TEHRAN (Iran News) – Following the chaotic U.S.-led withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer after a 20-year military occupation, many had expected President Joe Biden to reduce military spending. Instead, Washington has done the opposite, which will come as a blow to Americans who argued there are greater problems to invest in at home.
As it happens, in the aftermath of the Afghan exit, Biden himself said the U.S. was wasting money with its military spending, telling the nation “The American people should hear this: $300 million a day for two decades… what have we lost as a consequence in terms of opportunities?”
Nevertheless, the American President has signed into law a massive $778 billion defense spending bill (a 5% increase from last year), after lawmakers welcomed the administration’s original request for funding by adding an additional $25 billion on top of it. In a statement, the White House has announced that Biden officially signed off the legislation formally known as the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill easily passed both chambers of Congress (as it does every year) with rare bipartisan support. The only bill that both sides of the aisle agree on almost unanimously is military spending.
To put the money into perspective (if you were to adjust it for inflation), the bill is bigger than those passed during the Vietnam and Korean War years, and bigger than Ronald Reagan’s military buildup. The only time this bill has been larger, was in 2011, at a moment when the Pentagon had a peak in troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
America’s military budget is by far the largest in the world and is higher than the next eleven countries combined.
Some analysts say the 2022 budget reflects the Biden administration’s shift in attention towards China and Russia following the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It includes more money to purchase warplanes and Navy ships, in addition to “strategies” for dealing with alleged geopolitical threats, which observers note include Moscow and Beijing. On China, the bill includes $7.1 billion for the so-called “Pacific Deterrence Initiative.”
Restrictions were put into place on funds to finally close and transfer all detainees out of the highly controversial military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Next month marks 20 years since the U.S. military opened Guantanamo Bay prison sending hundreds of people from around the world there without charge or trial, the images of the conditions inside still shock the international community today.
Even though American military spending receives overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, it has been condemned by advocates and anti-war groups who are asking why is America paying $30 billion more (than President Donald Trump’s last budget) for its military despite the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history?
Around two dozen lawmakers urged Biden to reset priorities after “as much as $50 billion will be freed up by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.” This, of course, as a pandemic has highlighted how national security based on military hardware and troops alone does not do the job of saving American lives.
The reality is that too many jobs and interests and lobby groups are involved in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Also, while the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has indeed ended, taxpayers continue to pay for America’s massive military presence around the world. So there was never going to be the big military budget cuts that so many Americans had hoped for.
This is money that could have been diverted instead to the 600,000 to 1.5 million Americans sleeping rough on the streets this winter, or maybe the 13.4 percent or 16.1 percent (depending on different research) of the national population living below the poverty line or even the “uncounted majority”; that’s half of the American families struggling to pay basic bills… the list is endless.
How does the U.S. balance its military adventurism and the responsibility an administration has towards the majority of average Americans who can’t make ends meet? $778 billion suggests the military is more important. But is the military defending national interests? If it was then the defense spending bill would naturally envisage the American military stationed inside the United States protecting American borders against any potential threats.
That’s the theory anyway, amongst most nations.
When it comes to America, things are different. As of this summer, the Pentagon had more than 750 military bases in at least 80 countries across the world. And experts say the Pentagon does not publish all its data and the real figure is widely believed to be even higher. One of the largest American military presences is in West Asia. The locations of other large bases include East Asia, Europe, and Latin America. The scaremongering Washington exports to different regions of the world allows it to keep its bases with the backing of hundreds of billions of dollars. This is despite the fact, there is no threat to America or its allies emerging from these regions.
Critics say some military bases abroad, which have been in place for decades, are a city within a city. This is nothing new of course. For nearly a century now, the military-industrial complex has been shaping the policies in Washington, with experts saying military contractors arguably being the biggest winners. Analysts say about half of the defense budget goes to the contractors (which at the same time allows politicians to boast of lower employment levels), the contractors are outsourced to perform so many tasks ranging from logistics to simple administrative office work as well as intelligence work and private security. According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Defense Department employs at least 464,500 contractors on a full-time basis.
Back in Washington, those with the influence exaggerate a non-existent threat to keep the arms industry along with its profits flowing along with the lobby group’s money in the pockets of lawmakers, which explains why hardly anybody in congress ever opposes such massive spending. According to Open Secrets, this year the defense industry has spent around $100 million, lobbying lawmakers. Lockheed Martin, one of the largest five military manufacturing firms in America, has a presence in every single state in the country. Every year, there are also millions of dollars that military contractors donate to Washington think tanks. According to the Intercept, many analysts who appear regularly in the mainstream media are on “the defense industry dole.” The lawmakers in Congress who receive campaign donations from defense interests are unlikely to vote against an increase to spending, otherwise their donations will disappear which means their power will diminish. In Washington DC, you need money to sit in Congress.
How much does this defense strategy benefit Americans who the lawmakers are representing? The answer is zero. The threat to their lives comes from inside the United States not outside. Free healthcare amid a pandemic protects American lives. Firearm regulations protect the lives of Americans amid record gun sales. Police reforms protect American lives as more victims die from police brutality and officers shooting victims in the back whilst they are running away not posing any threat, saves American lives. Investing money in education, social programs for kids hanging around street corners will help protect American lives. Investing in programs that help house the homeless protects Americans who could freeze to death sleeping tough this winter. The last thing that protects an average American is spending $778 billion on an imaginary non-existent threat on the other side of the world.
In the past year, special operations commandos were deployed to 154 countries. That doesn’t save American lives, it kills non-American civilian lives.