"War is much too serious a matter to be entrusted to the military."Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee, at a hearing on the Pentagon's proposed $623.1 billion budget for fiscal 2008, asked Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, why the emergency spending bill for Iraq included money for new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets and C-130 cargo planes.
The answer from England was that the Iraq conflict was lasting longer than expected and the weapons and equipment were wearing out at a faster rate than they had planned for. England, who first served in the Bush administration as Secretary of the Navy, was a General Dynamics contractor and a former president of Lockheed.
England knew well that his former employer, Air Force Secretary and former Northrup president James G. Roche, had awarded the JSF contract to Lockheed-Martin and Northrop-Grumman. The only other competitor was Boeing. The order which stretches over 40 years, called for the development and manufacturing of 3000 fighters to be used by the Air Force, Navy and Marines.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England just happened to have served as president of Lockheed's Fort Worth division, which will build the fighter jets. The defense contract was the largest in U.S. military history; a potential $250 billion deal. Business is booming for defense contractors like Lockheed. This week, it was reported that the aerospace corporation's current president took home a $24 million bonus.
What England did not explain to the budget committee - behind all of the president's insistence that Congress immediately fund his escalation of his occupation - was why these weapon systems needed to be included at all in the emergency request since most of them, like the F-35 fighter jets, wouldn't be operational until at least 2010. Certainly, the Pentagon should know enough after four years in Iraq to plan for these appropriations in the regular budget, but have insisted on including these items in the 'emergency' budget request which Bush has described as "funding our war fighters."
The two future weapons systems weren't the only expenditures in Bush's budget which had nothing to do with any 'emergency' in Iraq. It was revealed last month that Bush's proposed war budget includes many other high-cost weapons that won't reach any battlefield for years. There's a request for a dozen F/A-18 fighter jets; seven new V-22 Osprey transport aircraft; six copies of a new plane called the Growler; and $74 million for "design, development, integration, and testing" of an unmanned spy plane.
All of these extraneous expenditures included in the Iraq 'emergency' supplemental by Bush's Pentagon make a lie out of the scolding Bush gave Congress this weekend in his radio address:
"The purpose of this legislation should be to give our troops on the front lines the resources, funds, and equipment they need to fight our enemies," Bush told Americans listening. "Unfortunately, some in Congress are using this bill as an opportunity to micromanage our military commanders, force a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, and spend billions on domestic projects that have nothing to do with the war on terror," he said.
The first line is made false by his own inflated budget request, and by his continued insistence that his 'war on terror' is being fought against "enemies" in Iraq. As his National Intelligence Estimate concluded last year, Bush's occupation is actually fueling the violent resistance to the Iraq government he installed with our military, and, in fact, is creating even more individuals who are wiling to attack the U.S., our interests, and allies in the region.
Even if we accepted that Bush had once cared at all about "funding our war fighters," that vow was laid bare this month when the shortcomings and neglect of the medical care for the soldiers and veterans who served as the point of Bush's ideological invasion and occupation of Iraq, and whatever other militarism he's committed them to, was revealed in reports from the largest, most prominent military health care facility at Walter Reed. Indeed, the Pentagon, themselves, released a report which claimed that rising health care costs were threatening their 'readiness' for combat operations and their ability to wage war.
The Boston Globe reported earlier this month that, the Navy and Air Force plan to cut 15,000 jobs to try and save their health care system $138 million per year. "Without relief, spending for healthcare will . . . divert critical funds needed for war fighters, their readiness, and for critical equipment," Dr. William Winkenwerder , assistant defense secretary for health affairs, reportedly told Congress.
Despite the fact that Bush's 'emergency' request was $93.4 billion, Democrats are insisting on adding an additional $2.5 billion for training and readiness for forces deployed outside of the war zones and another $1.4 billion to cover housing allowance shortfalls. Also included in the Democrat's funding plan - which calls for troops to leave Iraq by the fall of 2008, or earlier - is $900 million for soldiers with brain injuries and post-traumatic stress.
In response to Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Defense, Gen. Peter Pace made the amazing argument that, if the military was forced by Democrats in Congress to live up to their own established standards for readiness it would actually 'erode' their fighting ability.
Yet, in a report by Pace in February, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded that the dual occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq were, themselves, straining military readiness to the point where, it "may take several years to reduce risk to acceptable levels." That assessment has done little, if anything, to deter the Pentagon and Bush from proceeding with their escalation of the occupation, and the increased deployment of combat troops to Iraq without any change in the meager preparation time provided for the soldiers so far, or an addition of resources to cover the equipment shortages which already plague the existing forces.
With little regard - if any - for the over 3200 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq at the rate of 1-3 dead every day, Bush and the Pentagon are wedging them in-between the warring factions; ordering them into cramped, vulnerable, sandbagged huts as quickly as they can ship more troops over. All of the talk of "success" in suppressing the Sunnis and others who are engaged in armed resistance against the Shiite-dominated regime masks the reality of our nation's defenders hunkered-down doing the policing that Iraqis should rightly be doing for themselves.
All of Bush's talk of the consequences of bringing our soldiers home before "Iraq is more secure" is a curious and revealing caution which he ignores in his zeal to press forward. It's apparent to everyone, except to Bush and his generals, that guaranteeing the security of Iraq's new regime is an open-ended, dubious commitment which relies on continuing the occupation indefinitely to maintain the current buffer against insurgent violence. Everywhere else in Iraq that our forces have not massed and embedded has become host to whatever mischief, unrest, and violence the Baghdad gauntlet cannot contain.