Friday, July 17, 2009

The Cost of War & Our Military Empire

While America debates how soon we can bring our troops home from Iraq, it's worth noting that -- more than 60 years after the end of WWII -- the US still has more than 50,000 troops in Germany and 30,000 in Japan.

In fact, the US has over 500,000 military personnel deployed on over 700 bases, with troops in 150 countries -- including 37 European nations.

It makes you wonder, as Ron Paul asks, in this time of deep economic crisis, why not just bring them all home?

The $3.1 trillion budget for fiscal 2009, signed by President Bush, raised military spending to inflation-adjusted levels not seen since World War II.

Defense spending is the third largest expense in the federal budget. Only Medicare-Medicaid ($739b), and Social Security ($700b) are bigger.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, this year, the Pentagon will spend $607 billion for its day-to-day operations. Winslow Wheeler, a sharp-eyed bean counter at the Government Accountability Office and the Senate Budget Committee before joining the Center for Defense Information, a Washington think tank, puts the figure at $609 billion.

But who's counting?

Either way, the figure is more than the total combined military spending of every other country in the world. Put another way, the spending amounts to $1.2 million per minute, or $1.7 billion per day.

But the defense budget didn't include supplemental requests to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House later asked Congress for $70 billion in supplemental war funding. Requesting the funding in installments allowed the White to avoid revealing the true costs of the wars.

Money for the Energy Department to work on the nation’s nuclear arsenal, the Selective Service, Homeland Security, healthcare for war veterans, and other defense-related spending pushes the total far higher.

Add up all projected defense-related spending for fiscal 2009 and $607 billion balloons to $750 billion — almost a third of all U.S. federal spending today. To put it another way, if the Pentagon were an independent country, it would be the 10th richest in the world.

By year's end, the cost of the Iraq war will rise to $694 billion, making the conflict the most expensive in US history, besides WWII.

To get a feel for the true costs of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, check out the following. It illustrates one of the many reasons that our budget is busted and our debt ballooning:

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