This site has a truly hypnotic trio of counters. Watch for a few seconds and envisage the tragedy conveyed. These two wars, both part of the so-called 'Global War on Terror', at first dominated US foreign policy in the post-9/11 era, although now the focus has been shifting also to Pakistan's Federally Administrated Tribal Areas, as well as Yemen and Somalia.
A June 2011 report by scholars with the non-partisan, non-profit Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies found even more startling statistics. In it they include costs for disability and health care for veterans, and also give figures for the total cost of the wars, including future interest payments, as it should be remembered that the wars have been financed almost completely by borrowing. I will not include the figures here as I want to ensure that all readers follow the hyperlink at the start of this paragraph. Hint: you should.
The Obama administration prefers another name for the War on Terror: Overseas Contingency Operations. This is because they understand it is a brand, just like Gucci or any other company, that has to be sold to the public via an unquestioning, pliant media. Sometimes brand names have to be changed in emergencies - just ask Blackwater, now known as Academi (such a scholarly name). 'Overseas Contingency Operations' is a benign-sounding name likely designed by some PR type in the CIA to make you feel safe in bed at night in the knowledge that your government is looking after you.
The base budget for US military spending on Overseas Contingency Operations for fiscal 2010 was $663.8 billion. The US military is deployed (all operations, not just the War on Terror) in more than 150 countries around the world, with, for example, almost 10,000 troops in the UK. Outside of combat zones, the largest presence can be found in Germany (around 54,000), Japan (around 39,000) and South Korea (around 28,500). According to the Washington Post, US Special Operations forces are deployed in 75 countries, an increase for the Nobel Peace Prize winner from 60 countries at the end of the Bush administration.
According to the New York Times, the Pentagon now has around 7,000 aerial drones, compared with less than fifty a decade ago, and has asked the US Congress for around $5 billion dollars to make more in 2012. CIA estimates in 2010 were of between 50 and 100 al-Qaeda fighters still in Afghanistan or Pakistan, making it 70 drone aircraft for each fighter at least. An estimated sixty drone bases are now operational around the globe, with no doubt more on the planning table.
All this...for a War on Terror. For all this spending, all this terrible cost in human lives and suffering, infrastructure, happiness, and resources...for all this we must surely be facing a truly fearsome enemy. Let's take a closer look.
According to Charles Kuzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, as of September 2011 there had been 33 deaths in the US - THIRTY-THREE, count 'em - from extremist Muslim terrorism since 9/11. That's 3.3 people per year. He also says that a third of tips responsible for foiling low-level terrorist threats have come from within the Muslim-American community itself, rather putting to the sword the popular (and disgusting) perception, happily propagated by certain corporate media outlets, that Muslim Equals Terrorist(TM). As an aside, after shamelessly perpetrating this outrage, perhaps the NYPD should make themselves more aware of the fact that the overwhelming majority of American Muslims are law-abiding citizens.
I do not wish to minimize terrorism. Obviously, any terrorist attack is going to cause unimaginable levels of grief and suffering. However, throwing obscene amounts of money at a problem will not change anything unless the strategy is correct. If I want to cross the Pacific, do I spend billions on a huge platinum ship that looks good, or do I spend wisely and build a craft that does the job, nothing more, nothing less?
So are the US government and the CIA idiots? Surely they realize that all this spending is not working and will, in fact, create even more radicalization as young Muslim mothers and fathers lose their children (collateral damage) in drone attacks? The behavior of private US contractors also exacerbates the problem (see this truly astonishing video here to see what I mean).
No, they are not idiots; I am afraid they understand this all too well. The purpose of the War on Terror is not, in fact, to prevent terrorism. In fact, I would argue (as others have before) that its true purpose is to engender it, in order to provide a perpetual war scenario that ensures the endless existence of the military-industrial complex, while also providing justification for savage curtailing of domestic civil liberties.
All this for 33 deaths over 10 years. I have not included the deaths from the 9/11 attacks as that is an exceptional case in terms of the loss of life and also scale; the vast majority of terrorist attacks do not even come close. If the 9/11 death toll is included, however, the number is around 3,000. I have also not included the worldwide figures, as this blog concerns the justifications only for US spending, namely, the fact that the US government officially executes this War on Terror in order to Keep Americans Safe(TM). Yet even if we include all deaths worldwide from true acts of terrorism, the figures are still dwarfed by those of other preventable deaths.
Annually in the US, 17,000 people die due to drug abuse and 20,000 from sexually-transmitted diseases. That is in just one year. Note that these deaths are in many cases preventable.
A sane government that is interested in the welfare of its citizens and that has no interest in profit or preserving hegemony would focus on the demonstrably far more serious preventable deaths, not to mention helping ordinary people who are simply trying to survive in increasingly difficult times. Unfortunately, whichever of the main parties the US people vote for, sane is not on the ballot. My article on the corruption of US democracy goes into more detail.
If the trillions that are ultimately going to be spent on these murderous, pointless and heartbreaking wars had been spent on social needs, the world would be a far, far happier place. Thanks to the sociopaths who have brought us to this pass, we instead live in a world ruled by fear, poverty, misery and despair. We continue to 'go to the polls' and elect our leaders in 'free elections', but this is utter idiocy. Democracy as we know it is a sham, a front for the super rich and the corporations. They have already won and they're laughing their heads off every time millions line up to vote. A grassroots movement toward direct democracy, as detailed in my free book (see footnote below), is desperately needed for more reasons than even Rockefeller can count.
Note: This posting focuses on the US simply because it is the main force behind the War on Terror. I am well aware that the US is not the only villain, and I intend to single out other ones in future posts.
'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.