A silent Election issue: The Cost of War to Grand Rapids
One issue that has received virtually no attention to date is the current US wars abroad, particularly Afghanistan, and the cost of war. The Obama administration has made claims about a withdrawal timeline for Afghanistan, much the same way the Bush administration did for Iraq. However, the term withdraw is tremendously misleading.
First, focusing the “idea” of withdraw negates or downplays the devastation wrought by the US occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan. On top of the several thousand US troops that have been killed or permanently disabled, there have been over a million Iraqi deaths as a result of the US occupation and tens of thousands of Afghan deaths.
There have also been tens of thousands more wounded and over a million displaced in each country. The level of radioactive waste created because of the use of depleted uranium in US weapons will impact Iraq and Afghanistan for generations to come and political instability has not manifested.
Then there is the long term US interests, such as resource extraction and regional geopolitics. Western oil companies continue to reap massive profits since they now control the majority of oil production in Iraq, while Afghanistan and Iraq both play a significant role in the future of that region, particularly the isolation of Iran. The economic and geopolitical interests are exactly why troop withdrawal is misleading, especially since the US will continue to use private military contractors and maintain military bases on both of those countries for decades to come.
These imperialist policies are not being debated or discussed or investigated during the 2012 election, especially since the two major parties are in agreement on maintain the larger imperial plan.
However, all of the troops, weapons, bases, private contractors, etc., costs a shit ton of money. The US military budget is the largest in the world and roughly half of the entire US government budget is allocated towards military spending.
According to the data from the National Priorities Project, the monetary cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 have cost $1.36 trillion and counting. The data shows that $806 billion has been spent on Iraq and another $560 billion on Afghanistan.
Breaking that data down by state shows that over $31 billion has left the state of Michigan to fund these two wars. Closer to home, the same data shows that $491 million has left Grand Rapids to fund murder, torture and theft in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If we were looking at how much money has left the 3rd Congressional District since 2001, the total would be $2.2 billion and counting. This issue was not part of the discourse before the Democratic Primary in early August and it is not likely to be part of the debate between Steve Pestka and Justin Amash before the November 6 Election, since both candidates are committed to the current US military policy. There is nothing on Justin Amash’s re-election site about US military spending, not does Steve Pestka. In fact, Peskta does not even mention foreign policy as part of his platform.
This silence on such a critical issue is instructive in that it exposes the bi-partisan nature of the US imperial project and it demonstrates the clear fallacy that either candidate or political party really wants to divert funds to public policy like education, mass transit, public health or environmental protection. In order to fund those policies the military budget would have to be radically reduced and that is not likely to happen without a revolution.
The 2012 election, no matter who is elected, will not change the fundamental nature of US militarism abroad and the massive amounts of military spending that is provided by US taxpayers.