VICTIMS OF STATE POLICE SPYING SCANDAL DEMAND COPIES OF FILES & RIGHT TO ATTORNEY
When activists contacted the Homeland Security Bureau of the state police, they were informed they could look at their files, but not get copies, nor could they bring an attorney with them. In response, the
WHEN: Monday, October 27, 2008 at 5:30 PM
WHERE: State Police headquarters,
t r u t h o u t | 10.27
The Trillion Dollar Tag Sale: How the Pentagon Could Help Bail Out
Sunday 26 October 2008
by: Nick Turse, TomDispatch.com
Wars, bases, and money. The three are inextricably tied together.
In the 1980s, for example, American support for jihadis like Osama bin Laden waging war on (Soviet) infidels who invaded and constructed bases in Afghanistan, a Muslim land, led to rage by many of the same jihadis at the bases (U.S.) infidels built in the Muslim holy land of Saudi Arabia in the 1990s. That, in turn, led to jihadis like bin Laden declaring war on those infidels, which, after September 11, 2001, led the Bush administration to launch, and then prosecute, a Global War on Terror, often from newly built bases in Muslim lands. Over the last seven years, the results of that war have been particularly disastrous for Iraqis and Afghans. Sizable numbers of Americans, however, are now beginning to suffer as well. After all, their hard-earned taxpayer dollars have been poured into wars without end, leaving the country deeply in debt and in a state of economic turmoil.
In his 1988 State of the Union message, President Ronald Reagan called the jihadis in
While that version of history may be disputed, today, it is entirely possible that one of Reagan's freedom fighters, Osama bin Laden, actually returned the favor by perfecting the art of financially felling a superpower. While Reagan ran up a superpower-sized tab to outspend the Soviets, bin Laden has done it on the cheap. Essentially for the cost of box cutters and flight training, he got the Bush administration to spend itself into penury, without a superpower in sight.
Since bin Laden's supreme act of economic judo in 2001, the U.S. military has spent multi-billions of tax dollars on a string of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, failed wars in both countries, and a failed effort to make good on George W. Bush's promise to bring in bin Laden "dead or alive." Despite this record, the Pentagon still has a success option in its back pocket that might help bail out the American people in this perilous economic moment. It could immediately begin to auction off its overseas empire posthaste. To head down this road, however,
Today, the Pentagon acknowledges 761 active military "sites" in foreign countries - and that's without bases in
With those bases came a series of costly wars in
Since 2001, the Bush administration's Global War on Terror (including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) has cost taxpayers more than the recent bailout - more than $800 billion and still climbing by at least $3.5 billion each week. And the full bill has yet to come due. According to Noble Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and
While squandering money, the Global War on Terror has also acted as a production line for the creation of yet more military bases in the oil heartlands of the planet. Just how many is unknown - the Pentagon keeps exact figures under wraps - but, in 2005, according to the
If you were to begin the process of disentangling Americans from this world of war and the war economy that goes with it, those bases would be a good place to start. There is no way to estimate the true costs of our empire of bases, but it's worth considering what an imperial tag sale could mean for America's financial well-being. One thing is clear: in getting rid of those bases, the
Tag Sales and Savings
If the Pentagon sold off just the buildings and structures on its officially acknowledged overseas bases at their current estimated replacement value, the country would stand to gain more than $119 billion. Think of this as but a down payment on a full-scale Pentagon bailout package.
In addition, while it leases the property on which most of its bases abroad are built, the Pentagon does own some lucrative lands that could be sold off. For instance, it is the proud owner of more than 11,000 acres in
Without those bases, billions of dollars in other Pentagon expenses would immediately disappear. For instance, during the years of the Global War on Terror, the Overseas Cost of Living Allowance, which equalizes the "purchasing power between members [of the military] overseas and their U.S.-based counterparts," has reached about $12 billion. Over the same period, the price tag for educating the children of
And that's not the end of it either. Back in the 1990s, the Pentagon estimated that it was spending $30 billion each year on "base support activities" - though the exact meaning of this phrase remains vague. Just take, for example, five bases being handed back to
Some recent Pentagon contracts for general operations and support functions overseas are instructive. In March, for instance, Bahrain Maritime and Mercantile International was awarded a one-year contract worth $2.8 billion to supply and distribute "food and non-food products" to "Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and other approved customers located in the Middle East countries of Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia."
In July, the French foodservices giant Sodexo received a one-year contract worth $180 million for "maintenance, repair and operations for the Korea Zone of the Pacific Region." These and other pricey support contracts for food, fuel, maintenance, transport, and other non-military expenses, paid to foreign firms, would disappear along with those
Men and Materiel
With most or all of those 761 foreign bases off the books, and a much reduced global military "footprint," the
The very opposite, however, is happening. Facing manpower demands on an overstretched military, the Pentagon is planning to ramp up the size of the armed forces by 92,000 over the next several years. That expansion comes with a sure-to-rise price tag of $108 billion. This step has the support of large majorities in Congress and both presidential candidates. John McCain has denounced the notion of "roll[ing] back our overseas commitments" and instead proposes "to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps." Barack Obama agrees, but has been more specific. He has long touted plans, echoing the Pentagon's desires, to "increase the size of the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by 27,000 troops."
Just attracting this many recruits would cost a small fortune. This year, the Army had to spend $240 million on advertising alone to help meet its recruiting goals. On top of that, it paid out $547 million in bonuses to recruits - a 164% increase since 2005. And this is to say nothing of how much it costs to train, equip, feed, and pay these future troops.
Capping, if not decreasing, the size of the military and bringing troops home would be the foundation for a new foreign policy based on non-aggression and fiscal responsibility. This would, of course, be a major departure for the military. In the 120 years between 1888 and 2008, according to a study by the Congressional Research Service, only seven - using generous criteria - were without "notable deployments of
Take the F-22A Raptor, a fighter plane designed to counter advanced Soviet aircraft that were never built. Pentagon budget documents released earlier this year put the estimated cost of the program, 2007 to 2013, at almost $3.7 billion. With no advanced Soviet fighters around to dogfight - Russian aircraft had trouble enough in their recent Georgian encounters - and no need for its "global strike" capabilities, the program could be scrapped. Such a step is not without precedent. As Wired magazine's Danger Room blog reported last month, Congress "all-but-eliminated funding for the so-called 'Blackswift' program," a prototype hypersonic aircraft for which the Pentagon had requested almost $800 million in 2009 start-up funding. If the project remains stillborn, that alone will mean billions in future savings.
This year, for example, the Air Force is spending nearly $65 billion on new weapons systems. By shutting current and future weapons programs not meant for actual defense of the
Bases Gone Bust
If history suggests anything, it's that one way or another, on a long enough timeline, all imperial garrisons fall. Some, of course, go bust sooner than others. As one Army publication noted in the 1970s, "[t]he ravages of rot, jungle, and weather have left only memories of the once-mighty World War II bases of the South Pacific." The fate of many bases built since has been no less inglorious.
While it would be difficult to total up just how many firebases, camps, airbases, port facilities, and base camps the U.S. had in Indochina during the Vietnam War, or what it cost to build and upgrade them, the numbers would surely be staggering. What we do know is instructive. For instance, the U.S. Army-Vietnam headquarters complex at Long Binh, about 16 miles from Saigon, had a value of more than $100 million in 1972 - the year the U.S. gave it away to its South Vietnamese allies. They, in turn, lost it when the
Similarly, in the 1990s, the
In 2005, however, Uzbek security forces perpetrated a massacre of domestic protesters, leading to a Bush administration demand for an investigation. In the end, all the money spent on the base was wasted. Not long after the American request,
The buildings and structures at the
The Pentagon stands to lose billions more when it finally withdraws from
Similarly, closing down the Bush administration's notorious torture bases might yield significant financial savings (while enhancing global opinion of the
The Pentagon Comes Home
While we may never know if it was bin Laden's knowledge of America's "expeditionary" history that drove him to plan out the 9/11 attacks, he certainly goaded the Bush administration into a Soviet-style military spending spree, complete with a Soviet-style ruinous war in Afghanistan. With some caves for bases, he managed to sink Americans into a multi-trillion dollar financial quagmire.
If the United States had never wasted the better part of a trillion dollars fighting a war in Vietnam and, following defeat there, embarked on a scheme to saddle the Soviets with a similarly ignominious loss - which has now led to wars with a multi-trillion dollar price tag - the United States might not be in such dire financial straits today. And yet, despite the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the
When Americans want to get serious about a long-term bailout strategy that brings genuine financial and national security, they'll look to real cost-cutting options like stopping
Nick Turse is the associate editor and research director of Tomdispatch.com. His work has appeared in many publications, including the
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