jacdon at jacdon at
Thu Feb 14 21:08:54 MST 2002

The following article appears in the Feb. 15, 2002, issue of the
Mid-Hudson (N.Y.) Activist Newsletter / Action Calendar.


By Jack A. Smith

President Bush’s proposal to increase the next military budget by $48
billion in fiscal year 2003 is preposterously out of proportion to any
conceivable threat from the Al Qaeda terror network -- or all other
possible enemies in unison, for that matter.  For what purpose, then, is
he seeking the largest hike in war spending -- 14%-- since former
President Ronald Reagan’s first budget proposal in 1981 during the
height of the Cold War against the Soviet Union?

Bush is not saying, other than to suggest in his State of the Union
speech a week before the budget was unveiled Feb. 4, “We have been
offered a unique opportunity and we must not let this moment pass.”  

As a reprehensible sign of these flag-waving times, neither the
Democratic Party opposition nor the corporate mass media appear to be
making serious inquiries into precisely what “unique opportunity” all
this money is intended to seize, even though the projected $391 billion
Pentagon windfall is quite a bit larger than the defense budgets of the
next nine big spending countries combined.  It’s more than double the
war budgets of the entire European Union.  The increase alone
approximates the funding UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently said
would be required to be spent annually to reduce world poverty in half
in the next 13 years, not that such beneficence is expected to be
forthcoming in even small part from a miserly, rich Uncle Sam.

And $48 billion -- plus another $38 billion the Bush administration
seeks for “homeland defense” -- is just the beginning.  Within two
months, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says, the Pentagon will
request as yet unspecified additional billions for the current fiscal
2002 budget.  This budget of $343 billion, itself representing a 10.6%
increase of $33 billion, was signed into law less than two months ago. 
The 2003 budget, which when approved goes into effect Oct. 1, is already
considered inadequate by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen.
Richard Myers, who demands “tens of billions more.”  As it is, the Bush
administration plans to raise annual war spending to over $450 billion
by 2007, at minimum.

Bush wants the 2003 war money in two allotments -- $38 billion for
immediately earmarked purposes, and $10 billion in “war reserve” funds
for the White House to dispose of unilaterally, as the “need” arises. 
This constitutes an abrogation of legislative functions since Congress
is supposed to control such allocations.  Some Democrats, while anxious
to shovel the entire $48 billion into the Pentagon’s insatiable maw,
have paused to express unease about the possibility of abdicating
constitutional powers of the purse.  

A few Democrats, such as Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia -- a
self-described and proud war hawk -- are looking askance at Bush’s
behemoth war budget.  “I’m becoming a little nervous,” he said Jan. 23,
when Bush first announced the amount, “as I hear that we’re going to
spend more and more and more on the military.  It’s going to have to
come out of somewhere, out of somebody else’s hide.”   

Well it certainly did.  Bush’s entire $2.13 trillion 2003 budget wipes
out what was left of the surplus, skimps on programs for working people
and the poor and insists on further tax rebates and privileges for
corporations and the wealthy.  According to an editorial in the Feb. 5
New York Times, “The budget undermines ... the nation’s social safety
net and the government’s ability to carry out some of its basic
responsibilities over the next two decades.  It jeopardizes the future
of Social Security and Medicare, whose trust funds would be siphoned
away to underwrite outmoded military projects and tax reductions
favoring the rich.”

A giant share of the proposed war budget -- over $130 billion -- is
devoted to research, development and the purchase of exotic new weapons
systems, including some which earlier seemed headed for the scrapheap. 
For example, the Marine Corps will be given $2 billion for the
accident-prone V-22 Osprey aircraft.  The Navy gets $2.5 billion for the
thoroughly redundant Virginia class attack submarines.  The Army
receives $475 million for the Crusader mobile artillery system, a
howitzer experts say is too heavy for its own  good.  The list of new
weaponry also includes $5.2 billion for 23 Raptor stealth fighter
planes; $910 million for the Comanche reconnaissance helicopter fleet --
a program that keeps getting more expensive as it encounters repeated
production delays; and $8 billion as next year’s tribute to that
right-wing shibboleth, the “faith-based” national missile defense system
for which President Bush broke the ABM treaty -- a program that will
cost about $240 billion if they can ever get it to work.

Commenting on the war budget, economist Paul Krugman wrote in his New
York Times column Feb. 5 that “the military buildup seems to have little
to do with the actual threat, unless you think that Al Qaeda’s next move
will be a frontal assault by several heavy armored divisions,  We
non-defense experts are a bit puzzled about why an attack by maniacs
with box-cutters justifies spending $15 billion on 70-ton artillery
pieces, or developing three different advanced fighters .... The
administration’s new motto seems to be, ‘leave no defense contractor
behind.’”  With the new budget, stock prices in the “defense” industry 
-- already up 20-30% since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, while the rest
of the market is falling or flat -- should produce record gains for the
war profiteers. Viewing the extraordinary size of U.S. war budgets in
recent years, Eugene Carroll, the retired Navy admiral who heads the
Center for Defense Information, aptly commented, “For 45 years of the
Cold War we were in an arms race with the Soviet Union.  Now it appears
we are in an arms race with ourselves.”

Two other factors are implicit in this latest bloating of an already
obese war budget.  The administration is counting on excessive military
spending (along with more tax reductions for the rich), as opposed to
public works and other stimuli that might benefit workers, to help spend
the country out of the recession.  Investment in armaments creates fewer
jobs and less socially useful goods than in more people-oriented sectors
of the economy, but to do so would violate sacred conservative
doctrine.  Also, Bush’s budget suggests he wants to emulate the 12-year
practice of the Reagan-Bush administrations by spending so much on the
military there was nothing left over for social programs, which was the
intention.  The following  Clinton administration then devoted so much
of its boom-time surplus to paying off the huge deficits left by this
reckless spending that, once again, very little remained for the
people.  Now the cycle appears to be starting once again.

In first proposing funding for “homeland security” in a White House
meeting of mayors Jan. 24, Bush resorted to his usual tactic of
cultivating a sense of fear and hyper-patriotism in his audience. 
“We’re still under attack,” he warned, as though the bombs would fall
any minute.  “They still want  to come after us.  These are evil people
that are relentless in their desire to hurt those who live in freedom.” 
The $38 billion the administration seeks is double the amount of
previous spending on domestic defense.  Some $3.5 billion of the new
money will go to police, fire and medical workers to prepare for future
terror attacks.  Over $10 billion is headed to the Immigration and
Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol.  The Interior Department
will receive nearly $900 million to strengthen security in parks and at
monuments.   The Agriculture Department gets about $150 million to
protect the food supply from bio-terrorism.  The remainder is for
inter-agency intelligence sharing, beefing up transportation safety, and
other security measures.  

In addition, the Pentagon requests greater authority to increase its
role in “domestic defense,” it was reported Jan. 27.  The military
advocates a new command presided over by a four-star general, in place
of several different existing commands, to coordinate Air Force planes
on surveillance over the country, Navy and Coast Guard ships along the
coasts, and Army and National Guard troops stationed in transportation
hubs and strategic locations within the U.S. Heretofore there has been
reluctance to grant the military permission to deploy troops in the
nation’s cities going back to the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act.

It should be fairly obvious by now that President Bush’s war on
terrorism has become a pretext for pursuing the conservative
administration’s strategic worldwide military, economic and political
objectives.    This vast increase in defense spending for major weapons
systems, so absurdly inappropriate for the expressed mission of
eliminating a relatively small organization of fanatical suicide
terrorists, is but a symptom of Bush’s dangerous intentions.

Other symptoms abound.  For instance, there’s  the administration’s
consistent exaggeration of the threat confronting average citizens in
the aftermath of the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, and
its continual invocation of patriotic and martial themes. The purpose is
to galvanize the American people into lock-step behind a combination
Commander-in-Chief /Wrathful Savior intent on avenging the tragic deaths
of some 3,069 people with a vaguely defined, endless series of wars over
years and decades against people largely innocent of complicity in the
attacks.   The war against Afghanistan was just target number one.  Now
Bush has concocted an “Axis of Evil,” composed of Iraq, Iran, and the
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with which to frighten the
population.  This time he time he has resorted to  fabrications about
the ability of these three countries, which have no connection to Sept.
11,  to construct and deliver weapons of mass destruction.  Iraq in
particular is being singled out for one of Bush’s promised wars against
terrorism. There were several indications from the White House this week
that the U.S. will attack this country, possibly in time for the Fall
congressional elections.  An estimated 50 or more countries are included
within Washington’s definition of exporting terrorism or harboring

Another symptom is the Bush administration’s refusal to acknowledge the 
root causes of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, such as Washington’s
one-sided support of Israel against the legitimate aspirations of the
Palestinian people; the sanctions against Iraq which have killed well
over a million civilians during the last decade;  U.S. support for
right-wing satellite regimes throughout the region, and its subversion
of governments which refuse to approach the White House on bended knee;
the crushing poverty amidst plenty that results from American
domination; and the Pentagon’s overwhelming presence in the Middle East
and now Central Asia.

Question: What, then, is Bush really up to?  Answer: He wants as much as
he can possibly extract from the Sept. 11 episode that will advance the
right-wing political and ideological agenda and his own electoral and
class fortunes.  Here are three big objectives that President Bush and
his top associates hope the continual war on terrorism will secure for
them over the next several years:

Objective 1.  The election of more Republicans to Congress in November
and reasserting control of the Senate, followed two years later by the
president’s own reelection. Bush is painfully aware how close he came to
losing the last election and how his father was turned out of office
after he ended a war that made him popular.   If the White House can
keep the wars going, Bush will partially neutralize a Democratic
opposition that salutes whenever he hoists the battle flag, and retain
the high popularity associated with a successful wartime presidency.

Objective 2. The expansion of U.S. military power throughout the world
by constructing an utterly overwhelming force capable of swiftly
accessing every corner of the globe with armaments suitable for the
circumstances and the terrain.  The Afghan adventure was quite
profitable in this regard.  While buying off the usually squabbling
warlords to do the actual fighting, the Pentagon (1) obtained an easy
victory with which to intimidate future foes, and won Bush sufficient
public support to launch more wars; (2) got to test an entirely new
array of futuristic weaponry; and (3) succeeded in establishing
permanent military bases in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the former Soviet
republics of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.   This latter advances the
forward projection of U.S. power into Central Asia in two important
ways.  First, it situates American troops and weapons at the very
underbelly of Russia, not to mention the prized oil and gas deposits in
the Caspian region.  Second, U.S. bases are now within slingshot
distance of western China which, despite the State Department’s language
of détente, is actually viewed as the potential target of a major war in
future decades. Thanks to the war on terrorism, Bush will now be able to
build a military machine that further subordinates its allies and
confines them to the peripheries of mutual decision-making.  Bush and
Rumsfeld both have recently indicated that allies are no longer of prime
importance. This will enable Washington to act unilaterally whenever it
wishes if allies differ with White House dictates on important issues.

Objective 3.  Now that it has become not only the world’s wealthiest
society but the only superpower -- so mighty it can break treaties at
whim,  scoff at the United Nations, and constantly punish small, poor
countries for this or that act of insubordination -- the United States
has set about to consolidate a post-Soviet empire of a new type.  Such
an empire, in the hands of a state possessing extraordinary
technological supremacy and the ability to deliver missiles and bombs
any place it chooses by remote control, puts those of Roman or British
vintage to shame. America’s empire is the world as cornucopia, filled
with abundant raw materials for the taking; a limitless supply of cheap
labor throughout a developing world with billions of poor, oppressed
people;  “free” markets wherever its multinational businesses venture to
exploit and profit;  “free” trade agreements which cheat the workers
into poverty and early graves, always favoring the U.S. banks and
corporations over the locals, and whenever possible over foreign
capitalist competition as well; and ever-flowing pipelines of petroleum
and natural gas from around the world.   And in the “homeland,” so
secure despite the hysteria, it is oh-so democratic and so culturally
cool, with a population largely manipulated by an education system
beholden to the prevailing economic powers, and a “free” press owned by
media conglomerates that impose their big-business ideology on
everything they purvey; a happy land of opportunity for those with
dollars stuffing their pockets,  but where so many workers are underpaid
and have to put in too many hours, with millions of poor children and 43
million citizens without medical care, and 31 million souls who to one
degree or another are hungry, where there are 2.5 million millionaires
and 298 billionaires, and where everyone is equal except when they are
of color or without much money.

It is to maintain and extend this empire of empires that George W. Bush
and his right-wing cohorts contrive to transform the heartbreak and fear
induced in the people of the United States by the events of Sept. 11
into the mandate for militarism implicit in the new defense budget under
the guise of a war on terrorism.

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