Column: US Funds Military at Expense of Citizens
Recently, President Hope-and-Change offered the largest military budget since World War II, exceeding spending at the Cold War’s peak by 23 percent. The official 2011 budget is $708 billion, but actual military costs exceed $1 trillion. Despite this, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said a one percent reduction in military spending would be a crisis.
He needn’t fret; the White House vowed to pad the Pentagon’s budget by $100 billion over the next five years. Perhaps this raise is a reward for exemplary behavior, even though a Pentagon audit couldn’t find 95 percent of $9.1 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds – which isn’t nearly as embarrassing as the $2.3 trillion, $8,000 per citizen, the Pentagon “whoops-a-daisy” lost.
Additionally, the debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost more than $3 trillion. Invading Iraq costs about $400,000 per troop, and staying costs $12.5 billion per month. Prior to invading Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld said the war would cost about $60 billion, which was only off by a couple trillion, and claimed the war would pay for itself. This fantasy tally forgot that the Pentagon doles out death benefits that pay $500,000 per soldier. Back when the U.S. death toll in Iraq was only 4,000, this amounted to $28 billion in dead soldiers.
Steep as it is, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) budget doesn’t include all military spending. All totaled, the U.S. dumps more dough into its war machine than the rest of the world combined. Oddly, the U.S.’s nearest rival in military spending is the U.S., because the world’s second-largest military budget is the U.S. “black budget,” which runs between $56 billion and $1.1 trillion.
“Black budget” programs are hidden from taxpayers and most Congress members, which means oversight is nil – even though Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution states: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.”
Law-breaking budgets aside, empires have hefty price tags. U.S. military bases operate on every continent except Antarctica. As of 2005, the U.S. military had 737 oversea bases in more than 130 countries and 6,000 bases on U.S. turf – excluding underground bases, secret sites and U.S. bases in Britain, which are deceptively listed as Royal Air Force bases. An honest count exceeds 7,000 big-ticket bases worldwide.
But the price tag for these bases doesn’t include human costs. About 14,000 reported sexual assaults occur at these bases annually, usually unpunished, if not ignored, and sometimes resulting in rape pregnancy. And since the military forbids abortion – because killing is immoral? – soldiers must seek abortions in unfriendly foreign markets.
Along with brutalized women, the environment also suffers. Military bases are moved from fancy nations to impoverished nations, exploiting what the Pentagon calls their “more permissive environmental regulations” (i.e., lack of environmental safeguards). After barging into poor countries, the Pentagon imposes Status of Forces Agreements that relieve the U.S. of responsibility for its environmental damage.
The 2004 Defense Authorization Bill exempted the military from obeying the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This allows the Navy’s Low-Frequency Active Sonar submarine detectors to pound intense pulses that register 235 decibels, killing and injuring dolphins, whales and other sea life.
Then there’s CO2 pollution. M-1 Abrams tanks get 0.2 mile per gallon and can guzzle about 252 gallons an hour. Merely starting the tank burns 10 gallons of fuel. Currently, about 1,838 Abrams tanks regularly operate and they require a fleet of 2,000 support trucks that also drink petrol. General Paul Kern revealed that the military – i.e., taxpayer – pays a chunky $300 per gallon of fuel.
It gets worse. The USS Independence aircraft carrier blows through about 5,600 gallons an hour. Apache choppers get about 0.5 miles per gallon. F-4 Phantom Fighters inhale 1,600 gallons an hour – much less than the B-52’s 3,334 gallons per hour. Plus these aircrafts require in-flight refueling, which is provided by KC-10 aerial refueling tankers that swallow 2,050 gallons per hour.
This energy binge results in ecocide. Just in 2006, the Pentagon reported that the military spewed 28 billion tons of CO2.
When military profligacy is questioned, the Pentagon shouts: “Support our troops!” But despite its wild spending spree, the Pentagon hasn’t reimbursed soldiers for body armor and equipment that the troops purchased out of pocket since the Army wouldn’t provide it. Tightfisted Pentagon officials said reimbursement is “an unmanageable precedent that will saddle the DOD with an open-ended financial burden,” thus refusing to “Support our troops!”
In this Army where infantry aren’t given shields, no less than 5,934 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 42,673 wounded, including more than 500 amputees. The Army’s Surgeon General said the military fails to supply enough nurses and mental health specialists to treat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Army also frequently fired soldiers for having a “personality disorder” when they actually had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Soldiers who are discharged for personality disorders are denied health care and other disability benefits, since it’s considered a “pre-existing condition.” About 22,000 soldiers were discharged with “personality disorders” between 2001 and 2007.
Roughly 20 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan reported PTSD or major depression, sparking a suicide epidemic among veterans. In 2005 alone, at least 6,256 U.S. veterans committed suicide. They aren’t included in casualty figures.
One study revealed that 655,000 Iraqis have died since the U.S. invasion. Other studies count more than one million Iraqi deaths. Either way, the U.S. invasion will cause death tolls on par with the Rwandan genocide. Reliable figures for civilian deaths in Afghanistan haven’t been compiled – perhaps because, as General Tommy Franks said, “we don’t do body counts.”
As public programs are forced to tighten their belts until they become tourniquets, the Pentagon picks the public pocket. Militaries exist to protect populations, not bleed them dry. Yet the U.S. allows the Pentagon to loot the Treasury at the expense of the citizenry while it rounds-off death tolls to the nearest thousand and its debt sinks deeper than its ecological footprint.
Also see: The General Accounting Act of 1921; and The Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990