A mere drop in the bucket in terms of wasteful spending by the U.S. military—which since 2001 includes an estimated $5.6 trillion spent on what the world has come to know as America's "Global War on Terror"—the Pentagon on Friday released details of the military parade ordered by President Trump that will take place on November 11, Veterans Day, later this year—a spectacle described by anti-war critics as "a gross example of [the president's] narcissism" and estimated to cost somewhere in the range of $30 million.
The Pentagon says there will be no tanks involved—"consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure"—but the parade, which will go from the White House to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., will include large "wheeled vehicles," a "heavy air component," and the president himself (who infamously received multiple deferments, including one for bone spurs, to avoid serving in the Vietnam War) "surrounded" by decorated veterans in the reviewing area:
When the idea of the parade was first floated last year, peace advocates denounced it as "totally disgusting" and Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group CodePink, said all efforts should be made "to stop this colossal waste of money and display of authoritarianism."
While pro-war hawks and pundits at FOX News and elsewhere are downright giddy over the idea, veterans groups have actually been some of the loudest opponents of the parade:
Just so Generalissimo Bonespurs can have his ego stroked, he's making USNORTHCOM build a parade for him, and forcing troops to spend their time preparing for it.— VoteVets (@votevets) March 10, 2018
Save the millions of $ and let Trump go to any of the 1000s of Veterans Day parades instead.https://t.co/MKmqbqK7Jm
But while many have argued such a parade is simply a waste of money, the reality is that the cost—estimated at $10 million on the low end and $50 million at the upper end—is infinitesimal compared to the financial outlays made by the Pentagon since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the illegal war and occupation of Iraq that began in 2003, and the drone wars and smaller conflicts in dozens of countries now that the U.S. considers nearly the entire planet a battlefield in its 'global war on terror' (GWOT).
"Progressives must oppose the parade, wrapped up as a tribute to veterans, since we know that the best way to show support for veterans is to stop war. And we have to counter it with a massive peace parade." —Medea Benjamin, CodePinkAccording to Benjamin, "the $30 million estimated price tag of Trump's vanity military parade is minor when compared to the $700 billion annual military budget or the trillions the US has spent on war since 9/11."
In an email to Common Dreams on Saturday, she argued the "real cost" of Trump's parade is how it "ramps up the glorification of militarism, priming the US public for continuing the endless wars we are already in as well as potential new wars. Perhaps Iran? Progressives must oppose the parade, wrapped up as a tribute to veterans, since we know that the best way to show support for veterans is to stop war. And we have to counter it with a massive peace parade."
Detailed in the latest comprehensive estimate put out by 'Costs of War'—a project of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University—the U.S. (from 2001 through 2018) has spent a total of $5.6 trillion on these various overseas misadventures.
And while these totals speak nothing about the human costs of war—both to the civilian victims of U.S. armed forces around the globe and the lives of U.S. soldiers lost or shattered by 17 years of conflict—they certainly make most uproar over the cost of Trump's parade appear misplaced.
Notably, in addition to the $5.6 trillion, the analysis estimates that because large portions of the GWOT budget were paid for with borrowed funds, those wanting a more complete picture of the total costs of the wars—including payment for veterans' medical and disability needs which will stretch out to the year 2056—should add another $7.9 trillion on top.
Just think of the parade a country could throw with that. Sadly, like the war-making it is meant to celebrate, it could be one that never ends.