Thursday, December 19, 2013

U.S. Global Source Of Poverty And War

America will never see peace or prosperity until it ceases to interfere in the affairs of other sovereign nations

By Finian Cunningham

The latest bilateral deal between House Republicans and Democrats on the US federal budget is a shocking reminder of the monstrous priorities for the American ruling class.

Poverty, hunger, sickness and homelessness for millions more ordinary Americans; while unbridled US militarism stalks the globe like a demented Leviathan, casting a shadow of war and destruction into every corner.

American-dominated capitalism is a global scourge of poverty and war. It is much less American dream and much more humankind’s nightmare.

The disclosure this week that Russia is to deploy Iskander ballistic missiles in the Baltic region, and the double think, inverted accusations ensuing from Washington that Moscow is destabilizing global security, is part of this monstrous American-induced global dysfunction – more on that later.

US Republicans and Democrats – two sides of the same oligarchic coin – congratulated themselves on the recent federal budget package, which amounts to nearly $1 trillion in US government spending for each of the next two years.

But of that annual $1 trillion, the money allocated for military spending amounts to some $633 billion. That is, nearly two-thirds – more than 63 percent – of the total US government’s budget is consumed by the means of war and killing.

To give this some perspective, the US spends ten times more on weapons and the means of destroying and killing other human beings than it does on educating its entire nation.

What kind of economy, or more to the point, society, is that? A cynic might say that’s just what the American ruling class wants.

Keep the majority uneducated and misinformed, while the military-industrial oligarchs and their political minions keep devouring the nation’s wealth.

This US war machine entails the maintenance of over 1,000 military bases around the world, patrolling of Chinese seas with nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, expansion of missile systems across the Eurasian steppes encircling Russia, and the never-ending assassination drones that end up killing more civilians than “terrorists” in remote, barren countries.

Meanwhile, the budget “deal” signed off by Republicans and Democrats is gunning for massive cuts in US social security and public services. Some $100 billion in public spending cuts are locked in each year for the next decade. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon hailed the Pentagon’s lion’s share of the budget as “good value to taxpayers”.

As a result of this warped “good value”, over the following year millions of unemployed Americans will see their income support terminated as the new federal budget mandates $25 billion in cuts. Millions more Americans will go hungry as $4 billion in food stamps is axed. Millions of Americans will succumb to disease and illness as $30 billion is slashed from federal health care.

Already, official figures show that there are nearly 47 million Americans suffering from extreme poverty in the US. Some estimates put total US poverty at 150 million – nearly half the population – amplified by six years of economic depression since the US-bank-induced global financial crash of 2008. These same Wall Street banks, which are an integral part of the military-industrial cancer, receive $85 billion a month in bailout cash footed by the US taxpayer.

Of course, this ludicrous imbalance of US military spending as a share of the nation’s wealth is nothing new. Former US President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the spawning military-industrial complex almost half a century ago.

But what is revealing about today’s situation is that US military spending just keeps on growing regardless of rational or moral norms. It is estimated that between 1962 and presently, the annual American so-called defense budget has more than doubled.

William D Hartung at the US-based Center for International Policy reckons that the American military now consumes $100 billion per year more than the average during the Cold War years, when the US and the Soviet Union were bound up in a gargantuan arms race.

Note that this extra $100 billion figure arrogated by the Pentagon and its corporate nexus is equivalent to all the US cuts being sought in unemployment security, health care and elsewhere in public services.

The Cold War ended – or was supposed to have ended – over two decades ago. The subsequent so-called War on Terror, even if naively taken at face value, is a flea-sized contingency by comparison to the Cold War.

Yet today the American economy is more subsumed in growing and perpetuating the means of war than ever before. And this is while the human and social needs of ordinary Americans are crying out for relief more than ever.

That glaring contradiction is a symptom of the rotten heart of American capitalism.

What this hideous misallocation of national resources shows is that war and poverty are endemic to American capitalism. The system is sustained – but not sustainable – only by the massive and relentless subvention of tax dollars into obscene militarism.

That perverse priority is not only at the root of American’s social meltdown. It also drives the rest of the world into a similar destructive and dangerous dynamic towards nihilistic militarism.

The US spends more on its military than all other nations combined, including Russia and China. Yet deluded “American exceptionalism” labels everyone else a threat to world peace.

As the US expands its militarism globally and in particular towards Russia and China, it compels these countries to likewise allocate more and more of their budgets on weaponry and arms development instead of socially beneficial improvement. This negative repercussion for retarded international development cannot be overstated. As already noted, the American “dream” is in reality humankind’s nightmare.

China is estimated to have doubled its annual military spend to around $200 billion over the past decade, largely fuelled by Washington’s militaristic “Asian Pivot”; Japan is now increasing its military spending by five percent as a result of Chinese territorial claims, which in turn stem from Washington’s pivot into China’s backyard; while Russia is planning to ply some $700 billion into its weapons industry over the next decade.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Federal Assembly in Moscow last week, “Let no one have illusions that he can achieve military superiority over Russia. We will never allow it.”

And the US military-industrial complex must be rubbing its bloody hands with cynical glee at that announcement.

Putin was referring to the missile system that the US is planning to install in Eastern Europe along the borders of Russia, as well as the upgrade in America’s tactical nuclear weapons ordered by Nobel Peace-Prize President Barack Obama, despite his signing of the New START nuclear reduction treaty in 2010.

One can understand why the Russians and Chinese are perplexed.

The Cold War is long over; neither country presents a threat to the US; yet the US insists incorrigibly on offensive encroachment.

That scorpion-like instinct stems from the inherent destructive nature of US capitalism and its oligarchy that feeds off poverty, militarism and predatory imperialism. It is programmed in the DNA of the system.

The driver of Russia and China’s militarism – as Putin’s remarks indicate – is the imbalance of power and insecurity that the grotesquely militarized American economy engenders. The American capitalist economy is grotesquely militarized because that is the only way of propping up a system that inexorably makes the rich infinitely richer and the poor infinitely poorer.

Thus US capitalism’s crass wasting of wealth is not only at the root of the impoverishment of millions of Americans and the destruction of American society generally; the same obscene priority of American militarism is fuelling global insecurity, vast economic waste and ultimately driving the world continually towards war.

The only way to break this death spiral is for the American people to realize once and for all that their bankrupt economic system, known as capitalism, and the two-party political minions who shore it up on behalf of their corporate masters – all of that needs to be trashed and replaced – by a real democracy. US capitalism is not just the scourge of the world; it is the scourge of Americans too.

Let’s imagine a world where the American 10:1 military-to-education budget was reversed; a world where the capital and technological expertise of the Pentagon, corporations and banks was brought under democratic control to make socially useful goods.

Another world would indeed be possible. All that is lacking, so far, is the political will among the majority to make the necessary change. But that political will is coming by force of necessity – if this world is to survive.


Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is now located in East Africa as a freelance journalist, where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring, based on eyewitness experience working in the Persian Gulf as an editor of a business magazine and subsequently as a freelance news correspondent. The author was deported from Bahrain in June 2011 because of his critical journalism in which he highlighted systematic human rights violations by regime forces. He is now a columnist on international politics for Press TV and the Strategic Culture Foundation. More articles by Finian Cunningham
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