Today, Americans walk it back, Belatedly, and too late to bring home American and Allied troops who died in battle, government officials released recordings. The media distributes and discusses these en masse. Those prominent in the Press and Public Office say “the people have the right to know,” exactly what the tale that could have been told decades ago. Osama Bin Laden was never more than human, a tragic hero, a comical character, just as you or me.
He had a home, a family. Osama sat around and watched television. This man, like any of us might, searched for recognition. He sought attention in ways that made sense to him. Osama Bin Laden had beliefs. He expressed these. Gratified, when an audience showered him with praise he did more of what yielded greater acceptance.
Bin Laden came to understand that when he spoke, people listened. Many appreciated his message. For good or bad people looked for the hidden meaning. Countries made deciphering his every word their mission. Americans and Allies invested trillions of dollars in troops, tanks, and translations all to quell the force of the man known as Osama Bin Laden.
“We did it!” Americans clamored. Some say we “captured” the man we slaughtered. People poured out onto the streets to celebrate the “mission accomplished.” We, the Americans are “victorious.” Caught off-guard while with his family, this man was assassinated, Americas rejoiced.
“Ding dong the witch is dead.” Which “witch” will be next? Might it be another average guy with ill-intent, or will powerful persons declare it is you or me? You might say that would never be, but. .
A week after the massacre, it is now revealed that the real Osama Bin Laden is but a sad and sheltered figure. Past the time when it might have helped save the lives of millions of innocent Iraqi and Afghani people, those displaced, dismembered or just dead, United States Leaders show the people that Osama bin Laden was never more than a mere mortal. We are now allowed to see that the “enemy” who the world sought and feared, is but a man. Bin Laden, scruffy in appearance, today, is cast as a megalomaniac. Americans are told he had an inflated ego. What human would not think him self significant having been given center stage?
When three Presidents, each of whom represents the most “powerful nation” on the planet, formally declares you as “Enemy Number One” might you not consider your forcefulness grand? To know these Heads of State publicly express the need to have you in their sights how can you not think that you, as an individual must be truly important? Indeed, anyone with that much command must be a force to be reckoned with. Given the floor, by those who later would execute him, Osama Bin Laden took it!
Early on, like a character in a book, Bin Laden was assigned a role. Later, when his performance was recognized a brilliant Osama became more prominent. The Actor was elevated to the stage. Broadway beware. This man mesmerizes. His skills as a speaker, a preacher, a Teacher allowed audiences’ world wide to suspend disbelief. People forgot that a man has no power beyond what we give him . . . and oh how we did. Osama Bin Laden, with our assistance became the “face of the enemy.”
He became larger than life. Feared. Jeered. “Wanted” “Dead or alive.” Osama Bin Laden was designated the enemy. Thus, this human became a faceless monster, an inhuman demon. Artists, Authors, or perchance more accurately, Administrations painted his picture for us. “He is a barbarian, an aggressor, a liar, madman, a vile animal that can be exterminated without regret. Before we make war, even before we make weapons, we make an idea of the enemy. Every society has its official image of the enemy.” For Americans and Allies it was Osama Bin Laden. Tomorrow might it be you?
On this date, May 2, 2011, my thoughts are with those who lost a loved one in war. Brutal battles cause such harm. Yet, curiously the seem never-ending. It would appear that humans forget their history. When attacked, people frequently attack back. With a loved one lost in war, or other destructive engagement, rather than relate to the pain of another who has experienced as they do or did, a pained person often seeks revenge. Combat starts a cycle; however, once commenced, it does not cease. Perchance, we might ponder the past and the people the circumstances of those who are no longer with us. Instead, today, as the headlines herald Obama Calls World ‘Safer’ After Pakistan Raid and Osama bin Laden Killed by U.S. Forces countless celebrate in glee.
This much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation,
and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.
It is the seventh day of the month, a date that now lives in infamy. On this occasion, she passed. She was killed by an attack that was all too sudden. Her physical presence on Earth did not end in the month of December 7, 1941. This year is not that one. The events at Pearl Harbor did cause my Mom’s heart to stop. Indeed, she only ceased to exist in a form that I can see with my eyes or touch with my hand, less than a decade ago. Truly, it feels as if Mommy just took her leave. Today, I think of what it must feel like to all those in the United States and Middle East who are now characterized as the dearly departed. To have lost their lives in the throws of war must be awful.
There is no time to prepare or to feel as though you had an opportunity to “properly” say your good-byes. In the instant that a loved one is brutally taken away, rarely is family there. To know that someone so special was slaughtered in battle, or was a victim of “collateral damage,” must make a family member cringe. The declaration of death must feel as a new unwanted beginning, not an end,
I know for me, in every second, Mommy is still with me. All these years later, I mourn my loss. Oh, if only I could bring her back. She enters into my dreams almost daily. Since childhood, I knew, if she were gone, I might not be able to go on. Today, on the anniversary of her bodily discorporation, I mourn, as I trust she would, the casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Israel, and anywhere that war delays, defers, or denies family time, space, and a proper setting in which to grieve.
Unreported by United States Armed Forces, the Bush Administration, or the American free press, it was estimated that since the US-led invasion began, as of September 2007, over a million Iraqis were killed. Opinion Research Business, a prominent British survey agency, approximated 1.2 million Iraqi residents violently realized a horrific conclusion to life. At times, entire families were among the fatalities, survived by only friends, and relatives who lived. That does not negate the notion, that someone, somewhere, suffered a loss when each one of those individual lives was snuffed out.
Unlike in my situation, those who loved the dearly departed Iraqis, had no warning. The persons who live to lament were not able to visit their beloved before their final breath. Opportunities to say good-bye were few, if they existed at all. The bombs blasted. The bullets pierced the delicate flesh of the persons now fallen. Survivors were left only with their sorrow. Sadly, some probably regret they could not save a cherished soul. While I might relate to that feeling, at least I know my Mom passed quietly, safely at home, in the company of those nearest and dearest. She went to her rest in peace.
In Afghanistan, the challenges are equal to those in Iraq. Homes sit snugly in a war zone. Soldiers, who are suspicious of Afghani natives, surround local communities. Troops are also found within indigenous societal circles. Weaponry is wielded. No innocent man, woman, or child is out of harm’s way. When a friend or family folk is maimed or murdered, neighbors may wish to send condolences, as those close to my Mom did. Colleagues may yearn to congregate around a casket and cry. People may seek closure. Cremations, with a chance to offer ceremonial respects, might be as is customary. Yet, again, since American and allies attacks commenced, citizens of Afghanistan cannot do as my relatives, and I had done when Mommy departed.
No one is certain how many have passed in the roughed terrain of Afghanistan. The Pentagon does not release statistics of the insurgents killed. Nor do they dare calculate the numbers of blameless civilian losses. The United States Armed Services applaud the accuracy of air strikes. American military speaks of the smart strategy.
(F)or all their precision, American bombs sometimes take out the wrong targets. As U.S. air strikes doubled from 2006 to 2007, the number of accidental civilian deaths soared, from 116 to 321, according to Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon targeting chief who tabulates civilian casualties for Human Rights Watch (HRW), an independent research group. By his count, the death toll among civilians so far this year [September 2008] is approaching 200.
The military dismisses such tallies as exaggerated, and their provenance is often murky. . . .
Whatever the tally, officials both inside and outside the U.S. military say attacks that kill civilians occur with distressing regularity; they generate headlines only when dozens die. Afghans vividly recall the July 2002 bombing of a wedding party–celebratory gunfire led to retaliation by an AC-130–that killed up to 48 civilians and wounded 117 in Oruzgan province; many were women and children.
This past July, 47 people were killed and nine wounded on their way to a wedding in eastern Afghanistan. Among the dead were 39 women and children, including the bride-to-be, Afghan authorities said.
What of the families, and friends, of those who survived? How must they reconcile the loss? Joyous, the beloved went to a celebration. Yet, they never returned. They cease to exist, taken down by a missile. How must the living feel?
For the people who were close to these sweet spirits and lived, July must be as January is for me, a reminder of what was, would have been, and will never be. The difference is, for all the persons, perhaps hundreds or thousands in Afghanistan who were touched by those who perished while at a wedding in 2002 and on their way to nuptials in 2007, they know a life was cut short by unnecessary combat. Beautiful beings were blow into oblivion.
Yet, all the while, people in the States, those who purchased and produced the deadly artillery, pay little attention to what does not affect them personally. Indeed, on this January 7, 2009, the death toll on foreign shores mounts, and many in America think that fine. As long as it is not their Mom, Dad, son, or daughter, citizens in this “civilized” country will continue to plan inaugural parties, propose to escalate combat in the Middle East, and sanction the strikes that ensue in Gaza.
Oh, some may protest. A few will state they cannot endorse the murders. Others; however, will justify the cause for they will speak of Hamas as the enemy, evil, just as they do of those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Justice is served, the American Administration will assuage, as they offer a convenient truth; terrorist must be eliminated.
In truth, as long, those who inhabit the world’s superpower do not suffer, do not experience the loss, the United States will do little to interfere, to impede, what through their dollars, and decades of support, they have endorsed.
Perchance, my Mom, today, yesterday, and forever gave me a gift that gives even when she is far away, one I wish every American might receive. Mommy taught me to empathize, to truly place my heart in the being of another. She modeled what most dare not muse.
Mommy, who never wished to hurt any one or another entity, understood how bereavement affected me. She knew; when the soul of someone is lost to this world, I ache. Hence, she stayed on Earth so that I might see her one more time, hold her hand, and say all that we might. When she knew I could, and would not regret, my Mom wished me well. “Have a good trip,” the lovely Berenice Barbara said as I left her physical presence. “You too,” I replied.
It was January 7th, a day that lives in infamy for me, and one that I trust will be tarnished for those in foreign lands who lost a loved one in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, or anywhere on this globe.
The United States Military Industrial Complex has might. General and former President Eisenhower understood this. He warned Americans. Abundant might does not make right; it only advances the notion of righteousness. Patriotism is promoted through militarism. His words fell on deaf ears. The sound was hollow in contrast to the drone of drumbeats. At the time, Americans were as they are today; dedicated to the customs we think characterize democracy.
Nationalists take up arms in the name of the greater good. Compatriots will do anything to defend and protect the principles that guide the American way of life. Patriots wave the flag and pledge allegiance to this country. Loyalists are looked upon as heroes. Soldiers voluntarily sign up for service. Troops are sent to foreign shores. Combatants fight for what citizens know is correct. Few suspect that their tax dollars pay to fund allies who are what has been defined as enemies of democracy. Headlines herald; Pakistan Aids Insurgency in Afghanistan, Reports Assert. The business of endless battles goes on as usual.
Perchance, countless citizens surmise, only Presidents past and present, know the secrets that necessitate endless engagements. Confidential papers might provide clues to the American practice; today’s US-armed ally will be tomorrow’s enemy., A few question group-faith. Individuals inquire, why might this war or that be deemed “absolutely essential.” Most are satisfied with each Administrations answers. Indeed, Americans accept as General Eisenhower espoused. Money moves us to war.
Millions more are spent by and on mercenaries. Billions are paid to private industries that produce weaponry. Worldwide, economies whirl on with thanks to the war machine. Whistleblowers are silenced. When documents are leaked, the persons who snitched are sought out. Presumably, dissent will be punished by the law. Prosperity and profits, people’s livelihoods are dependent on the illusion the Military Industrial Complex has created.
So, strike up the band. March on and march forward. Follow in lockstep, or follow the leaders history has left behind. Ponder a time, when the marketplace will not dictate doctrines and military deeds, a democratic system not defined by deliverance, liberation, or occupations. Think to pursue a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and provide for the common defense. Henceforth, let us promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. Endless engagements need not be recognized as ideal.
So please. Pursue peace. Promote peaceful negotiations. Develop the power of diplomacy. Move On. Progress. Speak out as President Eisenhower did! Do not allow your voice to be muffled!! En masse, the people can be the absolute power!
Please ponder this petition or its origin, and the reason for its revival. Reflect upon prose penned by Major General Smedley D. Butler. If you choose pen your signature .
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war, a few people make huge fortunes.
For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.
~ by Two-Time Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient
Major General Smedley D. Butler, USMC Retired
References for a Military Industrial Complex reality . . .
The damage done, affects us all economically. Years of war have done nothing to further education, enrich, or protect the environment. Indeed, endless battles have destroyed any sense of balance or betterment. Ethically, hostilities in the Middle East have helped to erode societal standards. Might we ask; what have we taught our children? How to waste money . . . that human lives are but waste . . . that their elders think funds and a focus on education are a waste, or that ethical standards are a waste of time and energy. Surely, attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed nothing to the Seventh Generation.
Documentary Filmmaker Robert Greenwald grieves for the unborn little ones and those who passed, as do the families, friends and familiars of military men, women, and civilians who have been touched by the perpetual battles. Even those who may not have seen combat have experienced the repercussions. Throughout the world, the waste is sky high. Those who do not correlate the debris with the destruction in the Persian Gulf; nonetheless feel the effects. As Robert Greenwald observes . . .
The Iraq war, like the Afghanistan war is a massive case of waste, fraud and abuse.
While it’s a good thing that President Obama committed to ending the Iraq war, he’s ratcheting up a more expensive Afghanistan war while we’re still reeling from the economic impact of the former. With Al Qaida having been driven from the country and with our increased troop presence having been met with increasing violence nation-wide, it’s clear that Obama’s War, like Bush’s War, also fails to make us safer. We don’t have a spare trillion dollars for useless war.
Our new video marks this tragic anniversary. But, we need your help in letting the administration know that we understand the damage done to Iraq and to our country. We also know that there will be no economic recovery as long as we’re spending $100 billion a year on another war that doesn’t make us safer–the war in Afghanistan.
That’s why we’re asking everyone to report the Afghanistan war as an example of waste, fraud and abuse on the White House’s official economic recovery website, Recovery.gov Simply scroll down to the field marked “What” and paste this message into the text box:
“I’d like to report the waste of billions of dollars of our national wealth in Afghanistan on a war that doesn’t make us safer. It’s fraud to portray this as a war that increases our security, and it’s abusive of U.S. troops and local civilians to drag out this war any longer. End the war so we can have real economic recovery.”
You don’t have to fill out the whole form. Just let them know that you think spending more for useless wars is a clear example of waste, fraud and abuse of the taxpayer that will undermine economic recovery.
Thanks to Bush, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been a massive waste of human life and treasure. Let’s not let the Obama administration make the same mistake again in Afghanistan.
While erroneous assumptions have already been made, and acted upon, it is vital that the American people ensure that these costly wars end. Please, let us remind the President, that dollars devoted to deliberate demolition far exceeds what we spend on our infrastructure, education, the environment, and authentic health care coverage. Americans have experienced a drastic reduction in police forces, fire departments, and all civil servants. What we spend abroad affects those at home and on foreign shores.
In the United States, we must ask ourselves, can we afford the waste that is war. Was it worth the cost of lives lost? Can we economically or ethically justify the lessened quality of life for soldiers and, or civilians. Will we be able to live with the thought that tens, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children have perished all for naught? More will die, and not necessarily in battles. Some will be in hospital beds. Others in homes without the funds for health care coverage. A few will expire on the streets, be they victims of increased crime, unemployment, caused by a lack of education, or other circumstances that a warfare budget creates. All this occurred because we, as a country, have dissipated billions of dollars in unwarranted conflicts.
In an effort to maim and murder, many innocent Iraqi, Afghani, American, and allies suffer. Most of these are as you and I, seemingly peaceful persons who do not have the power policy-makers do. Thus, Filmmaker Greenwald asks for your assistance, as do other concerned citizens. Please help our nation, the national budget, and people here and on foreign lands heal.
A recent change of the guard in the Massachusetts Senate race force the President to reveal he is working. We, the American people, are waiting, just as we have been for months and months. For a full year, countless citizens have felt as though they were patient. Yet, the President did not seem to have their interests at heart. True change has not come. Countless constituents anticipate none is forthcoming. Three hundred and sixty five plus have gone by and the American people are tired of being patient.
The circumstances in their personal lives have proven to be critical, worse now than in 2009. Oh, some remain hopeful. They continue to believe. Several are waiting for Godot, who as we all know, never comes. Millions await the Messiah. Many thought Barack Obama was the great liberator. This human was perchance, a deity, devotees continue to declare. He is a divine being, or was in the eyes of the electorate before he entered the Oval Office. Now, Americans are wasted, wanting. They trusted and waited for him to transform the nation. Today, the people wonder; is it too late.
Senator Obama was and is suave, sensitive, and a sensational orator. Surely, words would become action. Progressives suspended disbelief. The Left listened to a man advocate for more war in Afghanistan. Then, they decided he was the profound peacemaker. Conservatives too saw themselves in this gentleman. He was polished, polite, and predominately known for his prestigious credentials. Hence, the fiscally traditional believed the wait was over. Today, each of these exclaim, as President he is not the one.
In contrast, the markedly Independent did not pause. These mavericks need no intervals. The detractors, decidedly cynical, opinionated opponents, and the perpetually free from Party politics, never waited for what they wanted. They did as they always have. Raging Republicans and “free” thinking Independents gathered the reigns, took to the streets and stood firm. They rallied the troops of discontented Americans. They stood their ground. These lovers of self-governing principles never grew weary. Self-directed voters shouted; they screamed. They garnered strength and swayed some from the Right and some from the Left to take their position. We will kill the Obama agenda, shrieked crowds of “concerned” citizens.
The Religious Right also does not hesitate. Indeed, they never doubted that the person known as Barack Obama was not a savior. He was, or so these individuals said, a “socialist.” Committed Conservatives cringed at the notion that Mister Obama might be thought of as the embodiment of a second coming. They would chortle in distress; perchance this President would be another Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
It was not difficult to persuade those who had previously adopted a wait and see approach. Numerous issues have not been attended to. The pledge to end “Don’t Ask. Don’t tell,” frustrated a few. Gay or straight families and friends have become impatient. The thought that Health Care For All was left for Congress to ponder, plan, and present was seen as folly. The President, who belatedly cajoled the House and the Senate, was thought ineffective or just not truly interested in the welfare of the people. Then there were the financial woes the President promised to address and did not adequately do so. Indeed, millions of citizens muse; Obama sold out. Our Chief Executive appointed Wall Street insiders to serve as his economic team. Each of these individuals held a singular intent. With bailout bucks, they would buy friends, influence enemies, and reward former colleagues.
Common citizens cried out in economic pain. Rather than enact policies that might relieve the people’s plight, billions were bestowed upon wealthy bankers.
Americans have been waiting for his audacity to bring more than hope for bipartisan approval on program after program. Most of the electorate wanted Mister Obama to exit Iraq fully, not to leave tens of thousands of troops behind. Numerous waited for him to assertively enact a renewable energy policy. However, as was evident at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, the President, does not plan to authentically regulate or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Since Mister Obama took office, small businessmen and women applied for loans, only to have their applications rejected. Granted, he pressed bankers to respond to the needs of the little people. Still, calls for cash went unheeded. Underwater homeowners also pleaded. Refinance my mortgage please. Requests were denied. Ultimately, days before voters in the Bay State cast a ballot for Scott Brown, a banner headline appeared in the local paper; Obama’s foreclosure relief program called a failure. Most borrowers have not been helped.
Credit card companies were allowed to go wild. As the President observed, Credit has become “less of a lifeline and more of an anchor.” Interest rates rose drastically, although not on personal savings accounts. While the President proposed and [assed legislation to curb the crunch, The Credit Card Industry found other ways to avoid a pinch. They will Profit From Sterling Payers. Unemployed and underemployed, well, they were neglected just as they had been before the Messiah came.
These troubles are not unique to any one region. Trials and tribulations exist throughout the United States.
While some may prefer to wait for the day when the President’s plans bear fruit, doubters do not. For millions, the results in Massachusetts speak volumes. These persons proclaim, this election, just as the two held months earlier, were not a reflection of a poorly run campaign by Martha Coakley, Virginia’s Creigh Deeds, or the New Jersey incumbent Democratic Governor, Jon Corzine. All were sure signs of voter discontent. The Republican wins were a blow for the Obama Administration. Now, perhaps, the President will hear the message.
Certainly, Obama enthusiasts have come to accept what cannot be avoided. Americans lack confidence in the Commander-In-Chief. The tidal wave of resentment has generated much concern. Loyalists, know not what to do. They gather round cyberspace chat rooms. Some seek solace in the acumen of broadcasters. What will Keith, Rachel, or Jon Stewart say? How might these masterful commentators direct the stalwart? A few hop onto another bandwagon. The theory is a populist philosophy will turn folks around.
This is the position the White House adopts. Shortly, after the special election results were released, Mister Obama answered without hesitation. He stood before an audience in Elyria, Ohio, a community devastated by what some suggest is an economic Depression. There the President enthusiastically proclaimed he is working for us. For emphasis, Mister Obama forcefully opined, “Let me tell you – so long as I have the privilege of serving as your President, I’ll never stop fighting for you.” The Nation’s Chief Executive then assured average Americans, “(T)his isn’t about me. It’s about you.” Yet, this novel appearance calls Mister Obama’s assertion into question.
Several observers stated Obama was back. Fire was, once again, in his belly. His campaigner style will certainly help his poll numbers to soar. His persuasive presence would ensure a Democratic win. However, the familiar rationale proved to be erroneous.
The President had attempted to coax a Massachusetts crowd days before the dire voter decision. At the behest of Martha Coakley, the nation’s Chief Executive rallied round the Democratic candidate. Still his rhetoric could not reverse the momentum. Indeed, what would be an overwhelming demise was delivered.
Possibly, more than a mere Senate seat was lost. Patience amongst Obama supporters has waned. The reality that American Independents and Republicans never looked back became more clear. Scott Brown was but the amplification of the incensed mantra. Stop health care. Do not provide civil trials for terrorists. Rather than raise taxes; cut them. Secret backroom deals will not stand. Special interests are not ours.
Average American Joe and Jane are jollied. Unlike the blindly faithful, they knew not to wait for Barack Obama or Godot. The energized, eager, and enraged took the government back.
The hurt and hurting citizens saw that Barack Obama made the office his own, or perchance, he preserved the Clinton presidency. The incensed did not trust the followers who point to the progress made in the effort to exit Iraq. Instead, those outraged by slight concessions sympathized with the soldiers who struggle to survive on foreign soil.
Disheartened, even early supporters squeal at the reality this President has increased America’s involvement in the Middle Eastern affairs. The Obama Administration authorized targeted assassinations.
Few from the Left thought they would help elect a Republican. Dutiful Democrats could not imagine the day that they would declare I will wait no more. For decades, people trusted, a President from their Party was, as Mister Obama opined, working for them. Yet, this time, perhaps in the previous two elections, and in the next go round, the public will proclaim as Boston area Waitress Vitoria Vigna, did. “I am a Democrat and to say I voted Republican was, I was like, oh, my god, I’m voting Republican.” However, as Ms Vigna expounded, the sentiment is, “people are more agitated and anxious and a lot of people’s attitude is what has really changed? Really?” What has changed? Possibly, the population has given up on Godot and on Presidents who they believe have not fully perform as promised.
It is said, as individuals, we can achieve all we conceive, if only we truly believe. President Barack Obama once knew this. He lived this veracity. Indeed, candidate Obama’s audacity and accomplishments gave Americans hope. When Barack Obama reached for the sky he realized what no one thought he could. The electorate was energized. People came to expect the country was in for a change. Now, it seems Mister Obama is bogged down by what Eisenhower understood, concerns of the Military Industrial Complex.
The intricacy of the Armed Forces mission does not confine itself to forceful martial escalation. Nothing escapes the wide reach of combative nation building. Lives are lost. Limbs crushed. With bullets ablaze, brains are battered or blown to smithereens. Hope suffers. Hearts are hurt. The economy is also affected.
Education policies are altered. There are few pennies left to provide for adequate instruction. Health care coverage fiscal calculations related to medical treatments and delivery of services are transformed. The billions of dollars spent on defense surpasses any other consideration. This fiscal truth is obviously not lost on a Commander-In-Chief burdened with the need to appease his many Advisors, most of whom, from the beginning, were intent on war.
President Obama could not ignore or forget his own earlier rhetoric. After all, his words “Afghanistan is a war of necessity,” helped him win over the hearts and minds of Conservatives and Independents during the recent election. As one who believes and works to builds consensus, some say President Obama chose to take the middle path.
With his decision to send more troops, into Afghanistan, the President has shattered the dreams of many. Another surge will mean countless communities will wait for more dollars to spend at home. A patient nation, for a while longer, will remain proud and stay the course.
For now, only eight percent, the progressive fringe, feel a deepening sense of hopelessness. Millions of Independents have also lost faith. When only 36 percent of these think President Obama has done a fine job that could prove to be a problem.
If, over time, personal pains become more profound, the exorbitant budgetary imbalance will not be ignored. Misery amongst the masses will likely bring more voices of dissent.
In this moment, those on the far Left feel they must vocalize the sentiment heard in society at-large. However, without reason to believe, with signs that change has not come to those most in need, the public will turn nasty. Timidity, as history reveals, is transitory.
Just as we witnessed in the 1960s, again in 2008, a war weary population becomes disheartened, and loud. Americans who struggle to survive, and who realize billions, no trillions of dollars are spent on the fight, will ultimately, speak out vociferously
This week, President Obama quoted his predecessor, General Eisenhower,, “Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.” Then, contrary to Ike’s caution, he bowed to the Military Industrial Complex, Should Mister Obama continue down this path people of all walks of life are likely to rise up and say; The change we once believed in, our hope, has become our sense of hopelessness.
References for the reality of hope and hopelessness . . .
We join the military for many different reasons. Some of us want to have access to a college education. Some of us want job training and a steady paycheck. Some of us join to get U.S. citizenship. Some of us need to get out of debt or need to get off a destructive path. Some of us join out of pride, patriotism and a genuine desire to be a part of some greater, collective good. Many of us made the decision early-while still in high school, enticed by recruiters’ promises of cash bonuses, adventure and opportunity-while some of us joined after years as a worker, drawn by the military’s full health care and housing benefits.
Whatever the reason, we all found ourselves wearing the uniform of the U.S. military. What did we actually join? What is the role of the U.S. military in the world? What does it mean to be a soldier following the dictates of U.S. foreign policy? When we sign ourselves away to the military, what are we being used to do?
In recent years, many of us ended up in Iraq or Afghanistan. We are told that as a soldier in the U.S. military we are defending the interests of the United States. This does have an ounce of truth-but only an ounce. We are defending the interests of a particular class in the United States. It is only a wealthy minority whose interests are being defended in Iraq, Afghanistan and the more than 130 countries where U.S. troops are stationed.
In whose interests do we serve?
I was sent to Iraq believing we would be helping the Iraqi people. Once the illusions of pride and patriotism crumbled, I realized I was never sent to help anyone. I kicked down their doors and dragged them from their homes. I robbed them of their humanity in interrogation cells. I watched the life ripped out of them. I saw children torn to shreds. I witnessed my friends disabled by physical and/or psychological trauma. All this suffering and destruction for “Iraqi Freedom,” which really means the freedom of a new U.S.-installed government to hand over control of its natural resources to U.S. corporations.
It wasn’t much different for those soldiers sent to Korea, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama or other countries that have been targets of U.S. intervention over the past half-century and more.
We are taught the United States stands for freedom and democracy, and that military force is used to defend or further those ideals. This is echoed constantly throughout our lives, in school and in the media. It is woven into the fabric of our national identity, making it possible for people to accept the deaths of U.S. soldiers in foreign lands, as long as they are assured they died in the interests of democracy.
History of U.S. conflicts
However, reviewing the history of conflicts in which the U.S. military has been involved tells a completely different story. The U.S. government does not have a history of supporting democratic movements, but rather a history of overthrowing them. Among those countries whose popularly elected governments have been crushed by the U.S. military and replaced by authoritarian and non-elected dictators are the Congo, Grenada, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Chile, Indonesia, Iran, Haiti-and the list goes on. Quite simply, this government – whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House-has no problem installing and backing oppressive dictatorships.
Understanding U.S. foreign policy becomes much easier if we stop looking at it in terms of “defending democracy,” and start looking at it in terms of economic interests. It is not the form of a foreign government that determines whether it ends up in the crosshairs of the U.S. government, but whether or not that government will give U.S. businesses access to its markets, labor force and natural resources. This explains why the United States supports governments with some of the worst human rights records, like Colombia, or Saudi Arabia, which has never had an election in its history! U.S. corporations reap billions of dollars in profits from these countries.
U.S. foreign policy really boils down to ensuring the extraction of wealth from the developing world by U.S. corporations. In the words of two-time Medal of Honor winner Major General Smedley Butler: “I spent 33 years in the Marines. Most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.”
Claims that the Pentagon only works to defend the United States and spread democracy fall apart when you look at the current use of the military. It is now obvious that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to the United States, nor did the U.S. government care about the well-being of the Iraqi people. A quarter of Iraq’s population of 26 million people has been killed, wounded or displaced since the illegal U.S. invasion on March 19, 2003. Iraq sits atop a massive supply of petroleum, all of which was nationalized and closed to U.S. corporations’ control under Saddam Hussein.
The role of banks and big business
The banks and Wall Street exert dominating influence over U.S. foreign policy. Our “democracy” is reserved for those who have millions of dollars to run for office, and who are funded by (and ultimately beholden to) corporate interests. Our “free press” is owned by only five mega-corporations who directly profit from the military-industrial complex and distort reality to shape public opinion accordingly.
The ruling class of Wall Street CEOs, bankers and their loyal politicians has the power to annihilate an entire country for profit-but they never fight in these wars themselves. So they have to find a way to convince the average worker that these wars are worth fighting. They must find a way to convince working-class people that we should kill and die to make the rich ruling class even richer.
Our enemy is not on the other side of the world; that enemy is in the corporate boardrooms and the Pentagon Brass. Defeating that enemy means refusing to take part in their imperialist plans and organizing together to demand real justice.
Tax time is reason enough to reflect on our budgets, personal and national. How realistic are our expenditures? Do we spend more than we earn? Does our income allow for a few irrational indulgences? Do discretionary dollars exist? Might we consider our ample debt. Does this represent a temporary deficit, easily resolved, or an obligation that cannot be paid promptly. We may wish to rethink our reality. At home, families have taken scissors to credit cards. More than the minimum payment is made. The intention is to lessen liabilities and increase savings. In the month of April, after we pay Uncle Sam, most of us concluded, it is time to clean our own fiscal house. Next, we move to the nation’s ledger.
The largest share of our moneys go to military operations. The terror tax has become a tremendous burden of American household and communities. Yet, few wish to rethink this “duty.”
Much to the chagrin of those who do not favor debt, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were paid for on credit. Taxes were not increased to pay for the two wars. Indeed, President Bush cut tariff obligations for the American people while he increased the number of dollars devoted to military operations.
The cash spent on what most would agree were and are protracted conflicts was not placed on the official ledger. Nor did it exist in American coffers. What were classified as “emergency supplemental” expenses were made available on loan. Other countries, rich in resources, furnished the dollars the United States desired. The currency would need to be re-paid, with interest! That concept alone could be considered a tax on terror, or an attack on Americans who disfavor debt.
The current Commander-In-Chief promised he would not engage in such tactics. The Obama Administration would be transparent. What would be spent on war would be visible in formal, administrative, concrete calculations. To that end, in February 2009, perhaps before most Americans filed a return, President Obama submitted his budget. Headlines screamed, Obama’s budget is the end of an era.
Cash and Change On Hand
Change had come. Obama re-thought Bush policies. More money would be officially allocated to military operations. The Pentagon Does Well with Obama Budget. The financial planned commitment to the Pentagon is an abundant $533.7 billion. This amount represents a 4 percent increase over the previous 2009 allocation. This total excludes money for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The budget includes an additional $75 billion in 2009 for “overseas contingency operations,” a reference to the battles still ablaze in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locales. Come 2010, $130 billion more will be available for combat.
Cautions presented six months ago, on October 15, 2008, by the Congressional Research Service apparently were not heeded by the new Administration. Citizens also did not realize, cash for these conflicts is not countless. It never was. Calculations were offered. However, then, as now, the numbers were ignored. Perhaps, all aspects of the ostensibly perpetual wars were not rethought.
The War in Afghanistan has cost U.S. Tax payers $172 billion to date, with a request for roughly $13.4 billion to fund the war through the remainder of Fiscal year 2009 expected in March or April. This brings the total cost through FY 2009 to $185.1 billion.
This figures reflect the budgetary cost alone. Projected costs over the long term are likely to total more than half a trillion dollars when future occupation and veteran’s benefits are taken into account. Interest payments could add another $200 billion to that figure. (1) All told, this is more than the size of the recent bailout of Wall Street, and rivals the historic economic stimulus bill just passed by Congress.
Countries outside the United States have spent additional billions on the War in Afghanistan, with the UK contributing roughly £4.5billion (2) and the cost to Canada totaling $7.7 billion to $10.5 billion in Canadian dollars through 2008. (3).
Thus far, you and I, the American taxpayer, borrowed one hundred and eighty five billion dollars, or more, to fight a war thought futile in Afghanistan. In Iraq the dollars devoted to deploy each troop, one individual, was $500,000. That is five hundred thousand dollars! The money spent on a single soldier sent to Afghanistan is expected to be eight-hundred thousand greenbacks.
Financial Future in Doubt
Many Progressives may wish to wail, “George W. Bush is to blame.” However, people from the political Party that takes pride in the actions of this President might rethink that truth.
Days before American tax payments were due, Mister Obama asked Congress for an additional eighty three and four tenths billion dollars ($83.4) to fund the war just through the end of the year! After Mister Obama assured Americans supplemental expenditures to pay for wars would not be requested, the President rescinded the pledge. Excuses were made. Explanations given. Citizens were told the additional allotment would be the first and the last made by President Obama.
It seems circumstances caused the Chief Executive to rethink his stance on spending and Afghanistan. Perhaps, citizens will also rethink their position. In truth, only the people have the power to insist, it is time to cut the funds for war.
It is difficult, even impossible, to accept President Obama’s “New strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan” as described by him in a formal speech on March 27. It fails by imperial and non-imperial standards.
First the imperial: Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA agent, reports in his book Nemesis: “The Carter administration deliberately provoked the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In his 1996 memoir, former CIA Director Robert Gates acknowledges that the American intelligence services began to aid the anti-Soviet mujahideen guerillas not after the Russian invasion but six months before it. President Carter’s purpose was to provoke a full-scale Soviet military intervention to tie down the USSR.” Will an expanded military effort in Afghanistan tie down the U.S. as it did the USSR?
Obama plans a U.S. military effort in Afghanistan lasting at least five years in a country 50% larger than Iraq in area and population. The NATO allied forces are token in size and commitment and rarely leave their base camps. A serious U.S. military effort will require at least 250,000 troops tied down in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Will America be unable to react to other challenges as they arise especially its obligations, to protect Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, to deter Iran from a nuclear program, to support Pakistan from collapse; etc?
The invasion of Iraq could be justified on imperial grounds because it is strategically situated in the heart of the largest concentration of oil in the world. Afghanistan has no comparable resource, one of the poorest countries, no industry, little farming, rugged terrain, a land of banditry and bribery.
The adventure fails from a non- imperial perspective. Obama says “That country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.” None of the 19 people who perpetrated the September 11 criminal tragedy were Afghan or Taliban. Fifteen of them were Saudi. There are no Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan any longer. Osama bin Laden and what is left of his crew is in hiding somewhere in the wilderness of Pakistan. The Al Qaeda operation is scattered and disorganized. Yes, another 19 thugs could infiltrate the U.S. and kill Americans, but sending an army into Afghanistan is not going to prevent another such criminal act. In fact, the hyped war in Afghanistan is more likely to divert us from protecting ourselves against another September 11.
On this fine day in February 2009, President Barack Obama submitted his budget blueprint. For the first time, in near a decade, transparency is built into a national financial plan. The tremendous costs to wage the two wars America is engaged in are no longer hidden. Outlays for military offenses have been written into the ledger, and not in the traditional invisible ink. While one might think fiscal and political Conservatives would be pleased, upon receipt of the document, Republicans immediately pounced. Senator Judd Greggspoke on the Grand Old Party’s behalf when he asked, “Where is the restraint in spending?”
Interestingly, Senator Gregg and his fellow Republican Legislators did not solicit answers to this inquiry when the last Administration reigned. For all those many years, the Conservatives did not concern themselves with the price the American people paid. None on the “Right” worried of what might be when “unnecessary”wars are fought The monetary debt left to American children was not a consideration when combat was paid for on credit. Then, as now, the greater trepidation was expressed for higher taxes.
America attacked its adversaries with borrowed money and on time borrowed from the brood.
As long as parents did not have to pay, or see the billions of bites taken from fruits reserved for their offspring, war, or supplementary spending was wonderful. What is not so glorious for the wealthy are the words of President Obama, or his plan to pay as we go.
“Having inherited a trillion-dollar deficit that will take a long time for us to close, we need to focus on what we need to move the economy forward, not on what’s nice to have,” Mister Obama said. This statement did not make sense to Conservatives who rather do as the previous Administration had allowed them to do, trade common “cents” for an economic crisis.
Comfortable with artificial caps or spending, repeatedly supplemented, Republicans reacted poorly to the introduction of fiscal responsibility in the Obama Recovery Plan. Intermittently the “Right” expresses concern for the children. Nonetheless, each rant raises what seems to be the more real issue, taxes.
Indeed, in the past, Progressives pondered levees. Most Democrats wondered why Americans were not asked to sacrifice for two wars fought on credit. It all began early in President George W. Bush’s first term. The date, September 11, 2001 will live in infamy. The Council on Foreign Relations explained this in a report.
Following 9/11, the United States launched new military endeavors on a number of fronts, including in Iraq. Estimates for the total costs of these efforts remain sharply politicized. Costs have consistently outpaced government predictions. In September 2002, White House economic adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey estimated the cost of invading Iraq could amount to between $100 billion and $200 billion. Mitch Daniels, who at the time headed the White House budget office, called Lindsey’s estimates “very, very high” (MSNBC) and said the war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion; shortly thereafter, Lindsey left the White House.
In January 2004, a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the total costs of Iraq’s reconstruction would land between $50 billion and $100 billion. But in October 2007, the CBO said in a new report that the United States had already spent $368 billion on its military operations in Iraq, $45 billion more in related services (veterans care, diplomatic services, training), and nearly $200 billion on top of that in Afghanistan.
American initiated battles blazed abroad. No money was allocated to pay for the combat. Billions were kept off the books. American babies were blinded from the truth. Their parents placed a financial burden on them that could not be calculated.
Each year, with hat in hand, Commander-In-Chief George W. Bush came to Congress and said, cost cannot be a consideration. We must protect our borders. The compassionate Conservative Bush assured Senators and Representatives alike, inclusive of Judd Gregg who now reels over the cost of the Obama fiscal plan. The country must be made safe for your brood and mine.
Although the past President knew the battles would be protracted, and said so often, he never accounted for the projected expenditures in his budgets. Very early on, the Bush Administration was asked to design a plan for war-related costs. However, the White House ignored such silly suggestions. Congress too did not comply with a request to consider the cash flow.
Congress must insist that clearly defined standards of transparency are incorporated into the $87 billion appropriation for Iraq. Congress must require the President to submit at minimum a quarterly report, detailing the processes by which US funds are disbursed in Iraq, under the conditions elaborated below.
Recommended Legislative Language:?
No competitive or non-competitive contracting or purchase activities may be undertaken using any of these funds unless the President certifies that the International Advisory and Monitoring Board mandated by Resolution 1483 has been established, and submits a quarterly report detailing:
The extent of Iraqi consultation and participation in the contracting and purchase agreement process.
Actions taken to be in compliance with the transparency obligations of UN Resolution 1483. ?An independent cost and capacity estimate of the activity in question.
In cases where non-Iraqi sources are awarded contracts, an explanation demonstrating that Iraqi companies lack the necessary resources and experience to perform the service at the independently estimated cost, and/or within a reasonable time frame.
In cases where a no-bid contracting process is employed, a detailed justification for the non-competitive tender, including a demonstration that this justification was made available to the Iraqi public.
(An Iraqi Public Finance Oversight Board should be established as a formal channel to achieve an acceptable level of Iraqi consultation for all large-purchase contracting activities undertaken with these funds. The International Advisory and Monitoring Board, as mandated under Res. 1483, should be empowered to audit all aspects of Development Fund for Iraq. . . .
None of these possibilities were put in place. No one believes the proposal was even taken under advisement. Instead, the Bush Cheney Administration moved into foreign terrain ready for a fight. Documents that might help determine the dollars needed to do these deeds were not sent to the House or Senate in advance. Budgetary reviews for defense spending were deliberately shortsighted More was left out than included in ledgers. Emergency Supplemental funds were requested each year.
In 2001 and thereafter, no one complained, at least not loudly, certainly not the Republicans who now demand we attend to our children’s inheritance. How might one argue against the need to protect the country, care for its citizens, and pay for the soldiers who keep this country safe?
Conservatives, in the early years of combat were gleeful with Congressional control. They coalesced. Democrats, defeated, chose to forfeit dignity and duty. Progressives no longer believed they had the power to do what was right. Resigned to the will of the President and his “people,” the Left relented. Legislators looked the other way when the economic experts strongly stated more money is needed. Supplemental funds, off budget show support for the soldiers.
On September 8, (2003) the White House requested an additional $87 billion of funding to cover the continued occupation and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004. Of this $87 billion, $66 billion will be for military operations, and $21 billion will be for reconstruction in Iraq.
Congress caved. Trillions trickled out of the country. A few at home profited from the Shock and Awe plan. However, no one wished to speak of Halliburton, the ties that remained to Vice President Cheney, or the off-the-book expense of wars.
For persons affiliated with the Administration, defense contracts, no bid agreements to facilitate the folly known as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the monetary Mission was Accomplished. However, for the majority of Americans, the loss of credibility, lives, limbs, and cash was a failure.
Citizens feel the calamity in an economic crisis. Yet, Republican Representatives wish to blame Barack Obama for a budget, which will not hide such outrageous costs.
The CBO [Congressional Budget Office] now estimates the costs of the Iraq war, projected out through 2017, might top $1 trillion, plus an extra $705 billion in interest payments., The total cost of Iraq and Afghanistan combined could reach $2.4 trillion.
Some experts say even those figures underestimate the true price tag. Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and former economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, projected in a 2006 paper (PDF) with another economist, Linda Bilmes, that the total macroeconomic costs of the Iraq war itself would surpass $2 trillion. This analysis differs from that of the CBO, which measured only the war’s budgetary impact. Stiglitz and Bilmes also predict a somewhat higher budgetary impact than the CBO did, though the CBO responds at the end of its 2007 report that some of the difference may be accounted for by factors like inflation and standard pay increases that have little to do with the Iraq war itself.
More recently, a group of Democrats on the U.S. congressional Joint Economic Committee released a report estimating the total long-term cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan would range between $2.6 trillion and $4.5 trillion, depending on how quickly forces are drawn down. These figures drew pointed criticisms from congressional Republicans, who released a statement (PDF) citing dozens of errors in the report’s findings, some of which were subsequently changed.
Yes, the Republicans actively repute all claims of cost overruns. For them, money spent on military actions were and are justified. The real issue, for the “Right” while subterranean, was revealed; as long as taxes were not raised on their personal wealth “fiscal Conservatives” felt fine.
During the Bush years, Republicans had reason to feel content. Those who want no new taxes had a friend in the White House who would hide the costs of combat. Thus, then, concern was not expressed for the children, the credit crisis, or what these irresponsible parents caused.
Republicans would rather be critical of the Democrats for too many dollars spent and the way the Obama plan proposes to reduce the deficit. “On the backs of the rich,” those who think themselves “Right” rage. Perchance it is important to peruse the books. Republican rants may not reveal what detailed reports do. Today, if the government continues to fund its fights on credit, as the Bush White House did, our progeny will inherit what prosperous parents refused to pay for with cash.
Comparing the Defense Budget to the Total Economy
The U.S. defense budget has risen over the past decade but remains substantially lower than historical levels when considered as a percentage of U.S. GDP. President Bush requested $481.4 billion in discretional spending for the Department of Defense’s 2008 budget. That figure does not include any of the spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been paid for primarily through “emergency supplemental requests” that are not included in the federal budget’s accounting. War spending is expected to tally to roughly $193 billion in 2008, an increase of $22 billion, or roughly 13 percent, over 2007 expenditures . . .
Allocations toward the “Global War on Terrorism,” which exceed $145 billion for 2008, also fall outside the U.S. defense budget, and do not include the war-budget supplements. . . .
In a global context, U.S. spending on military-related endeavors ranks high. According to 2005 data from SIPRI (PDF), the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spends substantially more on military endeavors than any country in the world. If war spending and allocations to the “Global War on Terror” are excluded, the U.S. military budget is still more than seven times that of its next closest competitor, China. If you include those other expenditures, U.S. military spending surpasses that of all other countries in the world combined.
That thought alone is awesome. Rather than build a better world, engage in diplomatic talks with other nations, provide for peaceful negotiations, prepare American children for careers, prevent illness, care for the injured, or maintain the infrastructure . . . all of which would better the world for our offspring, the Bush Administration spent trillions on destructive warfare.
In the early years, the White House depleted a budget surplus for much of the money. Some of the dollars came from the taxes paid by poor and Middle Class. The super-rich Republicans were asked to contribute a lesser percent of their income. When dollars from duties were exhausted, the Bush White House sought more funds from creditors.
Grand Old Party politicians, with the help of weakened Democrats, allowed the last Administration to squander more money than is possible to fathom on an unnecessary war. No thought for the future of our children was mentioned.
Yet, today, with the introduction of a budget that calls for a reduction in troops and defense allocations, Republicans rage. They do not wish to recognize that the previous White House already sacrificed the safety and fiscal sanity of the Seventh Generation.
Until today, the Grand Old Party could not be bothered with war costs written into the budget. Republicans did not ask, “where is the restraint in spending?” Those on the “Right” played with the people’s money as though it or they were mad, and now, on this fine February day, with a transparent plan delivered, Conservatives clamor, what of the children.