Remembering Death & Mr. Hagel's Wounds

by Paul Olson, NFP President Emeritus

Let me thank the members of NFP who offered me compassion and love on the death of Fran, my second wife. One cannot ask for more than two beautiful and intelligent wives who cared deeply about peace and justice.

Still all death is a wrenching.

The wrenching caused by the deaths and woundings of our own soldiers and of civilians of all stripes in the Middle East and Central Asia also needs attention. We finally have a Secretary of Defense who has been wounded and who knows the pain; he has said, “The night Tom [Hagel’s brother] and I were medevaced out of that village in April 1968, I told myself: If I ever get out of this and I’m ever in a position to influence policy, I will do everything I can to avoid needless, senseless war.”

Senseless wars and wrenching deaths come from men who wish to justify big military budgets. Mr. Hagel believes that the Defense Department has not been controlled by the president since the first Bush, and one of his first gestures toward controlling it was his announcement that the DoD could handle its decade-long $85,000,000,000 in cuts without harming national security (in contrast to his predecessor’s apocalyptic pronouncement that they would have “catastrophic” consequences for America and make it a “second-rate” military power). Eighty-five billion is about what the U.S. spends annually to feed its hungry, tolerating nearly eight-percent unemployment. That our new leader agrees that we can cut these billions without disaster confirms what NFP has been saying: the military budget goes not to security but to state socialism supporting the Military-Industrial Complex.

Senseless wars derive from senseless weapons systems sustained by corporate bribery and congressional knavery. A recent New Yorker article (“The Force,” January 28, 2013) tells of how Lockheed Martin (our largest military corporation) spends $15 million a year on lobbying—including the largest campaign contributions ever given to Rep. Buck McKeon, head of the House Armed Services Committee, and significant dollars to 51 of the 62 member of the same committee and to 386 of the 435 congress members. It recounts how the company locates parts of itself in the congressional districts that control its fate. In the 2011 Armed Services hearings, McKeon called Social Security and Medicare “drivers of our debt” that should not be bailed out by military reductions, while Tweedledee Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that we are “ever in more danger” from Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and North Korea; and General Mark Dempsey told the committee that he did not become “chairman of the joint chiefs” to oversee a decline in America’s military or its global power: “That is not America.” The essence of America in this view is its projection of military power.

Our essence once was the Statue of Liberty’s “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”—masses who now, apparently, are only drivers of our debt.

For its 15 million dollars a year of lobbying money, Lockheed Martin buys wads of members of Congress and bevies of non-functional weapons systems. For example, Congress has appropriated $396 billion since 2001 for Lockheed’s still non-operational F-35—a chimera of a plane pretending to be stealth bomber, fighter jet, spy plane, and in some iterations, helicopter. (If you tip it well, it will wash your dishes and babysit your children.) Lockheed did not first design the plane and then put it through trials; it built it as we went along to satisfy its appetite for profit, that of its top corporate brass for a plane that would work in all services without regarding the drones that were taking over most F-35 functions. In short, ‘cost-plus’ military socialism produces worthless weapons systems, worthless congressional representatives, and endless debt—without producing the real jobs sustained by an exchange economy.

Ike had it right in 1953:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities… two electric power plants… two fine, fully equipped hospitals… some 50 miles of concrete highway… We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense.

In the 2007 study, “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities,” Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, conclude that “[S]pending on personal consumption, health care, education, mass transit, and construction for home weatherization and infrastructure repair all create more jobs per $1 billon in expenditures relative to military spending” and that that “$1 billion in spending on education, on average, generates more than twice the number of jobs as does military spending, and higher-paying jobs” while spending on “health care, mass transit, and home weatherization/infrastructure… create[s] substantially more jobs than military spending, with an overall level of pay, combining all workers’ paychecks and benefits, higher than the military.” A 2011 University of Massachusetts study shows even starker contrasts in the effects of $1 billion dollars spent in each of the sectors:

In short, if we spent on jobs in education the $83 billion we are cutting from Defense, we could create over 2 million jobs to educate our children, now egg-crated in the world's 17th-best educational system.

For our children's sake, perhaps Mr. Hagel will remember his pledge to himself on the night he suffered that wrenching wound and was medevaced out.

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April 10th 2013

Geri - Is Chuck Hagel a member of NFP? Can someone make sure he sees this?