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W Uses Fear to Fatten Military Budget
18 February 2002
The joke around Washington these days is that our president has changed the motto "Leave no child behind" to "Leave no defense contractor behind." Actually, there's more truth to that than joke. George W. Bush has parlayed the war against terrorism into a massive military buildup that includes billions for weapon systems that have nothing to do with that war.
As Paul Krugman said in his New York Times' column last week:
"The military buildup seems to have little to do with the actual threat, unless you think that al-Qaida's next move will be a frontal assault by several heavy armored divisions.
"We non-defense experts" are a bit puzzled about why an attack by maniacs armed with box cutters justifies spending $15 billion on 70-ton artillery pieces, or developing three different advanced fighters (before Sept. 11 even administration officials suggested that this was too many)."
That's what is so disturbing about George Bush's budget that will soon wend its way through Congress. Once again, Social Security, health care and dozens of other programs that could make life a bit better for millions of Americans will take a back seat to the military.
What's so sad is that all too many people are accepting this absolute nonsense because this administration has cleverly created a perception that it's needed to not only get Osama bin Laden, but contain terrorist governments like Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
The war on terrorism may indeed require some more spending on intelligence, security and the further production of those new high-tech bombs and pilotless airplanes. And, absolutely, our servicemen and women need a raise.
But Bush is loosening the purse strings so much that there's enough money for everyone's favorite military program - whether or not it has anything to do with the fight against al-Qaida. And once again, rather than force the military to shift priorities, cut down on the massive amounts of wasteful duplication and redirect its resources to the new world realities, all those old Cold War-style ships, jet and weapon systems will get new funding, too.
George Bush was in Wisconsin last week to praise Gov. Scott McCallum for making the "tough decisions" on solving the state's budget crisis.
There was a terrible irony there. While McCallum has decided to force local governments to reduce services by cutting back on everything from firefighters to park maintenance, the president has decided to throw billions more at building yet more howitzers and a Star Wars anti-missile system that most experts say won't work in the first place.
But those are the kinds of priorities we've been getting from the Republican Party for the past several decades.