"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Droning On - or, "The Look of Wars to Come"


It is a new age indeed! However, I am not speaking of channeling, crystal healing or crop circles. I'm referring to the new age of the American battlefield. Ex-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld may have gotten it wrong when he tried to create Army Lite, but he did have a vision of the future battlefield that is in line with the Pentagon's current direction.

A National Public Radio news story (on April 7) on the Pentagon's new budget said that it "suggests the look of wars to come." It spoke of predator and reaper drones, and cutting some programs (like the F-22 Raptor) while "accelerating" others (like the F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter). Secretary of Defense Bill Gates was quoted as saying the "spectrum of conflicts include an insurgent with an AK-47 and his counterpart with a ballistic missile." His message is clear - The U.S. military had better be prepared to respond to a huge range of possible scenarios. Can you say, "blank check?"

There was great fanfare (in the mainstream press) as everyone anticipated Gates "major cuts" in the military's budget. When the dust settled and the press conference was over, it turns out that "the base budget request is $533.7 billion, up from the $513.3 billion appropriated by Congress in 2009." The key word here is "base". You can read about all the added costs at a previous post, Our Runaway "Defense" Budget. So much for Representative Barney Frank's 25% cut in military spending!!!

Just the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a Cold War relic like the F-22,, is a one trillion dollar program, with a different version for the Marines, Navy and Air Force. With the cost of each aircraft as much as $140 million, that is going to get pretty pricey for the Pentagon. Of course, it will be a veritable gold mine for Lockheed Martin, which could sell over 2000 of these babies to "export customers". That means just about any foreign country that isn't on the latest terrorist watch list. The sky's the limit!

Since it is Tax Time in the U.S., I thought it might be interesting to see just how much of our income taxes pay for war. The Friends Committee on National Legislation report that "43.4 percent of our 2008 tax dollars were spend on the military, both for current military programs and past military spending." That's a pretty big chunk of change. And what are we getting for all that spending? You be the judge.

Is it remotely possible that if we shifted even a small percentage of what we spend on the military to non-military foreign assistance and diplomacy efforts, that we might see a better return on that investment? What have we got to loose? The military option hasn't had a very good track record. Hunting down "terrorists" with unmanned drones and the associated collateral damage (also known as killing innocent civilians) just doesn't seem nearly as effective as working cooperatively with other nations, and creating good will through foreign aid.

And perhaps by cutting back on military spending, we would free up enough money so that we wouldn't have to hold bake sales to be able to afford enough teachers for our schools. Just imagine what good we could do if we were able to reduce U.S. military spending by 25 percent (as Rep. Frank has proposed).

If you think the Congress and the President should reduce military spending, stop killing civilians with drones and other weapons, and end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, then send them a message to CUT THE WASTEFUL AND BLOATED MILITARY BUDGET! As it asks at the Voters For Peace Website, "Does the U.S. really need to spend as much as the whole world combined on weapons and war?" Perhaps its time to create a budget that suggests the look of PEACE to come!



Take Action at Voters For Peace: Tell Congress and the President to Cut The Military Budget -- Don't Expand it.

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