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Bush's Pentagon budget boost
Feeding the war machine

March 1, 2002 | Page 5

MATT NICHTER reports on the Bush gang's massive increase in military spending.

DONALD RUMSFELD'S dream has finally come true. Since September 11, he's been given the green light--and a blank check--to pursue all-out war around the globe and even into outer space.

The Bush administration is proposing a whopping $400 billion military budget for 2003--an increase of $45 billion over current spending levels. It's hard to believe that when the Bush gang first took office, they were actually proposing to reduce parts of the military budget.

Of course, the hawkish credentials of Bush and Co. were never in doubt. But the White House gang was caught in a bind, since the expensive new weapon technologies that they wanted to develop--like the Star Wars missile defense system--would have required cuts in older military programs.

Money didn't just grow on trees, after all. Not until the "war on terrorism," anyway.

Since George W. Bush proposed his huge budget increase last month--before an adoring crowd at the Elgin Air Force Base in Florida--there hasn't been a peep of opposition from lawmakers, either Republican or Democrat.

As economist James Cypher explained, "The post-September 11 era of military spending will allow the Pentagon to have its cake and eat it, too--continuing major Cold War-era weapons systems and funding the cyber-age 'Revolution in Military Affairs.'" For military contractors--and the hundreds of politicians whose careers are bankrolled by them--Bush's war is a godsend.

But money still doesn't grow on trees. Every dollar for Rumsfeld's war machine is one less for our schools, social security, health care or unemployment benefits.

Pouring money down the Pentagon rat hole

WHEN BUSH announced his plan to scrap the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty--whether or not Russia agreed to amend it--people around the world were horrified.

Bush tore up the treaty because it bans the U.S. from deploying a "national missile defense system"--otherwise known as the Star Wars missile "shield." The Star Wars system is supposed to provide defense against incoming long-range missiles by shooting them down with interceptor missiles.

If, that is, any country has the capability to fire long-range missiles at the U.S., which defense experts think is unlikely for many years. And if the interceptors ever work, which they haven't yet.

The Pentagon has already blown $140 billion on various missile defense schemes since the first prototypes were developed 25 years ago. Bush plans to spend another $8.6 billion next year alone--more than the government will spend on job training for laid-off workers.

And that's far from the only boondoggle on the Pentagon books:

--The V-22 Osprey helicopter--an aircraft that flies like a plane, but can take off and land vertically like a helicopter--is a flying death trap with no clear strategic need, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Despite the deaths of two dozen marines in a recent test flight, the Pentagon will spend another $2 billion on further refinements next year--on top of $12 billion already down the tubes. That $2 billion--most of which will end up in the coffers of Boeing--would pay the salaries of 60,000 new schoolteachers.

--Boeing is also building the C-17 "armored transport vehicle"--basically a giant flying truck that no branch of the military has found a practical use for yet. The cumulative price tag on this item is $34 billion, plus another $4 billion next year--more than the federal government will spend on substance abuse treatment programs.

--And don't forget the F-22 fighter jet, one of the greatest boondoggles in Pentagon history. The Air Force admits that its current capabilities are unmatched by any other country or group of countries--even without the F-22, which has repeatedly failed tests and overrun its budgets. More than $25.8 billion has been spent so far on F-22, and the Pentagon will pump out another $5 billion for it next year--a sum that would double the budget earmarked for revitalizing poor neighborhoods.

World's best-armed rogue

THE U.S. government spends more on its military than the next 25 countries on the list of big spenders--combined. And most of those countries are U.S. allies--like the countries of the NATO alliance in Europe.

When it comes to the "rogue states" that Washington claims are such a threat--Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria--the U.S. outspends their militaries by 26 times.

The vast sums spent on the Pentagon have no connection to what the U.S. would need in order to "defend" itself. But that has never been the point. The U.S. military is an offensive weapon, used to defend and expand the interests of U.S. corporations.

This is now plainly true about Bush's "war on terrorism." After all the talk about bringing the perpetrators of September 11 to justice, the U.S. is preparing to expand its war around the globe to countries with no connections at all to Osama bin Laden or the al-Qaeda network.

Even in Afghanistan, U.S. interests weren't what they seemed. Before September 11, the Bush administration was negotiating with the Taliban government over plans to build a gas pipeline through Afghanistan. After the attacks, the Taliban became "enemies of freedom."

Now that the U.S. has declared "victory," Afghanistan is still waiting for the desperately needed aid promised by Bush. No surprise there: The U.S. government is the stingiest country in the advanced world when it comes to humanitarian aid--giving just 0.1 percent of its annual income to poor countries.

We live in a society run by rulers who will tolerate any level of violence in order to keep profits rolling in. That's a society that needs to be changed.

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