Addicted to War

We can all be forgiven for looking forward with great optimism to the end of Bush-Cheney and the major policy shifts, at all levels of government, that will occur as the Democrats take over. But we are seriously delusional if we expect that the Dems will replace the war-think that is ruining our world with genuine peace-think.

We should remember that while Bill Clinton was a huge breath of fresh air after 12 years of Reagan-Bush, he engaged in an unhealthy amount of war-mongering, including refusing to sign an international treaty that would have banned the use of land mines and maintaining eight years of sanctions on the Iraqi people that resulted in over a million deaths, which Secretary of State Madeleine Albright deemed “acceptable.”

The current crop of Democratic leaders have displayed similar stumbles into scary and depressing war-think. Most recently, the Senate voted 97-0 in favor of a Joe Bomberman resolution blaming Iran for complicity in the deaths of Americans in Iraq. The very Dems who have strained to distance themselves from yea votes on the 2002 resolution that gave Bush the go-ahead for the Iraq War, simply and without any apparent agonizing opened the door to the next colossal mistake.

The problem is that even if our congressional leaders are opposed to the act of war, they are utterly addicted to the financial benefits of designing, building, and feeding the American war machine. Derrick Jackson provides the numbers:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the Democrats would “drain the swamp” of Republican corruption and “break the link between lobbyists and legislation.” But the Globe recently reported that Kennedy slid $100 million into the 2008 defense authorization bill for a General Electric fighter engine that the Air Force said it did not need.

It gets worse in a defense budget that is zooming to $648.8 billion. The nonpartisan budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense last month analyzed 309 Senate defense earmarks. Four of the top five “earmarkers” were not Republican hawks but centrist and liberal Democrats.

Levin led the way with 44 earmarks. Clinton was second with 26. Reed was fourth with 23, one behind Republican John Warner of Virginia. In fifth place was Charles Schumer of New York with 21. When asked if she saw any change in defense earmark behavior since the Democrats took back the House and the Senate, senior analyst Laura Peterson of the Taxpayers for Common Sense said over the telephone, “No.”

More proof the swamp is still full is the fact that only four of the top 10 senators in defense campaign contributions in the 2006 election cycle were Republicans. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Democrats Kennedy, Clinton, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Dianne Feinstein of California, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut collected 60 percent of the $1.4 million the industry lavished among the top 10.

But, but, but, the Dems say, we’re not for war, we’re just for jobs in our districts and a strong national economy.

This no longer washes when bringing home the bacon fries the rest of the world. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute last year reported that the United States is now responsible for just under half of the entire planet’s trillion-dollar military spending. No other nation accounts for more than 5 percent of the world’s military spending.

The Stockholm report said the United States “is the principal determinant of the current world trend.” With that, it is no surprise that the United States accounted for 80 percent of the increase in global military expenditures in 2005. The United States is also roughly tied with Russia in exporting arms to the rest of the world, together accounting for 60 percent of the total.

The World Policy Institute, an independent arms proliferation watchdog group, reported in 2005 that the United States transferred arms to 18 of the 25 countries in active conflicts. It also reported that 20 of the 25 nations that received arms from the United States in 2003 were classified as undemocratic or as having a poor human rights record by our own State Department.

Fifty years ago, as President Eisenhower was leaving office, he warned against the dangers of the military-industrial-congressional-complex. No one listened, and America is now war-think nation. On this issue at least, Ralph Nader was right: there’s no difference between the parties, they both stand for war.

Michael Sky