War and the Suck-It Budget

April 11, 2011

From long ago, and not-so-surprisingly far, far away:

Defense Secretary McElroy said after a conference with President Eisenhower Friday that the Pentagon would have “a pretty rough time” trying to avoid a military spending increase staring July 1.
McElroy ruled out any increase totaling as much as two billion dollars in excess of the estimated defense outlay of $40,800,000,000.
The Milwaukee Journal, Nov. 28, 1958

From Reuters on Sunday:

The Unites States, with costly military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, increased spending by 2.8 percent to $698 billion — about six times as much as China, the second-biggest spender ahead of Britain, France and Russia. In 2009, U.S. spending grew 7.7 percent.
“The United States has increased its military spending by 81 percent since 2001,” SIPRI said. “At 4.8 percent of gross domestic product, U.S. military spending in 2010 represents the largest economic burden outside the Middle East”, said SIPRI Military Expenditure Project chief Sam Perlo-Freeman.

Now we’re talking some real money.

(Illustration found here via Google Images).

Even with all those billions and billions and billion of dollars, and all that so-called sophisticated software/hardware-technological-wonder-machines, human beings are still human beings.
And the innocent suffer.
This horror story from February 2010 of a Predator drone attack in Afghanistan reveals the horror of modern war despite the big bucks.
From Common Dreams:

At 6:15 a.m., just before the sun crested the mountains, the convoy halted.
“We have 18 pax [passengers] dismounted and spreading out at this time,” an Air Force pilot said from a cramped control room at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, 7,000 miles away.
He was flying a Predator drone remotely using a joystick, watching its live video transmissions from the Afghan sky and radioing his crew and the unit on the ground.
The Afghans unfolded what looked like blankets and kneeled.
“They’re praying. They are praying,” said the Predator’s camera operator, seated near the pilot.
By now, the Predator crew was sure that the men were Taliban.
“This is definitely it, this is their force,” the cameraman said. “Praying? I mean, seriously, that’s what they do.”
“They’re gonna do something nefarious,” the crew’s intelligence coordinator chimed in.
At 6:22 a.m., the drone pilot radioed an update: “All … are finishing up praying and rallying up near all three vehicles at this time.”
The camera operator watched the men climb back into the vehicles.
“Oh, sweet target,” he said.

Yes, nefarious indeed.

None of those Afghans was an insurgent.
They were men, women and children going about their business, unaware that a unit of U.S. soldiers was just a few miles away, and that teams of U.S. military pilots, camera operators and video screeners had taken them for a group of Taliban fighters.

By the U.S. count, 15 or 16 men were killed and 12 people were wounded, including a woman and three children.
Elders from the Afghans’ home villages said in interviews that 23 had been killed, including two boys, Daoud, 3, and Murtaza, 4.
That evening, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, went to the presidential palace in Kabul to apologize to President Hamid Karzai.
Two days later, he went on Afghan television and promised “a thorough investigation to prevent this from happening again.”

Several weeks after the attack, American officers travelled to the villages to apologize to survivors and the victims’ families.
They gave each survivor 140,000 afghanis, or about $2,900.
Families of the dead received $4,800.

This out of a budget of nearly $700 billion.

That much money can cause a lot of damage to bystanders.
So much so, the slaughter of civilians can get out of hand — from a Wikileaks trove by the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010 displays the fact war is still one-sided.

U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been causing huge civilian casualties with 63 percent of some 109,000 people killed in the Iraq war being civilians, according to a report on the U.S. human rights record released on Sunday.

Figures from the WikiLeaks website also revealed up to 285,000 war casualties in Iraq from March 2003 through the end of 2009, according to the report.
“The U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and other regions have also brought tremendous casualties to local people,” said the report.

By the budget, boys.
Instead of Planned Parenthood, NPR, how about some of this military shit.
As  Time magazine noted this morning:

And yet there is one, massive piece of the federal budget that these brave hawks dared not touch: defense.
Not a solitary penny of the $38 billion in spending cuts will come out of the Pentagon’s coffers.
In fact, defense spending will increase by $5 billion over 2010 levels, to $513 billion.
And that doesn’t even include the cost of ongoing “overseas contingency operations,” otherwise known as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And that’s what I truly call nefarious.

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