Don't Call It a 'Defense' Budget

This isn't "defense."

The new budget from the White House will push U.S. military spending well above $2 billion a day.

Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it.

"Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political
compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there
is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his
successors," the New York Times reports this morning (February 2).

It isn't defense to preclude new domestic initiatives for a
country that desperately needs them: for healthcare, jobs, green
technologies, carbon reduction, housing, education, nutrition, mass
transit . . .

"When a nation becomes obsessed with the guns of war, social
programs must inevitably suffer," Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out.
"We can talk about guns and butter all we want to, but when the guns
are there with all of its emphasis you don't even get good oleo. These
are facts of life."

At least Lyndon Johnson had a "war on poverty." For a while anyway, till his war on Vietnam destroyed it.

Since then, waving the white flag at widespread poverty --
usually by leaving it unmentioned -- has been a political fact of life
in Washington.

Oratory can be nice, but budget numbers tell us where an
administration is headed. In 2010, this one is marching up a steep
military escalator, under the banner of "defense."

Legitimate defense would cost a mere fraction of this budget.

By autumn, the Pentagon is scheduled to have a total of
100,000 uniformed U.S. troops -- and a comparable number of private
contract employees -- in Afghanistan, where the main beneficiaries are
the recruiters for Afghan insurgent forces and the profiteers growing
even richer under the wing of Karzai-government corruption.

After three decades of frequent carnage and extreme poverty in
Afghanistan, a new influx of lethal violence is arriving via the
Defense Department. That's the cosmetically named agency in charge of
sending U.S. soldiers to endure and inflict unspeakable horrors.

New waves of veterans will return home to struggle with
grievous physical and emotional injuries. Without a fundamental change
in the nation's direction, they'll be trying to resume their lives in a
society ravaged by budget priorities that treat huge military spending
as sacrosanct.

"At $744 billion, the military budget -- including military
programs outside the Pentagon, such as the Department of Energy's
nuclear weapons management -- is a budget of add-ons rather than
choices," says Miriam Pemberton at the Institute for Policy Studies.
"And it makes the imbalance between spending on military vs.
non-military security tools worse."

Of course the corporate profits for military contractors are humongous.

The executive director of the National Priorities Project, Jo
Comerford, offers this context: "The Obama administration has handed us
the largest Pentagon budget since World War II, not including the $160
billion in war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan."

The word "defense" is inherently self-justifying. But it begs the question: Just what is being defended?

For the United States, an epitaph on the horizon says: "We had to destroy our country in order to defend it."

As new sequences of political horrors unfold, maybe it's a bit
too easy for writers and readers of the progressive blogosphere to
remain within the politics of online denunciation. Cogent analysis and
articulated outrage are necessary but insufficient. The unmet challenge
is to organize widely, consistently and effectively -- against the
warfare state -- on behalf of humanistic priorities.

In the process, let's be clear. This is not a defense budget. This is a death budget.

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