By Caitlin Johnstone
The US Senate has passed its National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) military spending bill for the fiscal year of 2022, setting the budget at an astronomical $778 billion by a vote of 89 to 10. The bill has already been passed by the House, now requiring only the president’s signature. An amendment to cease facilitating Saudi Arabia’s atrocities in Yemen was stripped from the bill.
“The most controversial parts of the 2,100-page military spending bill were negotiated behind closed doors and passed the House mere hours after it was made public, meaning members of Congress couldn’t possibly have read the whole thing before casting their votes,” reads a Politico article on the bill’s passage by Lindsay Koshgarian, William Barber II and Liz Theoharis.
The US military had a budget of $14 billion for its scaled-down Afghanistan operations in the fiscal year of 2021, down from $17 billion in 2020. If the US military budget behaved normally, you’d expect it to come down by at least $14 billion in 2022 following the withdrawal of US troops and official end of the war in Afghanistan. Instead, this new $778 billion total budget is a five percent increase from the previous year.
“Months after US President Joe Biden’s administration pulled the last American troops out of Afghanistan as part of his promise to end the country’s ‘forever wars’, the United States Congress approved a $777.7bn defence budget, a five percent increase from last year,” Al Jazeera reports.
“For the last 20 years, we heard that the terrorist threat justified an ever-expanding budget for the Pentagon,” Win Without War executive director Stephen Miles told Al Jazeera. “As the war in Afghanistan has ended and attention has shifted towards China, we’re now hearing that that threat justifies it.”
Upon the removal of US troops from Afghanistan, President Biden said the following in August:
“After more than $2 trillion spent in Afghanistan — a cost that researchers at Brown University estimated would be over $300 million a day for 20 years in Afghanistan — for two decades — yes, the American people should hear this: $300 million a day for two decades. If you take the number of $1 trillion, as many say, that’s still $150 million a day for two decades. And what have we lost as a consequence in terms of opportunities? I refused to continue in a war that was no longer in the service of the vital national interest of our people.”
You would think a government so grieved over the loss of “opportunities” for the American people due to Afghanistan war spending would be eager to begin allocating that wealth toward providing opportunities to Americans at the end of that war. Instead, more wealth has been diverted to the US war machine.
Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp reports:
The NDAA passage comes amid heightened tensions between the US and Russia, and the bill includes $300 million for military aid to Ukraine, $50 million more than what the Pentagon requested. According to The Wall Street Journal, at least $75 million of the Ukraine aid will be “lethal,” meaning it will be spent on offensive weapons, such as Javelin anti-tank missiles the US has already provided to Kyiv.
With the Pentagon focused on countering China, the NDAA includes $7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI). The PDI is meant to build up US forces in the Asia Pacific to better confront China. Part of the plan is to establish a network of long-range missiles near China’s coast.
Americans are being scammed.
A sane military (if there is such a thing) would be bolstered in times when a nation needs to defend itself and scaled down during peacetime. With the US military it’s completely backwards: it’s taken as a given that the budget must keep expanding, and then reasons are made up to justify doing so by making “peacetime” nonexistent. The military budget isn’t set to serve existing conditions, conditions are set to serve the military budget.
Before it was the Russians and the Chinese it was terrorists, and before it was terrorists it was the Soviets. After the fall of the USSR, there emerged a popular notion of a “peace dividend” in which defense spending could be reduced in the absence of America’s sole rival and the abundant excess funds used to take care of the American people instead. The only problem was that a lot of people had gotten very rich and powerful as a result of that cold war defense spending, and that money and power was used at some key points of influence. Less than three months after the dissolution of the Soviet Union we learned of the Wolfowitz Doctrine from The New York Times saying the US had resolved to prevent the rise of another superpower at all cost, and a few years later the neocons found their way into the George W Bush administration to usher in an unprecedented new era of military expansionism and wars of aggression.
The military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address as president became inevitable as soon as the US government espoused imperialist ambitions. War profiteering is what you get when you mix capitalism with a globe-spanning power structure that must labor continuously to maintain unipolar planetary domination, which can only be done with ceaseless violence and the threat thereof. It was inevitable that an industry would not only arise to meet that demand, but begin using the wealth it generates to push for more warmongering. The war industry surfs on the war-fueled empire like dolphins on the wake of a freight ship, except in this case the dolphins are also able to help propel and steer the ship.
And meanwhile that insane, mindless juggernaut is hurtling toward a direct confrontation with Russia and China, who are growing increasingly intimate and unified against their common enemy. These are forming the head of a rapidly coalescing group of powers who have refused to be absorbed into the folds of the US-centralized power alliance, and you don’t have to be a historian to understand that world powers splitting into two increasingly hostile alliance groups can lead some very ugly places. Especially now in the age of nuclear weapons.
The human species has some very daunting tests ahead of it. I hope we pass.
What American citizens can do: