MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
From the propaganda of the US government -- and its echo chamber in the corporate media -- you would think that our nation is under a dire military threat, with Russia, China and other countries chomping at the bit to enter conflict with the self-proclaimed world superpower. However, just examine the chart above, provided by the National Priorities Project. Take the brightly colored bars representing the next seven highest national expenditures on armed forces and armament, pile them on top of one another, and you will still have a column that falls short of how much the US spends on our global military empire.
As Lindsay Koshgarian of the National Priorities Project comments, much of the massive US "defense budget" (a misnomer considering how much US armed forces activity is aimed at protecting economic and corporate interests, not defending people) is funneled to private contractors:
Pentagon spending is subject to the same rules of corporate greed that plague our entire economy. More than half of the Pentagon budget goes to for-profit contractors.
Let’s get the word out there. The less we spend on Pentagon contractors that profit from fear and conflict, the more we can spend on priorities like education, climate change and infrastructure to move our country forward into the 21st first century. It’s time we joined the rest of the world.
The National Priorities Project chart reveals not only a militaristic policing of the world at extraordinary expense -- using funds that could benefit the welfare of individuals in the US and the world as a whole -- but the inexorable expansion of the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower so famously warned against.
The gluttonous need for armed intervention across the world is alarming enough, but the entangling of Pentagon and corporate interests also leads to tremendous ongoing wasteful expenditures. Take the F-35 stealth fighter jet, which has been experiencing delays due to critical flaws for years. Today, CNN asked, "Is the $400 billion F-35's 'brain' broken?":
Almost 2,500 of the world's most advanced warplanes... and they may not have a "brain" in the bunch?
That's the fear of federal watchdogs who say problems with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's complex logistics software system could lead to a grounding of the entire fleet, not to mention future cost increases and schedule delays….
"The GAO's report on the F-35's software problems is just the latest failure for this nearly $1.5 trillion program that is far over budget and well behind schedule," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, a member of the House Armed Services Committee....
"To continue pouring money into building planes that have ejector seat issues, cyber vulnerabilities, flawed aerodynamics, maintenance problems, an inability to fly at full speed while using weapons, and overheating issues is borderline malfeasance," she said.
The National Priorities Project pointed out in an article on February 21:
The Pentagon wants to continue sinking federal tax dollars into the F-35, a fighter jet that is billions over budget, years behind schedule, and is one of the Government Accountability Office's noted risky Pentagon programs. And just days ago, the Pentagon announced a new $61 million contract to Lockheed Martin, the maker of the ill-conceived aircraft, adding to the billions already down the drain.
So we ask you: Are we in an alternate universe? Is this Star Wars? Is the F-35 our Death Star?
Even Democratic-Socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been criticized for supporting the hobbled F-35 fighter project. Why did Sanders -- who decries the excessive funding of the Pentagon budget -- back such a gargantuanly expensive windfall to private companies? Earlier this year, The Daily Beast pointed out that Sanders didn't object to the troubled aircraft for the reason that it brought jobs to Vermont:
The Vermont senator persuaded Lockheed Martin to place a research center in Burlington, according to Newsweek, and managed to get 18 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets stationed at the city’s airport for the Vermont National Guard....
Residents around the Burlington airport sued to block the placement of F-35s there, but were rebuffed by the courts. The F-35s are scheduled to be based in the town starting in 2020.
Sanders’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Ironically, Sanders unwittingly explained his own errant support of the F-35 while criticizing the political strategies of military contractors:
"In very clever ways, the military-industrial complex puts plants all over the country, so that if people try to cut back on our weapons system what they’re saying is you’re going to be losing jobs in that area," Sanders said at a Q&A in New Hampshire back in 2014. "[W]e've got to have the courage to understand that we cannot afford a lot of wasteful, unnecessary weapons systems, and I hope we can do that."
One can see the struggle that continues to confront us in reining in a military-industrial complex that has extended itself into surveillance, intelligence and policing operations, also heavily dependent upon outside contractors.
The colossal US military budget not only represents an empire that uses the battlefield to buttress its economic dominance, it is also an accepted source of revenue in and of itself, in terms of expanding corporate profits in a sector that relies on war and conflict.
Instead of fueling this virulent war machine, we should be spending our budget on the human potential of our nation.
Not to be reposted without permission of Truthout