One of the most unconscionably stupid justifications I have ever heard for the United States continuing the futile war in Afghanistan was recently given by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. When asked why we should not immediately end our eight-year military expedition into that medieval Asian backwater, Panetta told a congressional committee that to do so would dishonor the thousands of U.S. troops who have lost their lives in that war. The United States must have victory in Afghanistan, Panetta said, otherwise how do we explain to the families of those killed that their loved one’s ultimate sacrifice was in vain?
I don’t know, how did we explain it to the families of the 50,000 U.S. troops killed in Vietnam? Following Panetta’s ludicrous logic, more U.S. troops must be killed or maimed so that the families of those already killed or maimed don’t feel embittered and disillusioned. It’s sort of a macabre Ponzi scheme, isn’t it? U.S. troops must keep dying to support the official position that those already killed in the prolonged war in Afghanistan and in Iraq were necessary sacrifices to meet mercurial — but ostensibly critical — U.S. objectives.
First the objective was to get the terrorists responsible for 9/11. OK, that needed doing. But, then it was to remove nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, and then it was to plant democracy — any pretense to justify prolonged hostilities. Cultivating democracy in nations whose fractiously tribal and brutally repressive theologically based cultures haven’t changed in centuries is like planting palm trees in Antarctica and expecting them to grow.
And, how do we determine victory in such wars? In South Vietnam, we simply declared victory and left as that country was being overrun by the North Vietnamese. Similarly, there is no legitimate victory for us in Afghanistan and Iraq. The idealistic objective of transforming those nations into democracies is ultimately unattainable by us. If those countries want to be democracies, they must transform themselves.
The only winner in these wars is the voracious military-industrial complex eagerly taking advantage of an overreaching U.S. foreign policy that has for decades now wasted American lives and treasure policing the world and pursuing protracted military misadventures. U.S. foreign policy always thrives on ever-present national security threats that are sometimes real, but too often miscalculated or invented. The communist threat in Vietnam was miscalculated. The terrorist threat in Iraq was invented. Tens of thousands of people have died and hundreds of billions of dollars have been wasted as a result.
Nevertheless, Panetta, in an effort to keep the pork rolling into the war machine, played the “jobs” card and warned a congressional committee that reducing the Pentagon’s budget by another trillion dollars would result in a massive new wave of unemployment.
Are war and preparing for war the only things our economy can produce anymore? Are jobs really a justification for massive military spending?
Anyone concerned about wasteful government spending cannot overlook the profligate Pentagon. The sorry examples of this waste are well documented — $200 toilet seats, $50 screws, etc. More significantly, project cost overruns and delays are commonplace and extremely expensive. The industrial side of the military-industrial complex never misses an opportunity to exploit the taxpayers.
Not only project mismanagement but also negligent purchasing has squandered taxpayer money. For example, last year ABC News reported that the Defense Logistics Agency had $13 billion in spare parts inventory, $7 billion of which was unneeded. More than half the inventory of these parts will never be used by the military. It just sits there gathering dust.
There are many alternative uses of those trillion dollars Panetta frets losing that would employ tens of thousands of Americans while it benefited the nation far more than would the latest gee-whiz killing devices, paying rent on 700 military bases around the world, or fattening the bottom lines of piggish defense contractors. How about shoring up or replacing our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure? How about funding higher education so more eligible American students can afford a college education? How about providing health care for those citizens rationed out of the system by the avaricious health care-medical insurance complex?
Of all the cannibals stalking America’s economic jungle the military-industrial complex wears the biggest bone in its nose — followed closely by the one decorating the noses of the health care-medical insurance cannibals. How morbidly sick is any society that sacrifices human life so that others can make money? But, that is what we do when we start and prolong unnecessary wars.