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War Budget Is Here-- Will Ro Khanna Be The Only One To Stand Up To The Military Industrial Complex?


"Der Krieg" by Otto Dix

Happy 4th of July. Allow me to begin the day with a poem by a German who sought refuge from Hitler in our country, the great Bertold Brecht. He wrote "General, Your Tank Is A Powerful Vehicle" in 1935. I'm not going to explain what it means because I think even someone as dense as Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert can understand what Brecht was getting at.


General, your tank is a powerful vehicle. It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men. But it has one defect: It needs a driver.


General, your bomber is powerful. But it has one defect: It needs a mechanic.


General, man is very useful. He can fly and he can kill. But he has one defect: He can think.


Even earlier (1918, the year he was killed in action), the greatest poet of World War I, Wilfred Owen, wrote "Arms And The Boy." Owen was British, heroic, talented and LGBTQ before the term was invented and when being gay was illegal. He wasn't a fan of arms merchants.


Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade

How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;

Blue with all malice, like a madman's flash;

And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.


Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-leads,

Which long to nuzzle in the hearts of lads,

Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth

Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.


For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.

There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple;

And God will grow no talons at his heels,

Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.



When the House returns from their latest recess next week, they’ll likely start dealing with the 1,200 page, $886 billion “defense” authorization bill for 2024. Last week, it was voted out of the House Armed Services Committee with by 58-1 margin. Ro Khanna was the only member to vote against it. He told his constituents that he voted against it “because it puts the Pentagon spending on track to a trillion dollar defense budget [and because] too much of that money is going to defense contractors, who are ripping off American taxpayers at every turn by raising prices to unprecedented levels. We have to stop the fraud and waste. While we should invest in defense technologies of the future, we must focus on investing in the health of our people, in the education of our people, in the industries of the future as we compete with China, and mitigating the climate crisis, which is our greatest national security threat.”


In an OpEd for MSNBC Khanna explained why he went his own way on this and why he was proud to be the sole opponent of the bill. “Americans,” he wrote, “oppose a bloated defense budget that privileges defense contractors’ profits over a modern national security strategy and investments at home. Instead, we need to prioritize a new economic patriotism that revitalizes American production and lifts up the working class. I’ve been fighting to end wasteful spending at the Pentagon since my first year in office, when I realized that the Pentagon is overcharged on almost everything it purchases. In 2017, I asked the Defense Department’s Inspector General to investigate a defense contractor called TransDigm acting as a hidden monopoly and engaging in price gouging. I then led an Oversight Committee hearing where the CEO testified and repaid $16 million to taxpayers. Fixed-price and sole-source contracts enrich defense contractors with huge profits and soaring stock prices. It’s no surprise then­­ that 56% of all discretionary spending in the next federal budget will be spent on the Pentagon. About half will go just to defense contractors. You can’t talk about reducing our national debt without talking about the defense budget."


I asked him flat out if he takes campaign contributions from defense contractors and he was very straight forward and clear: "I take no money from defense contractor companies or their lobbyists."



Khanna continued that “While this gross imbalance may have bipartisan support in Washington, Americans have other ideas. A YouGov poll for the American Friends Service Committee found that a majority want to cut to the Pentagon’s budget and reinvest the money in jobs, health care and other programs that directly improve Americans’ lives. Stopping price gouging is just one way to find massive savings in military spending. Retiring the B-1B bomber— when the B-21 can achieve the same mission— will save almost $8 billion. Extending the life of the Minuteman III ICBMs instead of developing the new GBSD missile system saves us about $30 billion.”


Lastly, we should rethink the over 800 bases overseas that are vestiges of the Cold War and ill-suited to modern challenges in the Pacific and Middle East. Even Gen. Mark Milley, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said, “I think we have too much infrastructure overseas.” Closing unnecessary bases that do not serve a strategic interest could save us tens of billions of dollars.
Ending this wasteful spending doesn’t just save taxpayers a few dollars. It frees up more money to build a 21st-century military. As Ukraine has demonstrated, new technology is having an outsized impact on the modern battlefield for a fraction of the cost. We need more investments in emerging technologies like cyber warfare, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and space. (And we need an updated procurement process to make it easier for startups and entrepreneurs to work with the DoD.)
Some will claim my vote was not a “serious” approach to foreign policy, particularly the challenges posed by Russia and China. This is false. It’s not what we spend, but how we spend it. Our highest Cold War defense budget, in today’s dollars, was just $609 billion. Was Reagan weak on defense? Certainly not, and we already spend more than twice Russia and China’s combined military budget.

The committee is pretty conservative and very much a captive of the Military Industrial Complex, specifically the defense contractors Khanna was railing against. Mike Rogers (R-AL) is the chair and Adam Smith (New Dem-WA) is the ranking member. Both reek of corruption. They take money from arms dealers. Nearly the whole committee does. Open Secrets found that “Pentagon contractors consistently contribute heavily to House Armed Services Committee members, Senate counterparts, and appropriations committee members in both chambers. The top 20 House Armed Services Committee members received almost $2.3 million from the defense sector, and 12 of those members serve in leadership roles on the committee or related subcommittees."


Eric Eikenberry of Win Without War wrote that the House Armed Services Committee voted for military contractor profits and against the climate, against parents trying to provide for their families, and against diplomacy. The fact is, voting 58 to 1 for a Pentagon funding increase of $16 billion over FY23, is a recipe for war and the slow unraveling of our social fabric. The people of the United States are dealing with real issues. Climate change, which our gas-guzzling military accelerates, causes wildfires that clog our skylines. Inflation and the looming restart of student loan payments cut into our personal and family budgets. Inequality— racial, gender, and economic— keeps many communities off-kilter and on the margins. Instead of addressing these enduring sources of insecurity, Congress decided to grease the wheels of the war machine and its profiteers. Contrast these challenges with the amendments that HASC chose to debate and adopt: hours and hours spent undermining efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the U.S. military; the promotion of the reckless and dangerous nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile to a “program of record”; pressing for a provocative and escalatory fuel blockade of China; and halting a regulation asking major defense contractors to report on their copious greenhouse gas emissions.”


Eikenberry concluded that the U.S. shouldn’t “be funding the next weapons of war when millions sleep without a roof over their heads and with empty stomachs. As the NDAA process moves to the floor, we urge members to reflect on the true needs of their constituents— not the desperate lobbyists benefiting from war and pain. Enough is enough.”


Aside from a 5.2% pay increase for service members (and increased housing allowances and quality of life allowances), there’s $300 million in new finding for the Americans efforts to bleed Russia in Ukraine and more for confronting China. The Republicans pushed through provisions limiting the Biden administration initiatives on diversity, equity and inclusion (the GOP’s war against woke). They cut funding for climate change programs, which is a big issue for military planners and for U.S. naval bases.


The extremists in the House are eager to make the debate as much about abortion as they can. Over 1,400 amendments to the bill have already been filed. Take extremist nut and untreated alcoholic Ronny Jackson (MAGAt-TX). His amendment, heavily backed by the “Freedom” Caucus, would bar the Pentagon from using any funds to pay for abortions except if the life of the mother is in danger or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. The amendment also states that “the Secretary of Defense has no legal authority to implement any policies in which funds are used for such purpose,” and the current DOD abortion policy is “therefore unlawful and must be rescinded.”


Yesterday John Bresnahan reported that McCarthy will have a tough time getting this package passed. The GOP leadership’s strategy is to get to 218 with as many Republican as they can, “figuring they can’t count on much Democratic support. And the abortion language will be part of that effort.” There will be plenty of Republicans who won’t vote for it— so they need some Democratic votes, but McCarthy doesn’t want too many. “‘[M]aximizing’ Republican backing is critical for McCarthy in the wake of the debt-limit deal with Biden. That bill passed with more Democratic votes than Republicans, which caused a furious backlash from [the extremists and nihilists]. They brought the House to a standstill and demanded fresh concessions from McCarthy. ‘We know that we have to have something on the abortion policy, to stop the payment for travel and procedures, etc., for service members to go out of state to get abortions,’ said a senior House Republican, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk about party strategy. ‘The big risk for McCarthy for any of these bills [NDAA and FY2024 appropriations] is we have more Democrats than Republicans. That’s the kiss of death.’”


Bresnahan also noted that “There are other ‘anti woke’ amendments on diversity and climate change, barring the use of federal funds to pay for gender reassignment procedures or hormone therapies and preventing anyone from using certain DOD facilities that don’t correspond with their gender at birth. A couple of amendments would restrict what flags can be flown at federal sites, including the White House.”


Marjorie Traitor Greene is agitating among other Russo-Republicans and MAGA Putinistas in the House to cut money for Ukraine in order to get them to surrender to Russia, one of MAGA's top policy goals that Trump is yet to explain to the American people.


Brian Turner is an American poet who served in Iraq. In 2005 her wrote "Here, Bullet."


If a body is what you want,

then here is bone and gristle and flesh.

Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,

the aorta’s opened valves, the leap

thought makes at the synaptic gap.

Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,

that inexorable flight, that insane puncture

into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish

what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,

here is where I complete the word you bring

hissing through the air, here is where I moan

the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering

my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have

inside of me, each twist of the round

spun deeper, because here, Bullet,

here is where the world ends, every time.





3 Comments


I say let’s have a comprehensive audit, with oversight follow through. No one knows where so much of the money goes. Into peoples pockets, for sure. Graft, overspending and waste up the wazoo. It’s insane.

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Guest
Jul 04, 2023
Replying to

and just who do you hallucinate will do that? democraps will NEVER do that.

if you want that, you have to replace democraps with a party that WILL do that.

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Guest
Jul 04, 2023

more proof of what I've been saying for decades. glossed over because... you gotta keep them dumber than shit... which also validates.


"The people of the United States are dealing with real issues."

actually, the people of this shithole have refused to deal with REAL issues for 55 years.


"That bill passed with more Democratic votes than Republicans"

It was elevated out of committee 58 - 1. even if more nazis than democraps affirmed perpetual war profiteering, a LOT of your democraps are on board. Howie, why dontcha add up all the bribes invested by war profiteers in y'all's intrepid democraps.


then I might ask all who voted for them... why? cuz this is the shithole y'all want!


leaving us…


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