Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Osama bin Laden's Ultimate Goal: Bankrupt America
Osama bin Laden knew what any student of history knows; all empires eventually fall due to their own excess and hubris.
Imperial Rome, the Spanish Empire, the British Empire and the Soviet Union all crumbled under the weight of their military over-reach.
The US appears to be next on this list of infamy, and bin Laden knew it all along.
More than three years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, Bin laden released a videotape in which he staked out his ultimate goal; to bankrupt America.
"We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy, Allah willing. And nothing is too great for Allah," bin Laden said.
The al Qaeda leader said his goal was to do to the US what had previously been done to the Soviet Union; slowly bleed it to death in a long, intractable military conflict in Afghanistan.
Though the Afghans were outgunned and out-spent by the Soviets, they used "guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers," bin Laden said.
This same strategy, which bin Laden referred to as the "bleed-until-bankruptcy plan," was being utilized to ultimately defeat the mighty US, he said.
At the time of the video's release, in November 2004, the US national debt was more than $7 trillion and the federal deficit was $413 billion.
"Every dollar of al Qaeda defeated a million dollars, by the permission of Allah, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs," said bin Laden. "As for the economic deficit, it has reached record astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars."
For all this expense, bin Laden said, America would "suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note, other than some benefits for their private corporations."
Even bin Laden knew about the influence of America's Military-Industrial Complex. He was well aware of its political connections and power.
Driving the US further into debt showed "that al Qaeda has gained. But on the other hand it shows that the Bush administration has also gained, something that anyone who looks at the size of the contracts acquired by the shady Bush administration-linked mega-corporations, like Halliburton and its kind, will be convinced.
"And it all shows that the real loser is you," he said. "It is the American people and their economy."
The cagey al Qaeda leader displayed a keen foresight that now seems rather remarkable.
Of President Bush, Bin Laden said, "the darkness of black gold blurred his vision and insight, and he gave priority to private interests over the public interests of America.
"So the war went ahead, the death toll rose, the American economy bled, and Bush became embroiled in the swamps of Iraq that threaten his future," bin Laden said.
In the end, he was right.
Simultaneous engagement in two wars — Afghanistan and Iraq — has saddled the US with enormous debts. But that onerous debt burden only became crippling when, for the first time in US history, the government cut taxes as it went to war.
Both military adventures were financed through borrowing. As a result, the US debt soared from $6.4 trillion in March 2003 to $10 trillion in 2008 (before the financial crisis). At least a quarter of that increase is directly attributable to the war, according to Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz.
Stiglitz estimates that the total cost of the Iraq war will exceed $3 trillion, a staggering sum. The war has already eclipsed the cost of the Vietnam conflict.
Remarkably, defense spending has doubled over the last ten years, according to Ashton Carter, the Defense Department's undersecretary for acquisitions.
The Afghan war, alone, costs more than $9 billion a month. This means that the government is spending more than $100 billion a year on an unfunded, unwinnable war. And money is being poured into the rebuilding of Afghanistan and Iraq, even as America crumbles.
According to the National Priorities Project, total defense/security/intelligence spending accounts for 66% of discretionary spending.
The stunning fact is that the US spends more on its military budget than all of the other nations on earth combined. Consider this; if the Pentagon were an independent country, it would be the 10th richest in the world.
The US has 500,000 military personnel, stationed on over 700 military bases, in more than 150 nations around the world. That is the definition of an empire.
More six decades after the end of WWII, the US still has more than 50,000 troops in Germany and 30,000 in Japan. More than a half century after the Korean conflict ended, the US still has 29,000 military personnel stationed in South Korea.
All of these advanced, wealthy nations are quite capable of defending themselves. Instead, we pay for their defense.
Japan has long been the the world's second biggest economy, until recently falling behind China. While Japan dedicates its revenues to domestic, economic and technical development, the US pays for its defense.
Germany is one of the world's biggest economies and exporters. It has been a unified nation for more than two decades and is no longer under threat from the Soviet Union, which no longer exists. Yet, we keep forces stationed in Germany, paying for their defense.
You might be stunned to discover that America now spends more, in real, inflation-adjusted terms, than at any point during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War.
The US faces no credible, conventional military threat. Yet, it continues to build up its military, in a race against no one, to counter a conventional threat that doesn't even exist. Countering terrorists doesn't warrant this kind of spending.
The US is a welfare state in as much as it supports the Military-Industrial Complex. In reality, we are truly a warfare state.
The Military-Industrial Complex has always needed a bogey man to justify its existence. First it was the Soviets and communism; now it is al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism.
The Soviet menace was never as dangerous as advertised. The free world didn't crumble when the communists took North Korea or Vietnam. Yet, the US fought two separate wars — costing over 100,000 American lives — due to the hysteria whipped up about the dangers if the communists prevailed.
The Military-Industrial Complex cried wolf, and America fell for it.
The same is true again today. Same story; different cast.
The US has been in Iraq for seven years and in Afghanistan for 10. Who knows when our military personnel will finally exit both nations? The US may even try to establish a permanent presence in both countries, with permanent military bases as anchors.
The US is an empire, and all empires are unsustainable in the long run. All of the wars, military engagements and bases around the world will eventually come to an end. It may be imposed on us, but it will all end sooner than later. Right now, it's being held afloat by borrowed money.
Dwight Eisenhower warned, “It has been coldly calculated by the Soviet leaders ... by their military threat to force upon America and the free world an unbearable security burden leading to economic disaster.”
The irony was that the opposite occurred. The Soviet military expansion and reach led to its own demise.
Osama bin Laden saw the same opportunity to destroy the United States.
Eisenhower argued that a strong American economy might well be its most valuable asset. He knew that a strong economy was essential to a strong defense.
Osama bin Laden clearly saw it the same way. So, as the US sails into insolvency, bin Laden may laugh last, even in death.