System Update: Funding The Forever War
How the House Armed Services Committee, in the Middle of a Pandemic, Approved a Huge Military Budget and More War in Afghanistan
In this week’s episode of System Update, host Glenn Greenwald takes a thorough look at what happens in congress when the public isn’t looking, helping make sense of how the US keeps it’s endless war machine perpetually running.
WHILE THE COUNTRY IS SUBSUMED by both public health and an unemployment crisis, and is separately focused on a sustained protest movement against police abuses, a massive $740.5 billion military spending package was approved last week by the Democratic-controlled House Armed Services Committee. The GOP-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee will almost certainly send the package with little to no changes to the White House for signing.
As we reported last week, pro-war and militaristic Democrats on the Committee joined with GOP Rep. Liz Cheney and the pro-war faction she leads to form majorities which approved one hawkish amendment after the next. Among those amendments was one co-sponsored by Cheney with Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado that impeded attempts by the Trump administration to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, and another amendment led by Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., and Cheney which blocked the White House’s plan to remove 10,000 troop stationed in Germany.
While those two amendments were designed to block the Trump administration’s efforts to bring troops home, this same bipartisan pro-war faction defeated two other amendments that would have imposed limits on the Trump administration’s aggression and militarism: one sponsored by Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to require the Trump administration to provide a national security rationale before withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, signed with the Soviet Union in 1987, and another to impose limits on the ability of the U.S. to arm and otherwise assist Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen.
Perhaps most remarkable is the amount of the military budget itself. It is three times more than the planet’s second-highest military spender, China; it is ten times more than the third-highest spender, Saudi Arabia; it is 15 times more than the military budget of the country most frequently invoked by Committee members as a threat to justify militarism: Russia; and it is more than the next 15 countries combined spend on their military. They authorized this kind of a budget in the midst of a global pandemic as tens of millions of newly unemployed Americans struggle even to pay their rent.
How does this happen? How do Democrats succeed in presenting an image of themselves based on devotion to progressive causes and the welfare of the ordinary citizen while working with Liz Cheney to ensure that vast resources are funneled to the weapons manufacturers, defense sector and lobbyists who fund their campaigns? Why would a country with no military threats from any sovereign nation to its borders spend almost a trillion dollars a year for buying weapons while its citizens linger without health care, access to quality schools, or jobs? Who are the people in Congress doing this, and why?
These are questions that are rarely examined in media venues. News sites, op-ed pages and especially 24-hour cable news are obsessed with trivialities: Trump’s latest tweet or offhand remark in a rally; symbolic culture war distractions in which Congress plays little role; the offensive remarks of people who wield little power. As a result, what the U.S. government really does — in the bowels of the Congress and in the underbelly of sub-committee proceedings — receives little substantive attention.
First aired on The Intercept.
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