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Summer Doldrums and War Budgets

July 13, 2011 ·

As DC's powerful debate the debt crisis, one aspect of our spending is completely absent from the debate: war spending.

The dog days of summer have socked in, with Washington’s heat and humidity made far worse by the hot air coming out of corporate board rooms and hearing rooms and White House and Capitol conference rooms, as DC’s powerful debate the budget crisis. One word, of course, largely unspoken: WAR. As in, the costs of:

  • The decade-long, disastrous war in Afghanistan - 98,000 U.S. troops and 100,000 U.S.-paid contractors at a cost of $122 billion just this year.
  • The continuing occupation of Iraq - 48,000 troops and administration pressure on Iraq to “request” they remain after the December 2011 deadline at a cost of $47 billion just this year.
  • The illegal and unacknowledged drone war in Pakistan — killing as many as 2015 people since 2004, of whom less than 2% are militant leaders — at a cost of at least $258 million just for the drone strikes themselves.
  • The overall Pentagon budget (which does not count the cost of the actual wars) at a cost of $553 billion just this year.

That's just for starters. Seems like some of those here in DC so desperate to figure out how to explain to their constituents why there are no jobs, why they’re losing their homes, and why grandma’s Medicare is being cut should really be apologizing instead for continuing to wage illegal, useless wars at a cost of now trillions of dollars.

In the meantime, just a few updates.

The Transnational Institute, IPS’s sister institute in Amsterdam where I spend time each year with an extraordinary gathering of public scholars and activists from around the world, has started a great project of getting Spanish translations of TNI fellows’ books on-line for downloading and/or use in kindles/nooks/e-readers etc. It’s pretty cool - the first one is my book Challenging Empire: How People, Government, and the UN Defy U.s. Power, for which Danny Glover, the great activist-actor, wrote the foreword. You can download it here - and please send the link on to Spanish-speaking friends and colleagues.

Some of you will remember the great supporter and critic of the United Nations, Erskine Childers. He was one of the earliest defenders of the UN’s independence and integrity, a fierce fighter against U.S. domination of the institution, and one of my close friends and mentors. He died too early, in 1996, and a new book takes a new look at some of his key speeches, with contributions by a host of his friends and comrades. If you want to take a look at my commentary, it’s here, and you can find the entire book on-line here.

And while we fight budget wars and fight the erosion of our democracy here, democracy seems to be doing a lot better in other parts of the world. Below is my article on Turkey’s recent elections and its rising role as a major economic and democratic power in the Middle East and beyond, “Turkish Democracy Gives Rise to Turkish Power.”

Hope you’re having a good summer, keep up the fight to stop the wars and bring the war dollars home.