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A nation mired down in perpetual war; on a destructive path to economic collapse

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Our economy is in shambles, millions of Americans remain unemployed and depressed, our national infrastructure is crumbling, and poverty and homelessness are reaching alarming levels. And, yet, in spite of the catastrophic state of our nation, the annual $1 trillion dollar military budget remains sacrosanct, totally untouchable. This is a completely unsustainable condition, a formula for economic disaster and national bankruptcy.

In the face of these stark realities, the subject of potential cutbacks in our massive military spending is off the table, it is off limits, a taboo subject. As I watch discussions on cable TV about how to address our economic woes, reduce spending, and find the funds needed to create jobs, if anyone even dares to bring up the idea of reducing military spending, they are immediately looked upon as some kind of traitorous wacko.

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It seems as if the majority of Congress and the American people are totally ignoring the disastrous consequences that will eventually come to pass if we continue to spend $1 trillion dollars for military purposes each and every year; more than all the industrialized nations of the world combined. Have we become so paranoid, so afraid of the "terrorist threat" constantly being trumpeted by our government and our national media that we will watch as the military establishment sucks the lifeblood out of America?

Here is an ominous observation by Chalmers Johnson, a respected author and military analyst: "the U.S. military establishment today is close to being beyond civilian control and that, despite its ability to deliver death and destruction to any target on earth and expect little in the way of retaliation, it demands more and newer equipment while the Pentagon now more or less sets its own agenda and monopolizes the formulation and conduct of American foreign policy."

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The Pentagon spends more for military purposes than all U.S. state governments combined spend for the health, education, welfare, and safety of 308 million Americans. Can you believe that? We have now reached the point that the vast Military-Industrial Complex has taken control of our nation; that the promotion of foreign wars has now become this nation's #1 priority, that the sustenance of our society and the welfare of the American people is taking a backseat to this gigantic war machine.

To call the total U.S. military spending a budget is a complete misnomer. While the 2009 Pentagon base budget was $513 billion and the 2010 pending request is for $534 billion, the annual spending for military purposes, including various supplemental appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan, totals nearly $1 trillion.

The ironic part of this totally out of control budget is that not one penny of it is "deficit neutral", a term applied to legislative bills or proposals that must pay for themselves over some budget period. Meanwhile, the proposed health care reform legislation currently languishing in Congress has this stipulation; it must be absolutely deficit neutral or, by the very words of President Obama, he will not sign it.

What extreme hypocrisy! Our nation will spend $1 trillion annually for bullets and bombs that result in death and destruction without any serious discussion and debate in our Congress while, at the same time, health care reform legislation that is intended to save lives and vastly improve the health of millions of Americans has been subject to vociferous, mean-spirited debate, in those once hallowed, but now corrupted halls of Congress. Are we as a nation now willing to let foreign death and destruction trump the health and welfare of the people of America?

Over the decades, the U.S. has steadily developed and expanded a massive "American Empire" of military bases and installations around the world. We Americans have always placed a large emphasis on maintaining our national security, especially from our experiences during World War II. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. The problem, however, is that we have now established a national security institution that has grown to such an extreme that it can no longer be controlled or sustained.

Based upon the massive power that the Military-Industrial Complex holds over our government and the American people, there is no conceivable way that this agenda of perpetual war can be derailed under current conditions. So here is what I foresee will happen in America to cure this pervasive addiction to war. The march to perpetual war will continue; hundreds upon hundreds of billions of dollars will continue to be spent on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other potential targets. This march to war will continue until, over the next decade or so, the lack of economic development and revenues, coupled with the massive military costs, will propel our nation into an economic collapse.

At that point, all monetary resources for funding our massive military empire will become exhausted and will begin to dry up. The large portion of that trillion dollar military allotment will disappear and, when it does, the vast empire of bases and military installations will have to be radically scaled back. And while the march to perpetual war will come to an abrupt halt, our nation's economic foundation will be on life support.

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If we Americans continue to stand by and watch in silence as the remaining wealth of our nation is wasted on bullets, bombs and destruction, if we do not finally demand that this march to perpetual war be ended, then we will be guaranteeing the economic disaster that will follow.

America has now arrived at a fork in the road where we must accept the reality that "we can't have it both ways." We are going to have to make a momentous decision on which fork we take for America's future. The one choice is to keep on doing what we are now doing; to spend trillions into the future on war while we, at the same time, attempt to restore an economy that is bleeding profusely. That simply will not work. Or we can decide that the health, welfare and stability of our nation and its people is our #1 priority and, thereby, totally renounce the concept of wars with no end .

The choice is ours and we cannot evade making this crucial decision; it will not go away. War and peace cannot co-exist. We have to decide what kind of future we want our children and grandchildren to inherit.


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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on Opednews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)

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