Despite widespread death and deprivation, the warfare state marches on without interruption.
By David Masciotra
The animating force of American government is war. Every year, the United States bombs multiple countries, conducts special forces raids across several continents and spends hundreds of billions of dollars to maintain a military presence in 70-plus countries, either in the form of occupying armies or large bases. Now that the U.S. is widely seen as a bungling, belligerent pariah, even allied nations no longer want American troops on their territory. The Japanese complain that U.S. military personnel sexually assault women without consequences and spread the coronavirus, while Italian villagers object to the aesthetic and sonic assault of a foreign military installation on their otherwise quiet country lifestyle.
Regardless of who is president or which party holds power, the federal government spends more than half its annual discretionary budget — roughly $721 billion in fiscal 2020 — on so-called “defense,” which translates into weaponry and technology that benefits no one but the major corporations that gratuitously profit from massive defense contracts.
Two weeks ago, Congress, including most Democrats, voted overwhelmingly to defeat a measure sponsored by the Progressive Caucus that proposed reducing the “defense” budget by 10 percent and reallocating those funds to COVID-19 testing and relief programs.
There is no possible way to fund social services adequately without reducing the military budget, and no matter the good intentions of Democrats who advocate for aggressive policies to combat climate change, their credibility cannot withstand scrutiny if they refuse to discuss the toxic effect of the U.S. military. According to multiple studies, including a particularly detailed report from Brown University, the Department of Defense is the biggest polluter in the world.
At the conclusion of the Second World War, free nations faced a choice whether to construct a welfare state or a warfare state. The United States alone — or, one might say, “exceptionally” — decided to go the way of warfare. In 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began killing thousands of people, forcing the closure of countless businesses, citizens of welfare states could take for granted that government-funded health care, unemployment compensation and public health infrastructure would help sustain them through the crisis. Here in the warfare state, people can take nothing for granted.
Nurses do not have adequate personal protective equipment, recovering COVID-19 patients receive bills totaling thousands of dollars, small business owners are compelled to lay off workers while multinational corporations receive large tax breaks, and many impoverished families have not even received disaster relief funds to cover the cost of burying their loved ones. …
(Commoner Call photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2020. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )
“We like war! We like war, because we’re good at it. And it’s a good thing we are. We’re not good at anything else anymore. We can’t build a decent car. We can’t make a TV set worth a fuck. We’ve got no steel industry left. We can’t educate our young people. We can’t get health care to our old people. But we can bomb the shit out of your country. Especially if your contry is full of brown people!”
— George Carlin (1992)