Saturday, May 7, 2016

America’s RAW Deal
3rd Post

The Other Costs of War

Before going further we should stop right here for a moment and mourn the lives lost, the lives maimed, the lives of those with lost loved ones, and the lives of those with lives altered in other devastating ways, all of whom the leaders of America’s corpocracy sacrificed for their own self-interest. It almost seems callous to say there are other “costs.” But there are, many more, and we must not ignore their incalculable damage to America and Americans. The “people’s court” needs to know how much to hold the regimes’ accountable, at least symbolically, for their crimes and other wrongdoing because the regimes so far have managed to stay above the law and avoid being held accountable.

Environmental Degradation
I am considering environmental degradation to be a non-monetary cost because it is impossible to put a price tag on it. America’s military not only kills people, it kills the environment. In the Vietnam War, for instance, the chemical Agent Orange was used to defoliate the countryside so as to better see the enemy. That was an instance of deliberate destruction of the environment. Most of the military’s destruction is a byproduct of military operations.

One of the biggest polluters is the Department of Defense. Here is a sample of DOD’s destructive imprint on the environment:

Abandoned waste at military bases dotting the globe
Defoliation and desertification
Depleted uranium
Insatiable use of fossil fuels
Land mines and cluster bombs left behind
Toxic contamination of the air
Toxic contamination of resources for drinking water
Toxic contamination of soil

The Loss of Privacy and Freedom

Americans have lost their Constitutional right to privacy and live in the land of the watched. “We have no place to hide” exclaims Robert Scheer, distinguished journalist and prolific book author. Neither, apparently, do leaders of foreign countries spied on by America’s international spying ring.

In a warfare and police state its citizens are not really citizens in a democracy. They are subjects in a corpocracy, the collusion between government and big corporations, including those in the war and spy industries, with government in a subservient role. Ordinary citizens living in a corpocracy  have lost their freedom as citizens to live their own lives within socially appropriate and legal boundaries.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman Consul and Orator (106BC-43BC) who wrote Western civilization’s first democratic constitution,, said that freedom is participation in power.  The reason Cicero believed freedom is participation in power is because power means control and a free people in a true democracy have more rather than less control over whether and how much health, happiness, and prosperity they have.

Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither.”

The Lost Opportunity to Achieve Peace

This is the most serious loss. Unless peace can be achieved America will remain a warfare and police state with all the risks it entails, including the unthinkable, Armageddon.

The Lost Opportunity to Rebuild America

Trillions of dollars over the years have been wasted on America’s two habits. Just since 1948 over 20 trillion dollars reportedly has been spent on the military budget. I once estimated that one-half of that amount is sheer “warfare welfare,” the other half reflecting a realistic defense budget limited to the costs of responding to attacks on our shores by foreign states and terrorist groups. That amounts to least over 10 trillion dollars in lost opportunity costs since 1948.

Money squandered on habits is money spent that is no longer available for useful expenditures. It’s money that could have been spent over more than a 60-year period on meeting pressing domestic and global needs in employment, education, nutrition, health care, sanitation, you name it.

By losing this opportunity America has become the worst among industrialized nations in income inequality, unemployment rate, food insecurity, life expectancy at birth, and prison population. America is a country in which four of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives; a country in which one million public school students are homeless and over 16 million live in poverty; a country in which thousands upon thousands of homeless people live in tunnels beneath the streets of major U.S. cities.  Such are the “sadtistics” about America.                      

Had we not lost the opportunity, had our government, as prescribed in the Constitution provided for the general welfare and not the welfare of the corpocracy, including its warriors and spies, America would be a very different America today, an educated America, an employed America, a healthy America, a happy America, and an America at peace with the world.

The War Resisters League has given us some tabulated examples of what could have been done constructively with the money spent just on the Iraq war: “48,801,253 children could have attended a year of Head Start; we could have built 3,317,543 additional housing units for low-income people; we could have hired 6,385,283 additional public school teachers for one year; or provided 17,861,650 students four-year scholarships at public universities---.” And I will add that had peace broken out all over after the initial Iraq War, we could have spent the war money saved from then through now for more research to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s, for rebuilding bridges so cars don’t crash into the water and sink, for ending water and air pollutions, for ending poverty once and for all, and for getting closer to a land of economic and social justice.

The Erosion of Civil Standards and the Unraveling of Society

In times of war, the law falls silent.
---Cicero 100BC-43BC
Civil standards are guidelines and requirements for how to behave in a civilized society so that it remains a civilized society. There are two kinds of standards, the universal ethical or moral values that are the guidelines and the rule of law that are the requirements.

Universal moral or ethical values are the highest standard because, as the saying goes, morality can’t be legislated. Countless laws would be needed to do so. There are just too many ways to breech the different values (namely; accountability, caring for others, excellence, fairness, honesty, integrity, justice, loyalty, promise keeping, respecting others, and responsibility) that a lawyer turned ethicist, an unusual twist, found in his search for them across centuries and cultures. 

These values are independent of any religious beliefs. They are, in short, humanity’s universal values. They matter because violating them has harmful consequences of some kind (whether financial, psychological, and/or physical) and degree (from trivial to deadly). The earliest humans noticed those consequences and that explains how the values became universal and timeless. You will see as we go along in this book that it is an account of these values being persistently and egregiously breached, more so than in any time in history.

Any nation is both morally and legally bound to honor the lower standard, the rule of law. There are two rules of law that must not be violated by any nation, domestic law and international law. America’s leaders have consistently violated both. According to Frances Boyle, an authority on international law, “more than 30 top U.S. officials, including presidents G.W. Bush and Obama, are guilty of war crimes or crimes against peace and humanity" legally akin to those perpetrated by the former Nazi regime in Germany.

Here are some of those laws:

First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eight Amendments
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
Geneva Convention’s Article 3
Rome Statute (Article 7) of the International Criminal Court
UN Charter’s Articles 2, 5, 33, and 51
U.S. Constitution Articles 1 and 3
Whistleblower protection laws
And any and all laws against murder

If these two sets of standards were ever to be completely eroded America’s society would unravel, and not coincidentally we are now witnessing the early stages of America unraveling.

The conventional argument is that there is a difference between “just” and “unjust” wars. It’s the argument that helps people addicted to or tolerant of the war habit to rationalize it, to make it seem acceptable that millions of people have died at the first, second, and more hands of Americans. An alternative argument, which I expand upon later is that there is no such thing as a “just” or even necessary war.

Twisted Loyalty and Patriotism

Loyalty can be good, bad, or false. Good loyalty can be expressed as a plea by truly patriotic citizens, “My country, please do right and no wrong.” Jingoistic patriotism, or “my country right or wrong,” is bad loyalty. It is the kind that helped sustain Hitler’s brutal regime and killing machine. Jingoistic patriotism is fueled by demagogues and war mongers for self-serving interests.  I will return later to the matter of patriotism

The Loss of Truth

“Not a single thing that we commonly believe about wars that helps keep them around is true,” says David Swanson, author and antiwar activist. In a warfare and police state truth is hidden by the state and by its allies such as the mainstream media.  The state doesn’t dare tell the truth about the real reasons for it its warring and spying for fear of provoking and succumbing to public backlash.

Lincoln Caplan, a member of The American Scholar’s editorial board wrote recently in that journal asking whether journalists who leak state secrets are “leakers or traitors.” He asked the wrong question.  “Do we think keepers of state secrets are traitors to an open, free, and peaceful society?” is the question I would ask.

As columnist Frank Rich once said, “---if there’s to be a witch hunt for traitors, the top of our government is where it should begin, [with] the real traitors,---the officials who squandered American blood and treasure on an ill-considered (Iraq) war and then tried to cover up their lies and mistakes.”  

In our society, secret keepers lie when asked about their secrets. Witness the true case of five white men properly suited and seated and answering questions at a Congressional hearing: the National Counterterrorism Center Director, the FBI Director, Director of National Intelligence, the CIA Director, and the Defense Intelligence Agency Director. Now that’s a whopping lot of spy chiefs at one table, and according to Paul Craig Roberts, a former official in the Reagan administration, who reported the case, they were traitors telling Congress whopping lies. “Congress,” he wrote, “is content to sit there and listen to their ongoing lies time after time after time, despite the fact that these 5 have committed more and worse crimes against our country than the "terrorists" that serve as an excuse for the crimes committed by the intelligence agencies.”

The Loss of Knowledge

Francis Bacon, English philosopher in the 17th century, observed that “knowledge is power.” It really doesn’t take being a philosopher to know that. The more one knows the more one will have more influence (i.e. control or power) over opportunities for improved functioning and overall betterment.

Our government knows it. Our mainstream media knows it. Secrets and propaganda are there tools of trade. What we have today, author Robert McChesney says is “rich media, poor Democracy.” If we want to know the real truth about our government’s warring and spying business we don’t rely on that government or the mainstream media.

It goes without saying though that a more knowledgeable citizenry is not enough by itself to stop the mightiest military power in the world.

The Loss of Trust

Trust is having confidence that people, organizations and institutions will do what they should do and, of course, tell the truth. Critics of America’s two addictions obviously have no trust in their government to stop its warring and spying.

Trust takes on a different twist in the spook business. Spooks trust other spooks on the same side to keep their secrets. Spooks who are double agents walk a fine line of trust, not being overly confident about which side to trust. The height of double spooking was probably the Cold War era, a childish but dangerous conflict.  Malcolm Gladwell, prolific book author and critic-at-large at The New Yorker has written a spellbinding review of a spellbinding book about double agent Kim Philby during the Cold War. I mention this article because Gladwell makes a point I want to extend. He comments that few spy secrets are of any strategic value. Precisely, Mr. Gladwell; spying epitomizes what we psychologists call “functional autonomy,” and in this case it is exemplified by spying for the sake of spying.


Blowback is an extreme form of what I call “boomerang harm.” The deadly “9/11” al-Qaeda terrorist air strikes on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the deliberate crash of another passenger plane were heinous, punishable acts, no doubt about it, but they were also blowback by people seeking to settle a score for America’s skewed foreign policy, imperialism, heavy military presence, and covert and overt deadly interventions in the Greater Middle East. In his November 2002 Letter to America, “Osama bin Laden explicitly stated that al-Qaeda's motives for their attacks included Western support for attacking Muslims in Somalia, supporting Russian atrocities against Muslims in Chechnya, supporting the Indian oppression against Muslims in Kashmir, the Jewish aggression against Muslims in Lebanon, the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, U.S. support of Israel, and sanctions against Iraq.”

The runners near the finish line at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 were victims of blowback from two nearby pressure cooker bombs that exploded, killing three people and injuring an estimated 264 others. That tragic incidence of blowback, or retaliation (only days after a U.S. drone bombing killed 17 civilians in Afghanistan) was just one of a dozen or so incidents in the last several years of terrorist attacks against American targets. The gruesome beheadings of American journalists on foreign soil by members of the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) are gruesome examples of blowback that cannot be expected to end until America’s gruesome war habit ends.

A few comments are pertinent here about the ISIS. It is a perfect example of how US foreign and military policy, motivated purely by self-interests is like a pin ball ricocheting here and there in a self-contained game machine. The ISIS was originally supported by the U.S. and its British ally as a means to counter other terrorist groups in the Greater Middle East so as to drive a wedge among the regimes in that part of the world and ultimately to dominate them and exploit their countries’ resources.  

America will never be secure from retaliatory terror as long as she continues to terrorize. That is simply common sense and also is predictable by two laws and one principle. One law, the law of physics says for every action there is a reaction. The second law, the law of human nature says when a people can no longer tolerate inhumanities they will strike back. The principle is that of retributive justice, or “an eye for an eye.” The possibility of continuous blowback on American soil or perhaps a “final blowback” or “a mass of bodies for a mass of bodies” is an ominous scenario of America’s future.

The national security that costs taxpayers so dearly and profits the spy business so clearly is false security. As long as America militarily intervenes and spies whenever and wherever she chooses she will never enjoy any sense of security and thus must constantly be on guard against blowback in one form or another.   

The Monetary Costs

I have deliberately put discussion of the monetary costs last. Whatever they really are compared to the officially reported costs and however astronomical they are pale beside the costs already discussed. Money doesn’t matter to the dead. Money won’t matter if Armageddon comes. Yet, the monetary costs must be considered as a piece of the total accounting of the war and spy business on America.

Calculating its total monetary costs since America’s founding or even just for the last year would be more than an accountant’s nightmare, it would be an impossible task, like counting sand on the beach. The meaning of “total monetary cost” is so broad and includes so many intangibles that it defies calculation. This cost involves three basic components, each itself very broad. The first would require an accounting of all conceivable inputs such as the costs of war contractors and military inputs such as the cost of troops. The second would require an accounting of all conceivable costs involving the process of conducting military interventions, such as those involving troop deployments. The third would require an accounting of the costs of all the consequences of the military intervention (assuming it came to an end) such as the expense of the medical treatment of survivors, of rebuilding damaged infrastructures, ad infinitum.

So the closest approximation to the total monetary cost necessarily is a distant approximation and one that is limited to the costs incurred by America and not also by the countries targeted. David Johnston, veteran reporter and tax and regulatory expert, has done a herculean job of attempting to estimate “the true cost of national security.” He estimates that maintaining national security for the fiscal year 2013 cost over $1.3 trillion. In addition to accounting for the military budget, his estimate includes the national intelligence budget, the budget of the nuclear bomb-making arm of the Energy Department, the Homeland Security budget for customs and border patrol, the  Coast Guard budget, the Veterans Affairs budget, and interest costs from debt-financing (tax revenues don’t cover the entire costs). He notes that his total estimate “almost equals the $1.6 trillion expected to be raised through the individual federal income tax in fiscal 2013, [and thus] “doesn’t leave much for other spending on commonwealth goods and services that provide the foundation for private incomes and wealth.”

An Aside: The Drug War

Note that Mr. Johnston’s estimate does not include the “war on drugs” carried out by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and its contractors. Their surveillance, sniffing, and interdictions cost America over 2.05 billion in 2013. Perhaps Mr. Johnston does not think the “war on drugs” meets the definition of “war.” Perhaps not, but the DEA uses the paraphernalia of war; “airplanes, ships, helicopter, and radar.”

Note that Mr. Johnston’s estimate does include the national intelligence budget (“just” $52.6 billion for FY 2013) to pay for America’s quasi police state with its 16 spy agencies and their some 1,000 contractors that monitor and intimidate her citizens.

Overall Economic Costs

As with household budgets, the national budget accrues two kinds of debt, good and bad. Good debt stems from borrowing money to pay for socially constructive investments in say education with positive returns such as a more educated public. Bad debt is money owed for bad national habits that have negative returns, such as the aforementioned “sadtistical” condition of America. Bad national debts produce a sick country and a sickly economy. Bad debt from Cold War expenses, not Ronald Reagan, collapsed the Soviet Union. If bad national debt continues to accumulate, it will eventually bankrupt America. Adam Smith, the 18th century founder of capitalism clearly understood the drag of military costs on an economy, and argued that military spending was economically unproductive. The counter argument that millions of jobs tied to warring and spying would be lost is easily refuted. Slashing the war/spy budget in half would free up the other half for the economy to use in creating productive jobs to more than replace the lost jobs.

Speaking of household budgets, when tax time comes around, if you are an average American taxpayer half of your taxes go to the war and spy  business. 

Since war is so astronomically costly to humanity and the environment why can’t peace win for a change? That, obviously, is a rhetorical question. You and I know why. As the late General Smedley Butler said, “war is a racket.”

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