Here’s how this veteran feels about the $54 billion military budget increase demanded by our new so-called commander-in-chief: it’s bullshit. In fact, calling it bullshit is too kind, because that would insinuate that it’s useful in some way — bullshit actually makes excellent compost. Unlike genuine bullshit, this military budget increase cannot assist anyone in growing food. But at the risk of offending any bulls, whose shit legitimately benefits the Earth, I’m going to go ahead and label Trump’s budget proposal as bullshit, because it’s truly the first and only thought that came to my head when I read it. Why? I thought you’d never ask.
During my two Iraq deployments, I saw so much money being wasted with such reckless abandon that it would make Bruce Wayne feel like he was billionaire-ing all wrong.
“Why do I only have this single, bad-ass Batmobile, when I could have a whole fleet of them that constantly break down, barely get used, and are entirely the wrong vehicle for the job?” he would ask himself, gazing enviously over the countless motor pools full of quasi-functional Humvees and LMTVs. “Why only have one lightweight, highly-protective body armor suit, when I could have warehouses full of body armor plates that weigh me down and don’t cover all my vulnerable areas? Why have one top-of-the-line computer to keep me connected when I could have thousands of slow, shitty computers? Why have one flat-screen TV for watching multiple news reports when I could have hundreds of them, all simultaneously blaring Fox News? Why have a Bat Signal when I could insist on having messages carried to me by low-ranking soldiers who have abandoned all hope? WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH ME?”
If you think I’m exaggerating about the military’s blatantly wasteful and fraudulent spending, that’s probably only because you’ve chosen not to be in the military. Ask any current or former service member if they think the military spends money wisely and you’ll end up with a face covered in spittle from their explosive laughter. Ask the ones who deployed at the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan if they were sent with body armor or armored vehicles — they weren’t. Ask those of us who deployed a couple years later if we were sent with a fully-staffed, well-trained, competent team — we weren’t. Ask those of us who worked in the headquarters how much time we spent plastering huge, shiny, decorative posters and plaques on the walls next to flat-screen LED TVs whose sole purpose was to scroll a slideshow of the names and photos of our dead comrades. Ask our company commander how much money and energy and time he personally spent painting our division patch onto the blast walls around the headquarters. Ask the soldiers who used to work in the mess halls and laundry facilities about how their jobs were taken over by remittance-laborers employed by Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Dick Cheney’s Halliburton. Ask our division commander about the personal gym trailer he demanded so he wouldn’t have to work out with the rest of us peons — and while you’re at it, ask him how much his command spent on paying off Sunni militia members in Iraq during “the surge” so they would be on “our side” … at least till we left the country.
These are just a tiny, tiny fraction of the fiscal failures made by the United States military over the past 16 years of the profoundly unsuccessful “war on terror” — just the ones right off the top of my head.
Even if I hadn’t personally seen the effects of grossly misappropriated funds and excessive federal spending on defense contracts, there’s no shortage of proof that this is the war industry standard. Just look at these numbers, reported in The Nation by Daniel May just last week:
Raytheon, the fourth-largest military contractor in the United States and the world’s leading producer of guided missiles, received 90 percent of its revenues in 2015 from the federal government. In that year, Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy took home $20.4 million in total compensation. Among the large military contractors, this is the norm. In 2014, the CEO of Lockheed Martin — which received 78 percent of its revenues from the government that year — was paid a total of $33.7 million. In 2015, the CEO of Boeing, the second-largest government contractor, earned $29 million — and paid no federal income tax in 2013.
If I thought for even one second that this budget increase was going to be put toward fully staffing, equipping and training service members in an effort to end this war — which I don’t, because it’s impossible to end a war against an emotion — a randomly huge number like $54 billion would seem worthwhile to me. If I thought that money was going to go toward not only rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, but also reparations for the Iraqis and Afghans who’ve had their lives upended (if not ended) through these senseless invasions and occupations, that number would not seem big enough. If I thought it was going to go toward effective, non-pharmaceutical treatments for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, moral injury, or drug and alcohol addiction, I would call that number a good start. If I thought it was going toward welcoming, housing and caring for the millions of refugees created by these wars, I would demand that massive number be exponentially bigger.
But of course that money isn’t earmarked for anything as sensible as all that. It’s going directly into the grubby little paws of weapons-manufacturers, defense contractors and the politicians who make it all possible — otherwise known as the military-industrial complex. And rather than keeping Americans safe, that decision is endangering us, because all those billions of dollars are being taken directly out of agencies and programs that do keep us safe: diplomacy, public health, the environment, education and anything else that would especially benefit low-income individuals, many of whom actually serve in the armed forces.
Even if we weren’t well aware that the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost multiple trillions of dollars already, with stunningly dismal results, the idea of dumping more money into the military-industrial complex makes absolutely no sense. After 16 years and enough dollars to fill all the useless fighter jets that have already been produced, Afghanistan and Iraq are both still deeply unstable, and everyone who had their hands on the “invade” button knew that was the inevitable outcome. Without even needing to go into official policies and strategies, any single one of the generals overseeing those conflicts could admit, if he were being honest, that throwing money at this problem will not make it go away.
The only benefactors of this proposed money-dump are military contractors who are already making a killing from a perpetual state of war, the defense industry, hawkish politicians, oil companies, foreign governments who depend on an unstable Middle East, and of course, good old Donald Trump himself — because as long as he keeps distracting us from the bigger picture here, he wins. And that means, as always, that the rest of us must lose.
In other words: bullshit.