Imperial Psychosis: We Pour Trillions into Empire While Gutting Programs Americans Depend On
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By now, it seems as if everybody and his brother has joined the debt-ceiling imbroglio in Washington, perhaps the strangest homespun drama of our time. It’s as if Washington’s leading political players, aided and abetted by the media’s love of the horserace, had eaten LSD-laced brownies, then gone on stage before an audience of millions to enact a psychotic spectacle of American decline.
And yet, among the dramatis personae we’ve been watching, there are clearly missing actors. They happen to be out of town, part of a traveling roadshow. When it comes to their production, however, there has, of late, been little publicity, few reviewers, and only the most modest media attention. Moreover, unlike the scenery-chewing divas in Washington, these actors have simply been going about their business as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening.
On July 25th, for instance, while John Boehner raced around the Capitol desperately pressing Republican House members for votes on a debt-ceiling bill that Harry Reid was calling dead-on-arrival in the Senate, America’s new ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, took his oath of office in distant Kabul. According to the New York Times, he then gave a short speech “warning” that “Western powers needed to ‘proceed carefully’” and emphasized that when it came to the war, there would “be no rush for the exits.”
If, in Washington, people were rushing for those exits, no chance of that in Kabul almost a decade into America’s second Afghan War. There, the air strikes, night raids, assassinations,roadside bombs, and soldier and civilian deaths, we are assured, will continue to 2014 and beyond. In a war in which every gallon of gas used by a fuel-guzzling U.S. military costs $400 to $800 to import, time is no object and -- despite the panic in Washington over debt payments -- neither evidently is cost.
In Iraq, meanwhile, in year eight of America’s armed involvement, U.S. officials are still wrangling to keep significant numbers of American troops stationed there beyond an agreed end-of-2011 withdrawal date. And the State Department is preparing to hire a small army of 5,000-odd armed mercenaries (with their own mini-air force) to keep the American “mission” in that country humming along to the tune of billions of dollars.
In Libya, the American/NATO war effort, once imagined as a brief spasm of shock-‘n’-awe firepower that would oust autocrat Muammar Gaddafi in a nanosecond, is now in its fifth month with neither an end nor a serious reassessment in sight, and no mention of costs there either. In Yemen and Somalia, the drones, CIA and military, are being sent in, and special operations forces built up, while in the region a new base is being constructed and older ones expanded in the never-ending war against al-Qaeda, its affiliates, wannabes, and any other nasties around. (At the same time, the Obama administration is leaking information that the original al-Qaeda teeters at the edge of defeat, even as it intensifies the CIA’s drone war in the Pakistani tribal borderlands.) And further expansion of the war on terror -- watch out, al-Qaeda in North Africa! -- seems to be a given.
Meanwhile back in Washington -- not, mind you, the Washington of the debt-ceiling crisis, but the war capital on the banks of the Potomac -- national security spending still seems to be on an upward trajectory. At $526 billion (without the costs of the Afghan and Iraq wars added in), the 2011 Pentagon budget is, as Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan, has written, “in real or inflation adjusted dollars… higher than at any time since World War II, including the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the height of the Reagan buildup.” The 2012 Pentagon budget is presently slated to go even higher.