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Bush's Pentagon Budget and the Lessons of Enron and Afghanistan
Published on Wednesday, February 6, 2002 by Common Dreams
Bush's Pentagon Budget and the Lessons of Enron and Afghanistan
by Fran Shor
 
The Bush Administration's proposed Pentagon budget is mind-boggling. Even measured against the massive military buildup during the Reagan years, the expanse of funding for the foreseeable future ($451 billion by 2007 and trillions of dollars in the next five years) is historically unprecedented. Yet, in light of the recent lessons from the Enron scandal and the war in Afghanistan, the budget proposal seems awash in historical amnesia.

It is very evident from that Enron scandal that careful scrutiny must be given to anything which could be construed as influence-peddling or impropriety. Therefore, it seems essential to consider the following matters and questions:

  1. A number of newspaper reports have indicated that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally intervened to salvage the expensive and strategically outmoded 70-ton Crusader artillery system as a favor to Frank Carlucci and the Carlyle Group, a private investment firm with billions of dollars of holdings in defense industries. Carlyle holds controlling interest in United Defense Industries, the maker of the Crusader, and Carlucci's ties to Rumsfeld go back to their college days at Princeton and their various Republican Administration connections. Will Rumsfeld continue to reward Carlucci and the Carlyle Group and will Congress forgo grilling Rumsfeld about these connections?

  2. The present Secretary of the Air Force, James Roche, was the former head of Northrop Grumman Electronics Systems. Northrop Grumman's products extend from the Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance plane and the B-2 Stealth Bomber, both used recently in Afghanistan. Was their use justified and are additional allocations to Northrop Grumman for these and other products based on real need or manufactured wants by those corrupted through conflict of interest?

  3. Lockheed Martin, a big winner in the recently revealed Bush Pentagon budget, especially for its F-22 Raptor fighter plane, had the third largest expenditure on Congressional lobbying last year at 9.7 million dollars. Among its newest lobbyist is Haley Barbour, the former head of the Republican National Committee. Will money and lobbyists, as in the Enron case, continue to dictate policy in Washington?

The prosecution of the war in Afghanistan has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and continuing conflict between warring factions. The ostensible reason for attacking Afghanistan, finding and killing Osama Bin Laden, remains unresolved. Yet, certain lessons can be deduced from what transpired in Afghanistan. Moreover, the following questions can be put to Congress in light of those lessons.

  1. Given the faulty targeting by so-called precision weapons in Afghanistan, such as Boeing's Joint Direct Attack Munitions, will Congress call for further tests before funding such weapons?

  2. In the aftermath of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the Pentagon's use of cluster bombs has been condemned by human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch. Will Congress vote to stop production of such weapons? Why not, if the policy of the Pentagon is to curtail civilian deaths?

  3. Was all of the expenditure of military weapons warranted? Is the continuing military build-up in the region for helping the Afghanis rebuild or for establishing a permanent presence for US bases and control of strategic interests, such as oil?

There are obviously many other questions which need to be asked in order for the lessons of Enron and Afghanistan to shed light on Bush's Pentagon budget. However, two final questions must be posed above all:

  1. Will Washington's political elite continue to reward their friends and supporters in the military industrial complex?

  2. Will the Bush Administration and their allies in Congress punish invented enemies for their temerity in refusing to be part of the business of a Manichean Pax Americana?

For the citizens of the United States and the people of the world, the squandering of resources and the continuing military mobilizations and adventures spell inevitable tragedy. As the famous dictum asserts: Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it! Since the Bush Administration seems immune to learning from history, who will teach them those lessons they continue to ignore?

Fran Shor teaches in the Interdisciplinary Studies Program at Wayne State University in Detroit. He is a member of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights and an anti-war activist. His e-mail address is: f.shor@wayne.edu

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