MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Christmastime is the worst.
That's when TV advertising, sappy television shows, holiday music and politicians all parrot the theme of a time of peace and goodwill toward all. Of course, the real national purpose of the end-of-year holiday season is the jingle of cash registers and fattening of corporate profits - along with vacations in tropical settings or skiing for those who can afford them.
Come January 1, however, after the football games are over and the last beer is drunk, the United States is off to another year of waging war.
The National Priorities Project, which keeps running expenditure tabs on the costs of war, estimates that the US has now spent nearly $1.7 trillion on wars since 2001. A spokeswoman for the National Priorities Project told BuzzFlash that approximately $823 billion has been spent on the Department of Homeland Security since its creation after 9/11. She also mentioned a Washington Post article from 2013 that estimated the CIA budget at $14.7 billion. Pentagon spending alone - which comprises more than half of the US budget each year - rings in at $554 billion for 2015. To be fair, a lot of this funding overlaps, but the behemoth financial interests of the "war industry" are readily apparent from these figures. Furthermore, these estimates do not include agencies such as the State Department and many unknown "black budget" programs and smaller war and surveillance allocations.
The number of people who rely on war and "intelligence gathering" for their incomes and/or profit is enormous. In 2011, CNN reported in an article that the defense industry
pays for over 3.1 million employees, both military and civilian. Another 3 million people are employed by the defense industry both directly, making things like weapons, and indirectly, such as working in local businesses supported by a contractor's location in a town, according to various sources. It's these big money and job figures that make lawmakers fight for defense contracts in their districts and defense contractors lobby for their contracts.
These approximations do not entirely include the surging surveillance industry that The Washington Post calls "a hidden world, growing beyond control":
The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work....
After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.
The investigation's other findings include:
* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
The dramatic expansion in privatizing war and intelligence services only increases the incentive for trying to find ways to profit from conflict and focusing on the elimination of "enemies." This includes not just the major wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but numerous spots around the world in which the US is engaged in what are called low-intensity conflicts.
The triumph of the military-industrial complex - which President Eisenhower warned against before he left office - is indisputable. It has bipartisan support in Congress and the White House. The only variable is the degree of the hunger for wars. (This question of degree comes out at moments like the current one, as the decision on whether to go to war with Iran hovers in the air.)
As much as we herald the Prince of Peace - at certain times of year - there are relatively few US decision makers, industry leaders, or bureaucrats who would actually welcome peace. After all, their government jobs or privatized contracts are at stake.
There's just too much money, too much profit, too many campaign contributions and too many jobs that rely on war and the vilifying of endless - and quickly replaceable - "enemies."
Jesus, no doubt, would be turned away from visiting the State Department on a mission of peace, because nothing threatens the bloated and profitable military-industrial-surveillance complex like the prospect of an end to violent conflict. In fact, peace is the biggest enemy of prosperity and power for those who make their livelihoods - and in many cases, fortunes - off of war.