Peace Dividend? Or More Billions Transferred To The Military Industrial Complex?
Reporting for Roll Call yesterday, Andrew Clevenger wrote that it isn't expected on Capitol Hill that the disastrous collapse in Afghanistan will dramatically alter defense spending. The House is already on track to waste another $705.9 on the Pentagon. That's not fair of me. It isn't all wasted, I guess. But I bet we would be even more safe if if was slashed to, say, $200 billion. He wrote that there could be changes for the immense and unjustifiable sums the Pentagon has asked for in the next fiscal year, "but is unlikely to change the trajectory of the larger defense policy and spending bills currently under consideration in Congress. 'The most likely outcome is there’s a lot of handwringing, there’s a lot of sadness, there’s a lot of disappointment in the way things are going down in Afghanistan,' said Todd Harrison, the director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 'But it ultimately does not affect the defense authorization or appropriations process in any significant way.'"
Clevenger noted that "on the spending side, House appropriators have already approved a $705.9 billion defense bill. Senate appropriators have not yet unveiled their draft spending bill, but one could be released as soon as next month. All of this progress ahead of the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1 doesn’t mean policies and dollar amounts are set in stone for the Department of Defense, and couldn’t be altered in response to events in Afghanistan. They could still be changed in conference, as conferees reconcile the Senate and House versions of the NDAA, but Harrison doesn’t envision big changes due to the fall of Kabul. 'It’s not going to have a significant funding effect for DOD, nor will it change the focus for DOD planning or strategy, which is on near-peer competition with China and Russia,' Harrison said. 'I don’t see it changing investments in weapon systems, I don’t see it changing force structure, I don’t see it changing military personnel policy.'"
I spoke with former Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson, yesterday and he noted that "We’ve reached the point now where crude puppets of the military-industrial complex boost military spending by rattling their sabers for political gain, like Marco Rubio saying that a US occupation of Venezuela is 'always an option.' We spent basically $1 million per soldier per year during the war in Afghanistan; now that the war is over, we need to demand our 'peace dividend.'"
Most progressives would very much like to see changes-- and big ones and not just in spending, but also in the way U.S. foreign policy is formulated and weaponized.
Still, Clevenger reported that Capital Alpha Partners industrial military complex analyst Byron Callan, "wrote in a note to investors that money in the Pentagon’s fiscal 2022 budget request for Afghanistan could be repurposed for other priorities. These include $3.3 billion in aid for the Afghan Security Forces, and $14.3 billion in unspecified 'direct war requirements' that include Afghanistan, Callan noted."
Meanwhile, cash bribes to corrupt Afghan officials have been halted for now. The Wall Street Journal reported that last week-- before Ghani fled with all the cash he could stuff into his helicopter-- Biden "canceled bulk shipments [sealed pallets] of dollars headed for Afghanistan," ostensibly to keep it out of the hands of the Taliban. Who needs all the middlemen; might as well just hand it out to all the corrupt members of Congress. Jason Call is running against one of them, Washington New Dem Rick Larsen.
"The fact that ending a 20 year, trillion dollar war won't substantially reduce military spending tells a lot about the current makeup of Congress," Call told me last night, "as well as that our nation has been so heavily propagandized to our purpose as a war-driven political machine that most people can't separate America from being anything more than the dominant military superpower on earth. I mean, that is America. Love it or leave it. If you can't stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them. We protect your right to speak your commie shit...so shut up. All so uniquely...American. Unmistakable propaganda aside, bolstered by a corporate media with deep ties to weapons manufacturers and heavily reliant on the 24 hour news cycle (the more bodies, the better for ratings), we have an entire political party that is completely bought by the business of war machine, and a not-really-opposition party that is 75% bought. Nobody more so that WA-02 incumbent Rick Larsen, who has been a member of the House Armed Services Committee since he was elected in 2000. Not to understate the opportunity for war machine proclivity from one committee, Larsen also chairs the House Aviation subcommittee of Transportation, which has strong ties to Armed Services. It's hardly surprising then that Rick has taken PAC money in large and ongoing amounts from Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, and more money from the fossil fuel industry that keeps the war machine chugging along. These contributions bought approval for every NDAA since he was elected, bought votes against withdrawing from Afghanistan every time it came up, votes against withdrawing from Pakistan, votes against withdrawing from Libya, votes against withdrawal from Iraq (he even voted against setting a timetable for withdrawal), votes against requiring Congressional authorization for war in Iran... the list is almost endless with how many places in the world Rick Larsen is ok with our military dropping bombs.
"It's a cold war mentality," continued Call, "that sees no hope for world peace, but cynically sees the opportunity to maintain profit margins based on military power. Even now, on the heels of failure in Afghanistan, Rick is on a tour of Eastern Europe (Lithuania and Ukraine) seeking an escalation of US military presence! It is decidedly not the mindset that is going to see us prevent future quagmires (Venezuela? Bolivia? Cuba?) in fact Larsen's rhetoric against China seems almost eager for conflict. His corporate ties to the war machine are noted in his refusal to vote against continued funding for the failed F-35 program (an admitted failure by the Air Force itself, whose pilots refuse to fly the jet due to safety issues). Larsen also refuses to engage with anti-war constituents, going as far as to have one elderly woman arrested for peacefully protesting the Iraq War outside the building where his Bellingham office is. So that's a lot. And there's more. I'm running as the anti-imperialism candidate, having protested US military actions since I was sophomore in college over 30 years ago. As Einstein said, the problems we face won't be solved by the minds which created them. I'm not going to give Larsen enough credit to create any damn thing, but he sure perpetuates those problems, and until he's unseated he'll continue to vote against peace and against the climate (if you're on my campaign mailing list, see today's email, if not email me email@example.com and I'll get you added). Last year I signed CODEPINK's pledge to refuse war machine money. Easy enough, since I take zero corporate PAC money, but I'm more than happy to define which industries I won't be bought by (all of them)."