Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the announcement of the Bush administration’s plan to close some military facilities. Conrad Burns, Denny Rehberg, and Max Baucus are suddenly on Red Alert, trying to outdo each other with promises to protect Montana’s permanent pork installations. As Gov. Schweitzer noted during his audience with the president earlier this year, Bush is like a magician who distracts by waving one hand, while he’s ripping the audience off with the other. Well, he’s at it again, distracting us with base closures at home while pouring our future—and untold billions—into fruitless and endless wars abroad.
When questioned about the wisdom of closing military bases during wartime, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters this week: “The changes are essential in helping us win this conflict,” which he now dubs “the war against extremism.” Saying “Those changes are more necessary, not less, during a time of war,” Rumsfeld added: “The American taxpayer benefits.”
But consider this: The sum total of the “savings” to be realized from the base closures might amount to about $50 billion over the next 20 years. Two years ago Congress approved an initial $80 billion off-budget appropriation for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Last year they tossed another $82 billion off-budget appropriation into the bottomless pot (although not until after the election). And the budget just passed by Congress and signed by Bush contains—better sit down—$441 BILLION dollars for one year’s spending on the U.S. military.
It’s also a tad puzzling when Rumsfeld says “the American taxpayer benefits,” since the Pentagon itself says the closures would “free about $5 billion a year for the additional personnel and equipment it needs.” Since the money winds up being spent on the military anyway, where, exactly, is the great “benefit” to American taxpayers?
After the failure to find even one Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq—and the recently released memos to Britain’s Tony Blair saying 9/11 provided the Bushies with a handy excuse for their gonna-do-it-anyway plan to topple Saddam—we all know this president simply cannot be trusted to tell the American people the truth. The latest lies, contained in the base-closure baloney being tossed our way, merely reinforce this administration’s tendency to prevaricate at the expense of the nation’s international credibility and our exponentially escalating national debt.
If there’s one thing the Bush administration is good at, however, it’s getting people to hate each other. Thanks to their illegal wars and the unconscionable torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, America is now hated by almost the entire Muslim world with a deep and lasting passion. Just to put that in perspective, remember that the most common name in the world is Muhammed—not Chris.
It’s not only the Muslims that Bush has managed to turn against the U.S. We are equally abhorred by Europeans for any number of reasons, from blowing off the Kyoto Accord to dumping international treaties to ignoring the International Court of Justice to insulting the United Nations.
Now, Bush has even managed to turn us against ourselves as states fight each other over which bases will be closed. That the vast majority of the base closings are in “blue” states, while the vast majority of expanded bases are in “red” states is perfectly in keeping with the Bush modus operandi of shamelessly abusing power and dividing Americans for the sole benefit of the Republican party.
Yet, there is a method in this madness. By cranking up the heat through the threat of base closures, Bush accomplishes two things: First, as Schweitzer noted, he diverts attention from his wars, which are going horribly, as American soldiers continue to die while those “liberated” nations topple toward all-out civil war. Second, by turning Americans against each other in the battle for the bases, he manages to crank up the volume on support for our already bloated military budget.
When people are jumping on the bandwagon to preserve some military installation or another, who will have the time to question the validity of our overseas wars? Even better for Bush: what desperate defender of local economies could have the perspective to question a military budget that is dragging down the value of the dollar, crushing our states as non-military federal spending is slashed, and dumping our national treasury into a futureless investment in weapons systems, new nukes, and Star Wars fantasies to surround our beautiful blue Earth with satellites of death?
With the looming threat of base closures, Bush attempts to communicate that we obviously need more military spending, not less. And we are spending more—so much more that it becomes painfully obvious what a ruse the base-closure diversion is. There is plenty enough money in the bloated military budget to keep the bases open—if that was the priority. But it’s not.
Instead, we are faced with what President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of in his 1961 farewell speech. “In the councils of government,” Eisenhower said, “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” In other words, beware the wedding of business and war in an endless, deadly, and resource-draining dance.
Max, Denny, and Conrad all voted in knee-jerk unison to spend more than a billion dollars a day, every day, on the military. They should have voted for a future where those dollars go to take care of the dire health, social and education needs increasingly facing Americans here at home.
It would appear they have been hypnotized by Bush’s nefariously waving hand and distracted by base-closing baloney—while our real future goes into the bottomless black hole of Eisenhower’s dreaded military-industrial complex.
When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at firstname.lastname@example.org.