Now that politicians are being forced to deal with the realization that the U.S. government is nearly $14 trillion in debt, they are scrambling to find ways to tighten their belts. Congress is debating whether or not to increase the debt ceiling, and incoming Republicans have suggested trimming $100 billion from the budget.
Any substantial policy moves to address this debt will likely not leave anyone happy, especially if drastic reductions are made to social welfare programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has a suggestion, and is patting himself on the back for vowing to cut $78 billion from the Pentagon budget. In reality, however, what these "cuts" mean is that Gates will stop increasing the Pentagon's already bloated $500 billion a year budget for the next few years. Gates' supposed "cuts" also will not decrease the amount currently being spent on U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Only in Washington Orwellian double-speak could a Pentagon "cut" that ignores hundreds of billions of dollars and multiple wars be considered progress. This immediately begs the question, considering 43% of every dollar Washington spends is borrowed: why not cut funding for the war in Afghanistan that is costing us $100 million a day?
The Afghan war is now in its tenth year, making it the longest war in U.S. history, and there is very little to show for the billions that have been spent. The justifications for staying are also becoming murkier.
According to the Obama administration, most members of Congress, and the media, the U.S. military must stay in Afghanistan in order to prevent al Qaeda from establishing a "safe haven" with which they can launch attacks against the U.S. But as CIA Director Leon Panetta has admitted, "only 50 to 100, maybe less" al Qaeda fighters remain in Afghanistan. Plus, the 9/11 attacks were planned in Hamburg, Germany and Florida, which were the only "safe havens" al Qaeda ever needed.
Not only is the Pentagon spending billions bombing an enemy that isn't there, U.S. intervention has been terribly counterprodutive. Former Afghan General Stanley McChrystal, in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, remarked, "for every innocent person you kill, you create ten new enemies." Insurgent math, he calls it, and this can only lead to blowback and harm to U.S. troops.
What about the justification, held by loyal Obama-ites like Code Pink, that "women's rights" are being secured in Afghanistan by the U.S. military presence? The Revolutionary Association of the Women in Afghanistan (RAWA) would definitely object, and a 2010 report detailed how the U.S. occupation has been absolutely detrimental for women's rights.
Even prominent conservatives, who have been staunch supporters of the war, are beginning to question it.
When held under a microscope, the reasons for staying wither under the pressure of logic and common sense. Corruption and waste are an integral part of the Afghan war, from it's pathetic justifications to the millions made by merchants of death, all of which are hitched to the backs of the American taxpayer.
Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security suffer similar problems; they are, after all, government programs - Ponzi schemes of debt and waste that make Bernie Madoff look like a frugal and honest businessman.
But, before we cut programs that ocassionally help people, it's time to take a machete, not a scalpel, to the main source of our financial crisis: the war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon's military socialism, and the institutional structures of our unsustainable empire.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons