-called signature strikes.

Read more:

German universities use Pentagon research cash.” (Hannah Cleaver, The Local, 2013-11-25)

In German:

Geheimer Krieg: US-Militär finanziert deutsche Forscher.” (Süddeutsche.de, 25.11.2013)

Mehr zu den Recherchen der Süddeutschen Zeitung und des NDR in meinem Post hier.

 

Guardian and BBC Arabic Reveal Pentagon Involvement In Iraqi Torture Centers

An Investigation By The Guardian and BBC Arabic Reveals Pentagon Involvement In Iraqi Torture Centers.

The abyss of US military involvement in torture in Iraq widens. According to a report by the Guardian and BBC Arabic, top US military brass was well-informed about Iraqi torture centers.

The expert for the dirty work: An ex-special forces organizer of deaths squads in El Salvador in the 1980s

The Pentagon brought Colonel James Steele to Iraq. “Who is this man?” you ask. Steele is a special forces veteran who spent his time in the US military, among other things, setting up right-wing death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s.

In Iraq, according to the report, Steele organized setting up Iraqi torture centers for detainees of the insurgency.

Petraeus knew about torture

Another top military advisor, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked together with Steele in the detention centers and—this is where it gets interesting—reported directly to General Petraeus.

It follows that Petraeus knew exactly what kind of abuse was going on, and let it happen.

WikiLeaks as threat to the official war narrative

The Guardian’s report is in part based on material that was leaked to WikiLeaks. It is not hard to see why the Justice Department is currently attempting to make an example of Bradley Manning and get their hands on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

As the dirtiest secrets of the Iraq war are revealed, the liberation narrative begins to unravel. Top military officials stand embarrassed, for they have been caught red-handed as ruthless condoners of torture. But as the maintenance of the facade of democratic values is elementary in order to win the home front, whistleblowers are quickly declared enemies of the state.

‘We’ are becoming ‘them’: Torture poisons our democracies

Reading the details on the practices in the Iraqi torture centers is frankly disturbing. It is all the more disgusting to learn that ‘we,’ i.e. the ‘West,’ and US military officials at the highest levels in particular, were completely fine with this.

It does not take much to realize the unbearable hypocrisy of it all. Not only is torture morally wrong, it is also ineffective, because victims will say anything to make their suffering stop.

Here in Europe, we have the best historic example of this: witch hunts in early modern times. Tortured victims would accuse neighbors or others they did not like of being witches just to save themselves. But that is besides the point.

If in this century’s ‘war on terrorism’ realpolitik prevails über alles, then the line between ‘them,’ the maligned autocratic rogue states, and ‘us,’ the liberal democratic West, becomes thinner and blurry to the point of being barely distinguishable.

And if we are not watchful, there might come a day when the next Mubarak or al-Assad has a more familiar-sounding name and speaks our own language. But then it will be too late.

Neocons, I beg to differ

Here is where I disagree with the neoconservative world view behind the Iraq war: I do not think that the end always justifies the means. And I doubt that the end of fighting terrorism can be achieved by becoming torturers, or having detainees tortured by proxy.

As for building a democracy, I am skeptical about how torture prisons constitute a solid foundation in this regard. But then again, the attachment of the neoconservative architects of the Iraq war to democratic values is questionable.

Torture enablers should be in prison

I do not know at which point the George W. Bushes, the Dick Cheneys, the John Yoos, the Donald Rumsfelds, or the David Petraeuses of the world became attached to this kind of amoral thinking, but when you read what is now publicly accessible, these men were not at all troubled by deploying torture and constructing a legal framework to make it seem legit. To the contrary. But torture is still wrong.

And to the big disgrace of the Obama administration and the Holder Justice Department, which I put high hopes in, none of these crimes had any consequences for the perpetrators.

In an ideal world, all of those who enabled the torture regime, including European government officials, would spend the rest of their days in prison for crimes against humanity. Call me naive, but not to speak up against this evil would make me an accomplice.

Read more:

Revealed: Pentagon’s link to Iraqi torture centres.” (, , and , Guardian, 2013/03/06)