ATTN. ALL FLAG-WAVERS. YOU WANT WAR? PAY FOR IT.
NEW YORK – October 29, 2010
By Eric Margolis
I don’t ever recall seeing such an ugly, dim-witted, childish American election as this coming week’s mid-term vote.
A national frenzy has seized America. Fierce debate and name-calling has raged about job losses, the nation’s growing $12 trillion debt, mandatory health care, socialism – and even witchcraft. Sarah Palin, the patron saint of low IQ Americans, has hovered over this sordid contest like an evil Halloween wraith.
If we believe polls, the Democrats look like toast. President Barack Obama may be ready to join the ranks of the unemployed.
What did Democrats think would happen when they eagerly took over the monumental financial and military mess created by George W. Bush and the Republicans? No wonder Republicans are gleefully rubbing their hands. But now they may be next to get stuck with Bush’s Tar Baby.
Amidst all the low-brow invective, Tom Brokaw, the respected former national news host for NBC News, recently wrote a fine opinion column, “The Wars That America Forgot About.”
He quite rightly asked why the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been ignored during the election race. After nine years of combat, 5,000 US dead and 35,000 seriously wounded soldiers, and expenditure of over $1 trillion – silence.
These longest and second most expensive wars in US history have dropped off the radar. Not even the latest WikiLeaks shocker, which revealed the US condoning death squads, torture and mass human rights violations in Iraq, became a campaign issue.
No one raised the scandalous fact that US-run Afghanistan and Washington’s political satraps there produce and export 94% of the world’s heroin. Russian drug authorities just claimed that Afghan heroin kills 10,000 Russians annually.
The Iraq and Afghan wars are ignored, Brokaw rightly says, because Americans are totally focused on high unemployment and economic insecurity. America’s wars have become irrelevant.
The US professional military represents less than 1% of the population, mostly working-class people from small towns in America’s rural, poorly-educated heartland.
It’s not like Vietnam War days, when millions of Americans were drafted to serve in the war, creating huge public protests that eventually ended the war.
The US has adopted Imperial Britain’s model of small, all-volunteer armies fighting in remote colonial wars to supposedly bring the light of Christianity and justice to benighted natives.
However, it now costs $1 million per annum to keep each of the 120,000 US troops in Afghanistan. The US has also deployed over 40,000 armed mercenaries in that nation.
Americans have become psychologically detached from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, even as the specter of stalemate or even defeat in both conflicts looms.
Brokaw calls on Americans to re-engage and give their wars and politicians the public attention they urgently need.
Waging stealth wars is undemocratic and unwise.
During World War II, America’s “Home Front” was engaged in the conflict by war taxes, rationing, buying war bonds, collecting clothing and metal, and accepting shortages of consumer products.
By contrast, President George W. Bush actually cut income taxes in wartime, the only time in US history this has happened.
In an act of profound financial deception, instead of funding the Afghan and Iraq Wars through higher taxes, the Bush White House and subservient Congress financed the wars by “Emergency Supplement Requests,” which were supposed to be only used short-term for natural disasters and the like.
Bush’s view appears to have been, “après moi, le deluge.” He raised the national debt to vertiginous levels, vastly expanded the size of government, increased military spending by 50%, on top of cutting taxes.
The first wave of the deluge came in 2007-2008, as a financial cataclysm hit America. More is on the way as the US stumbles from one financial crisis to another – the latest being bankrupt states and pension funds.
The real $1 trillion plus costs of the wars were quietly added to the $12 trillion national debt, America’s credit card. Funds to finance these huge war loans was borrowed from China and Japan, putting America ever deeper in thrall to the Asian powers, and undermining its finances.
The Obama administration and Democratic-controlled Congress continued Bush’s dishonest method of war finance, hiding costs from the public.
America’s wars should be fully funded through direct taxes. History shows great powers cannot long go on waging imperial wars on credit. Look at Spain, Holland, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union. Which empire do we think will be next?
A special war tax ought to be levied on all Americans to fully cover the mounting costs of Afghanistan and Iraq. We must pay for our wars and world hegemony.
It will be interesting to see how all the flag-waving Republican “patriots” will react when asked to pay for the wars they so passionately support from the safety of their sofas, and at no apparent cost.
Make Americans actually pay for Afghanistan and Iraq and these wars would be ended in short order.
But if Republicans likely retake Congress, it is most unlikely a war tax – or any major new taxes –will be implemented. Republicans have gone from being the party of balanced budgets and pay as you go to a northern version of Argentina’s wild spending Peronista Party.
Right-wing Republicans will press for more war, in more places – financed, of course, by the magic of credit. Few stop to think that this manic borrowing it wrecking America.
copyright Eric S. Margolis 29 October 2010