Whenever Joe Biden speaks, you have to make sure your bullshit detector is switched on, to borrow Hemingway’s pungent phrase. As is well-documented, our president has spent his public life making it up as he goes along. No surprise, there was a lot of boilerplate junk in the two much-noted speeches Biden gave last week, one in Tel Aviv after attending a session of Israel’s war cabinet, the other when he dropped it on the American public that they were about to spend a lot more money financing Israeli violence, war in Ukraine and provocation across the Taiwan Strait. We had better listen carefully this time.
The American public is hurting. The bare necessities—clean water, nutritious food, and affordable housing—are hard to come by. Tap water is contaminated with lead, PFAS, and other pollutants. The water systems that serve cities and towns suffer additional stressors, including drought, overuse, and a failure to incorporate greywater systems. And, like many necessities, you have to pay for it in the United States: Water utility prices continue to go up and up. Hunger is a severe problem. Insufficient money and/or access means that millions of families regularly go hungry. Massive corporations dominate what is available in a grocery store, and much of what they produce is innutritious.
On August 17, 2023, Danny Haiphong spoke to spoke the latest convening of the United Nations Security Council on the dangers that Western arms to Ukraine poses to international peace and stability. He said, "Today I am here as a journalist who has dedicated the last ten years of my life writing about and speaking out against the long record of human rights abuses and war crimes committed by my country of birth, the United States. I don't consider this a hobby or even a profession but rather a duty to all of humanity and those who want to see a better and more peaceful future. I am here to as a US citizen who has witnessed tens of billions of US tax dollars go to funding and arming a proxy war against Russia while people in the US, ordinary people, suffer from rising levels of poverty, homelessness, suicide and economic insecurity."
The Biden administration is asking Congress for an additional $24 billion for the Ukraine proxy war, more than half of it in military aid. The request comes one week after a CNN poll showed, for the first time, that a majority of Americans oppose additional funding to Kiev. For a White House committed to ensuring a Russian “quagmire” in Ukraine, public opinion is of secondary importance. Two months into a widely hyped yet now faltering Ukrainian counteroffensive, a fresh influx of NATO weaponry appears necessary to prolong the war. In one of several gloomy assessments to appear in US establishment media, a senior western diplomat tells CNN that the prospect that Ukrainian forces can “make progress that would change the balance of this conflict” is “extremely, highly unlikely.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a record-breaking military budget of $886 billion for the coming fiscal year. The National Defense Authorization Act was passed by lawmakers on July 14 by a slim margin of 219 to 210, with the majority of Democrats opposing it. However, the bill is unlikely to be approved in the Senate, as Republicans have introduced amendments that would restrict Pentagon funding to access abortions and prohibit gender-affirming medical care and hormone therapy for transgender personnel. In addition, the display of LGBTQIA2S+ Pride flags at military bases was banned. Rep. Greg Stanton from Arizona has pointed out that nearly 50% of women in the military do not have access to abortion care, largely due to state bans, making it difficult for them to obtain this necessary medical treatment.
“Rather than collecting taxes from the wealthy,” wrote the New York Times Editorial Board in a July 7 opinion piece, “the government is paying the wealthy to borrow their money.” Titled “America Is Living on Borrowed Money,” the editorial observes that over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), annual federal budget deficits will average around $2 trillion per year. By 2029, just the interest on the debt is projected to exceed the national defense budget, which currently eats up over half of the federal discretionary budget. In 2029, net interest on the debt is projected to total $1.07 trillion, while defense spending is projected at $1.04 trillion.
The US government reached its debt limit of $31.4 trillion in early 2023. This unleashed a deluge of debate as to whether or not the Treasury was going to default, and how a deeply divided Congress could come to an agreement to raise the debt ceiling. The constant chatter in the mainstream corporate media overlooked the real controversy, however. The reality is that practically no one in Washington truly cares about the US national debt. In fact, in a bipartisan deal negotiated in late May to raise the debt ceiling, Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy agreed not to cut but rather to increase the already massive military budget from roughly $800 billion to $886 billion.
A new study from the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute estimates that over 4.5 million people have died from wars launched by the west in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks. The study estimates that between 906,000 to 937,000 people have been killed as a direct result of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. “These countries have experienced the most violent wars in which the US government has been involved in the name of counterterrorism since 2001,” the report highlights. Moreover, 3.6 million people are estimated to have died indirectly from the effects of western wars, including economic collapse, food insecurity, destruction of public health facilities, environmental contamination, and recurring violence.
The US military spent $877 billion, 10 times more than Russia ($86.4 billion), and three times more than China ($292 billion). US military expenditure in 2022 was bigger than the next 10 largest spenders combined. This means the Pentagon spent more than China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Germany, France, South Korea, Japan, and Ukraine combined. This is according to data published this April by the Sweden-based Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). SIPRI calculated that the planet’s total military expenditure was $2.24 trillion in 2022. The United States, at $877 billion, thus made up 39.2% of total global military spending.
America is a stratocracy, a form of government dominated by the military. It is axiomatic among the two ruling parties that there must be a constant preparation for war. The war machine’s massive budgets are sacrosanct. Its billions of dollars in waste and fraud are ignored. Its military fiascos in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East have disappeared into the vast cavern of historical amnesia. This amnesia, which means there is never accountability, licenses the war machine to economically disembowel the country and drive the Empire into one self-defeating conflict after another. The militarists win every election. They cannot lose. It is impossible to vote against them. T
Why is the Pentagon budget so high? On March 13th, the Biden administration unveiled its $842 billion military budget request for 2024, the largest ask (in today’s dollars) since the peaks of the Afghan and Iraq wars. And mind you, that’s before the hawks in Congress get their hands on it. Last year, they added $35 billion to the administration’s request and, this year, their add-on is likely to prove at least that big. Given that American forces aren’t even officially at war right now (if you don’t count those engaged in counter-terror operations in Africa and elsewhere), what explains so much military spending?
In April 1953, newly elected President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a retired five-star Army general who had led the landings on D-Day in France in June 1944, gave his most powerful speech. It would become known as his “Cross of Iron” address. In it, Ike warned of the cost humanity would pay if Cold War competition led to a world dominated by wars and weaponry that couldn’t be reined in. In the immediate aftermath of the death of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, Ike extended an olive branch to the new leaders of that empire. He sought, he said, to put America and the world on a “highway to peace.” It was, of course, never to be
On March 18 protesters will gather at the White House to call for an end to Joe Biden’s cruel proxy war. “Cruel” is the operative word, because the war cynically uses Ukrainians as cannon fodder to weaken Russia and bring about regime change. We should all be there – or at one of the 5 sister demonstrations in other cities listed here. The March 18 Rally is organized by a variety of progressive organizations, including ANSWER Coalition, Black Alliance for Peace, Code Pink , The People’s Forum, Popular Resistance and UNAC (United National Antiwar Coalition).
This year of war in Ukraine has meant a huge boost for militarism and military budgets across the world, especially in countries of the Global North. But at GCOMS we believe the response should be quite the opposite: we should drastically reduce military spending and invest in common & human security instead… The 12th edition of the Global Days of Action on Military Spending will take place from April 13 to May 9, 2023. Join us protesting military budgets and warmongering, and take action for peace and justice! April 24 will be the main day of action once again. Using new military spending data released that day by SIPRI, we’ll hold press conferences and launch a Social Media Storm.
Since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives earlier this year, the so-called “Freedom Caucus” — the badly misnamed right-fringe of the congressional GOP — has been flexing its influence. Caucus members are deeply invested in an agenda that would increase inequality and enrich corporations and billionaires, strip hard-won rights from people of color, immigrants, women, and the LGBTQ community, destroy the environment to enrich fossil fuel companies and slash social investment for the poor. And yet surprisingly, some of these extremists are also—sort of—calling for cutting the military budget. Does that provide an opening for anti-war progressives looking to cross the aisle? Unfortunately, no.