The Cost of Running a Global Empire / By James Quinn
Dateline: Mar 31, 2009 – 02:50 AM
Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destruction
Sorcerers of deaths construction
In the fields the bodies burning
As the war machine keeps turning
Death and hatred to mankind
Poisoning their brainwashed minds, oh lord yeah!
—Black Sabbath – War Pigs
YOU KNOW CIVILIZATION IS IN DANGER when I find more wisdom in the words of Ozzy Osbourne than in the words of any elected U.S. official. The U.S. war machine keeps turning. As we enforce our will on foreign countries, we produce more people who hate us. Just when you think the U.S. government is beginning to make sense by withdrawing troops from Iraq, they make the terrible decision to shuttle 21,000 more troops into the Afghan calamity. At a cost of $3.2 billion per month, we will throw another $38 billion down a rat hole in a country that has no vital strategic importance to the United States. Barack Obama is doing this to prove that he is a true statesman. The Soviet Union killed over 1 million Afghans, while driving another 5 million out of the country and left bankrupted and defeated after ten years. Young Americans will continue to die for who? for what? Our foreign policy during the last eight years can be summed up in one military term, SNAFU – Situation Normal All Fouled Up. These foreign interventions are a smoke screen for what is really going on in this country. When a government has unsolvable domestic problems, they try to distract the public by creating foreign conflicts. General Douglas MacArthur understood the danger.
“ I am concerned for the security of our great Nation; not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within.”
Economic Opportunity Cost
“You can’t say civilization don’t advance… in every war they kill you in a new way.” Will Rogers
Any doubt that the Military Industrial Complex is as strong as ever should be removed after examining Obama’s 2010 budget just put forth. It calls for 26% more in spending on Defense than President Bush spent in 2006. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, leaving the United States as the only remaining superpower on earth. Since 1990, the United States has depleted the U.S. Treasury of $7 trillion for spending on Defense. With no military on earth capable of challenging us why would there be a need to spend this much on the military? Over this same time frame the U.S. spent $360 billion on science, space & technology and $52 billion on energy, a mere 6% of the spending on killing machines. Military expenditures benefit humanity in no way. If these trillions had been invested by the private sector or devoted to energy and scientific research, our economy might not be a hollowed out shell dependent on China and oil exporting countries. Nationalists argue that the Defense industry employs millions and benefits the country. These companies employ brilliant engineers and scientists who spend their days developing things that kill people more efficiently. If they had been employed developing electric cars, solar power, wind power, nuclear power, an efficient electric grid, infrastructure upgrades, or finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, would the United States be better off today?
The National Debt in 1990 was $3.2 trillion. Today, it is $11 trillion. This is a 343% increase in nineteen years. What benefit has $7 trillion of spending on Defense produced for the United States or the world? In 2001, spending on Defense was 17% of total governmental spending. In 2008, Defense, Homeland Security, and war spending accounted for 26% of government spending. In the meantime, major cities have had blackouts due to an overloaded electrical grid, our 156,000 structurally deficient bridges crumble, one hundred year old water pipes burst under our streets every day, and we send $500 billion per year to foreign countries for oil. The 19 terrorist hijackers who implanted their plan with knives spent less than $500,000 to pull off their 9/11 acts of terror. The United States has spent over $1 trillion in response, without capturing the mastermind of the attacks.
You would think we must be trying to keep up with our enemies by spending $765 billion per year on the Military. But one look at the charts reveals that the United States is spending as much as the rest of the world combined. The two countries considered potential rivals, Russia and China, spent $192 billion combined in 2008. This is 27% of U.S. spending. From a foreign perspective, one must wonder why the U.S. is spending such vast quantities on our military. They can only conclude that it is for offensive intentions rather than defensive. The United States soil has not been attacked by a foreign power since December 7, 1941. Prior to that surprise attack, a foreign power hadn’t attacked the U.S. since the War of 1812. With this level of spending, our leaders feel compelled to interfere in the business of sovereign nations.
Other countries, such as China and Russia, feel they have no choice but to increase their expenditures on the military. On a percentage basis, they have more than doubled their expenditures in the last ten years, and still are a drop in the ocean compared to the American Empire spending. The fact is that the U.S. , China and Russia all have enough nuclear weapons to obliterate the world – mutually assured destruction. The United States could realistically protect itself with the 18 ballistic missile nuclear submarines that we have in commission.
The U.S. has borrowed $609 billion from China, Japan and oil exporting countries to wage a war in Iraq that was based on false pretenses. None of the terrorist hijackers on 9/11 were Iraqis, they had no links to Al Qaeda, and they had no weapons of mass destruction. Historian Barbara Tuchman described “w ar as the unfolding of miscalculations.” In 2002, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld estimated the costs of the war in the range of $50 to $60 billion, a portion of which he believed would be financed by other countries. The United States invaded Iraq to secure the 115 billion barrels of oil reserves, pure and simple. We’ve traded the blood of young Americans for oil because we chose to not develop a cohesive logical energy policy in the last 30 years. Americans, not in the military, have sacrificed nothing in the last 7 years of war. We bought SUVs, McMansions, flat screen HDTVs, Blackberrys, iPods, and Rolexes while Americans died and the cost is passed to future generations.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower
As we spend $765 billion per year on weapons, 37 million Americans live in poverty, with 46 million uninsured. There are 3 to 4 million people homeless in any given year. Military Veterans, who make up 13% of the population, account for 23% of the homeless. This is another example of government using Americans and then tossing them away like a piece of garbage. Now, with the recession deepening, tent cities of homeless are popping up across the nation. We pour billions into killing technology while American families are forced to live on the streets.
As the world spends $1.5 trillion per year on new methods of killing, millions die the old fashioned way.
- 13 million people per year die from starvation in the world.
- The FAO says that 854 million people worldwide are undernourished .
- The World Bank has estimated that there were an estimated 982 million poor people in developing countries who live on $1 a day or less.
- For the price of one missile, a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for 5 years.
- Poor nutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year–six million deaths.
- 1 child dies every 5 seconds as a result of hunger – 700 every hour – 16 000 each day – 6 million each year – 60% of all child deaths (2002-2008 estimates)
What kind of a civilized society allocates 44% of the taxes taken from its people to war? Only 2.5% of your taxes go to science, energy, and environment. Only 2.2% of your taxes go to education and jobs. With a population of 304 million, the U.S. spends $59 billion ($194 per person) annually on education. Saudi Arabia , with a population of 28 million, spends $33 billion ($1,179 per person) on education. You produce the results that you would expect from your investments. A full 15% of our population doesn’t have a high school diploma (20% of African Americans & 43% of Latinos) and only 27% have a college degree. How do we expect to lead the world in technology and research with these figures?
Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor
Time will tell on their power minds
Making war just for fun
Treating people just like pawns in chess
Wait till their judgment day comes, yeah!
Black Sabbath – War Pigs
George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld were politicians who never had the “pleasure” of coming under fire in battle. The brilliant anti-war novel Catch-22 describes these men perfectly .
“Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three.”
The world was a huge game of Risk for these men , with young Americans as the game pieces. Instead of conquering Kamchatka in a board game, these three non-veterans sent 4,261 Americans to their deaths in Iraq for a false cause. Their neo-con ideology convinced them they could change the world.
“In modern war… you will die like a dog for no good reason.” Ernest Hemingway
Another 45,583 Americans have been badly wounded in Iraq . We’ve lost 673 more Americans in Afghanistan without coming close to finding Osama bin Laden. These three disgraced politicians will now write their memoirs, raking in millions for telling lies and half truths. The 4,934 dead Americans won’t have a chance to write their memoirs. These three men will receive their reward on their judgment day.
As National Guard troops are deployed over and over again to Iraq , they must realize that Catch-22 is alive and well in today’s military.
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.” “That’s some catch, that catch-22,” he observed. “It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed
American soldiers who have completed their duty to country have been lied to and had the rules of the game changed during the game. Their politician leaders have reneged on their promises by sending men and women back to the war zone or not letting them come home on the timeline that was agreed to. Meanwhile, their families are going bankrupt, losing their houses, and seeing their marriages dissolve. Politicians started this war and are too cowardly to declare failure.
“The military don’t start wars. Politicians start wars.” William Westmoreland
Many more will die needlessly now that Barack Obama has chosen to double down in Afghanistan. Another man who has never been under fire is going to prove his manliness to other world leaders. He should study the words of former Presidents who have been under fire.
“ I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
“My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.” George Washington
President Obama follows the standard Presidential game plan and dutifully gives patriotic speeches at a military base proclaiming the bravery and sacrifice of our troops. These are the words of politicians. The brutal reality for troops is much different. Representative Ron Paul in November 2003 described the early mistreatment of our soldiers.
• Fort Stewart , Georgia, housed hundreds of injured reserve and National Guard soldiers in deplorable conditions who were forced to wait months just to see a doctor. These soldiers made huge sacrifices, leaving their families and jobs to fight in Iraq . They found themselves living in hot, crowded, unsanitary barracks and waiting far too long to see overworked doctors. This was hardly the heroes’ welcome they might have expected. Only an exposé in a major newspaper brought attention to their plight, prompting an embarrassed Defense department to rush additional doctors to the base.
• Some wounded soldiers convalescing at Walter Reed hospital in Washington were forced to pay for hospital meals from their own pockets. Other soldiers returning stateside for a two-week liberty had to buy their own airfare home from the east coast. Still others paid for desert boots, night vision goggles, and other military necessities with personal funds.
• Existing federal rules forced disabled veterans to give up their military retirement pay in order to receive VA disability benefits. This meant that every VA disability dollar paid to a veteran was deducted from his retirement pay, effectively creating a “disabled veterans tax.” No other group of federal employees is subject to this unfair standard; in every other case disability pay is viewed as distinct from standard retirement pay.
The Humvees that soldiers were forced to drive did not have enough protective armor. In December 2004, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was giving one of his usual inspirational speeches when Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278 th Regimental Combat Team, a unit that consisted mainly of reservists from the Tennessee Army National Guard asked him a question:
“Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?” Wilson asked, setting off what the AP described as “a big cheer” from his comrades in arms. Rumsfeld paused, asked Wilson to repeat the question, then finally replied, “You go to war with the army you have.” Besides, he added, “You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can be blown up.” I’m glad Donald Rumsfeld has a clear conscience. History will not be kind to this man.
Rumsfeld also sent Americans into battle without protective body armor. Only after bad publicity did the proper protection reach the troops. The blood of many dead soldiers is on Rumsfeld’s hands. While President Bush sacrificed by not golfing, terribly wounded soldiers were sent to Walter Reed Hospital to recover. Instead they entered hell on earth. Outpatient mistreatment was reported in 2004, but nothing was done. In 2004 and 2005, articles appeared in the Washington Post and in Salon interviewing First Lt. Julian Goodrum about his court martial for seeking medical care elsewhere due to poor conditions at WRAMC. A Washington Post expose in 2007 finally revealed the horrible mistreatment of our brave wounded soldiers. These reporters uncovered the following conditions:
• WRAMC’s Building 18 is described in the article as rat- and cockroach-infested, with stained carpets, cheap mattresses, and black mold, with no heat and water reported by some soldiers at the facility. The unmonitored entrance created security problems, including reports of drug dealers in front of the facility. Injured soldiers stated they are forced to “pull guard duty” to obtain a level of security.
• The typical soldier was required to file 22 documents with eight different commands – most of them off-post – to enter and exit the medical processing world, according to government investigators. Sixteen different information systems were used to process the forms, but few of them could communicate with one another. This complicated system has required some soldiers to prove they were in the Iraq War or the War in Afghanistan in order to obtain medical treatment and benefits because Walter Reed employees were unable to locate their records.
Salon recently reported about the tremendous surge in suicides by soldiers who have been pushed beyond their limits:
- Last year the Army had its highest suicide rate on record — 140 soldiers. But new data from the Army on Wednesday showed the number jumping even higher. Forty-eight soldiers have already killed themselves so far this year. If that rate keeps up, nearly 225 Army soldiers will be dead by their own hand by the end of 2009.
- Soldiers returning from long tours in Iraq or Afghanistan suffering from combat stress were sometimes met with scorn from their superiors and something bordering on neglect from some medical officials. As their largely untreated problems deteriorated, their marriages unraveled under the strain. They turned to alcohol and drugs and in some cases saw no other way out than suicide.
- Healthcare officials at various installations who are struggling to help say they’re overwhelmed by huge numbers of troops returning from two, three or even four deployments with acute mental problems from combat.
Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan — 300,000 in all — report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slightly more than half have sought treatment, according to a new RAND Corporation report. Many service members said they do not seek treatment for psychological illnesses because they fear it will harm their careers. But even among those who do seek help for PTSD or major depression, only about half receive treatment that researchers consider “minimally adequate” for their illnesses.
For all the glory and accolades of dying for Dick Cheney, enlisted soldiers make between $15,000 and $30,000 per year. The military evidently does not prepare them well for the outside world as their unemployment rate is 11.2% versus the national rate of 8.1%. A country can be measured by how well it treats its veterans. Our leaders talk a good game, but their actions prove they don’t care about the human costs of war. They are busy planning their next move in their game of Risk .
Now in darkness, world stops turning
As the war machine keeps burning
No more war pigs of the power
Hand of God has struck the hour
Day of Judgment, God is calling
On their knees, the war pigs crawling
Begging mercy for their sins
Satan, laughing, spreads his wings
All right now!
Black Sabbath – War Pigs
Omar Bradley, the last five star General in the U.S. military, was known as the “soldier’s general” during World War II. He was portrayed by Karl Malden in the movie Patton as a thoughtful man who cared about his troops. He was one of the key architects of the Normandy invasion and led the 12 th Army Group consisting of 900,000 men until the end of the war. After the war, Bradley headed the Veterans Administration for two years. He is credited with doing much to improve its health care system and with helping veterans receive their educational benefits under the G.I. Bill of Rights. He ultimately rose to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Contrast the words of the fictional Colonel Kilgore from the movie Apocalypse Now, with the words of General Bradley.
Kilgore: I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ‘em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like
[ sniffing, pondering ]
victory. Someday this war’s gonna end…
[ suddenly walks off ]
“The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.” Omar Bradley
We need men like Omar Bradley and Dwight D. Eisenhower in control of our country today. These men knew the horrors of war and didn’t act like it was a game of chess. There are brilliant men in power today. There are no wise men with a conscience in power today. Only those without a conscience are able to gain power in today’s world. General Bradley understood that morality was ultimately more important than power and strength in the progress of a country. His words are those of someone who knew we had failed in our moral duty:
“ We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.”
- Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
- Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
- Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
- Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
- Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
- Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Peacemakers are ridiculed and shunned in today’s world. Old men who care more about their own power than the human race are willing to sacrifice the blood of young people for oil, phony nationalism, strategic interests or philosophical agendas. The world is a game for these old men. They care about legacy and ideology. War and militarism are a failure of passion over reason. Albert Einstein, whose discovery brought about the age of potential world destruction, had no love for blind warriors.
“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.”
The overwhelming cost of maintaining a global empire eventually bankrupted Rome and Great Britain . Treasures were wasted, young men were needlessly sacrificed in the name of the flag, and the morality of leaders sank to unprecedented levels. The U.S. has advanced financially and technologically, but continues to decline morally. How far will we decline before the American people revolt?
I’m reminded of the movie Planet of the Apes. The apes are divided into a strict class system: the gorillas as police, military, and hunters; the orangutans as administrators, politicians and lawyers; and the chimpanzees as intellectuals and scientists. Humans, who cannot talk, are considered feral vermin and are hunted and used for scientific experimentation. The United States is now in the control of gorillas and orangutans. If we continue down the current path of financial and moral decay, allowing the Military Industrial Complex and corrupt leaders to push us into further world conflicts we will experience the shock and horror that George Taylor, played by Charlton Heston, displayed in the final scene of Planet of the Apes .
George Taylor: Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it.
[ screaming ]
You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Quinn is a senior director of strategic planning for a major university. James has held financial positions with a retailer, homebuilder and university in his 22-year career. Those positions included treasurer, controller, and head of strategic planning. He is married with three boys and is writing these articles because he cares about their future. He earned a BS in accounting from Drexel University and an MBA from Villanova University. He is a certified public accountant and a certified cash manager.
These articles reflect the personal views of James Quinn. They do not necessarily represent the views of his employer, and are not sponsored or endorsed by his employer.
© 2009 Copyright James Quinn – All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.