No Blank Check for the Pentagon

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House of Representatives, February 6, 2007

In
an interview published yesterday by the McClatchy Newspaper Chain,
Dick Armey, our former Republican Majority Leader, said he felt
really bad about voting to go to war in Iraq.

Mr. Armey said
“Had I been more true to myself and the principles I believed
in at the time, I would have openly opposed the whole adventure
vocally and aggressively.”

Chris Matthews
on MSNBC on election night said “the decision to go to war
in Iraq was not a conservative decision historically” and said
the President asked Republicans “to behave like a different
people than they intrinsically are.”

In 2004, William
F. Buckley, Jr., often called the godfather of conservatism, wrote
that if he knew in 2002 what he knew by 2004, he would have opposed
going to war in Iraq.

Today, the
Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the
subject of waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq.

A couple of
years ago, the same committee then under Republican leadership,
held a similar hearing.

David Walker,
now head of the GAO, but then Inspector General of the Defense Department,
testified then that $35 billion had been lost in Iraq due to waste,
fraud and abuse, and another nine billion had just been lost and
could not be accounted for at all.

I heard a talk
by Charlie Cook, the very respected political analyst, who said
people really could not comprehend anything over one billion.

But $44 billion
is an awful lot of money in anybody’s book.

A Foreign Service
officer told me last year, a few months after he had left Iraq,
that he sometimes saw SUV’s filled with cash with barely enough
room for the driver.

Conservatives
have traditionally been the strongest opponents and biggest critics
of federal waste, fraud and abuse.

Conservatives
have traditionally been the strongest opponents and biggest critics
of wasteful, lavish and ridiculous federal contracts.

Conservatives
– especially fiscal conservatives – should not feel any
obligation to defend wasteful spending or lavish federal contracts
just because they are taking place in Iraq.

Ivan Eland,
in the January 15 issue of the American Conservative Magazine
wrote this:

“Many
conservatives who regularly gripe about the Federal Government’s
ineffective and inefficient use of taxpayer dollars, give the Pentagon
a free ride on the profligate spending habits.”

Conservatives
admire, respect and appreciate the people in the military as much
or more than anyone.

Conservatives
believe national defense is one of the few legitimate functions
of the federal government and one of its most important.

However, this
does not mean we should just routinely give the Pentagon everything
it wants or turn a blind eye to waste in the Defense Department.

The Defense
Department is a gigantic bureaucracy, in fact the biggest bureaucracy
in the world.

It has the
same problems and inefficiencies of any giant bureaucracy, and conservatives
– especially fiscal conservatives – should not give a
“free ride” to waste, fraud and abuse just because it
is done by the Defense Department.

Counting our
regular Defense appropriations bill, plus emergency and supplemental
appropriations bills, plus the military construction appropriations
bills, plus the end-of-the-year omnibus appropriations bills, we
spend more on defense then all the other nations of the world combined.

Yet the military,
like all other bureaucracies, always wants more money.

Well, at some
point we are going to have to decide do we want national defense
for our people, or are we going to be the policeman of the world
and provide international defense for all countries that claim to
be our allies.

With a national
debt of almost nine trillion dollars, and unfunded future pension
liabilities of many trillions more, I believe it is both unaffordable
and unconstitutional for us to try to be the policeman of the world.

We will soon
not be able to pay social security, and veterans pensions, and all
the other things the federal government is doing if we try to maintain
an empire around the world.

Conservatives
have traditionally been the biggest critics of interventionist foreign
policies because they create so much resentment for us around the
world.

Conservatives
have traditionally been the biggest critics of nation building,
as President Bush was when he ran for the White House in 2000.

We need the
more humble foreign policy he advocated then, or we need to tell
the people to forget about their Social Security because we are
giving a blank check to the Pentagon.

Republican
Congressman John J. Duncan represents the 2nd District of Tennessee.

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