We Marched Right In

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Recently by Charles Goyette: The Great Fiscal Cliff of 2012-13


Jay Leno had Ron Paul on the Tonight Show again Tuesday night. I don't know if Leno is a supporter, but he has at least figured out what most broadcasting executives don't yet get: he understands the dynamic appeal of Ron Paul and his message to the demographic groups that industry executives want.

"Unlike the Republicans," Leno told a wildly enthusiastic studio audience, "we're actually going to let him speak."

Paul recalled the way he had been booed in the Republican primaries for wanting to bring the troops home, and repeated the offending line for Leno, "We just marched in. We can just march out."

Clint Eastwood shared that thought at the Republican convention, asking of Obama "Why don't you just bring them [the troops] home tomorrow morning?"

Few Americans realize how deeply Republicans and Democrats have gotten us into this bankrupting global empire of wars. It has produced a national security state with a cost $1.2 trillion a year. It has left the country staggering on the ropes of insolvency.

It's easy to see how the spending has added up in Iraq and Afghanistan by just looking at what's involved in marching out of both countries. As a Reuters account put it, drawing down American forces in Iraq was a moving day that lasted for more than a year.

Reuters reported that, "the largest removal job in history" meant:

  • Shutting down the U.S. military bases, which numbered 505 at the peak and included everything from small desert fueling depots to massive installations where Americans have been entrenched for years.
  • By early November 2011, nearly 4 million items worth $390 million had been given to Iraq, including 26,000 CHUs (Containerized Housing Units) worth $124 million and 89,000 air conditioners worth $18.5 million. At large bases like Victory, buildings, mess halls, offices, water treatment and electrical plants, desks, tables and chairs, are being handed over to the Iraq government, and tons of equipment is being scrapped.
  • Even the removal Saddam Hussein’s toilet from the cell where he was held, destined for display in a US military museum.

Then there is the palatial white elephant of the US Embassy in Baghdad. About the size of Vatican City, and built at a cost of $750 million, the compound was clearly designed for a very long occupation of Iraq and to be the seat of a US imperium in the region.

Now the costs of drawing down forces in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 may involve equally staggering waste and expense. According to a NATO logistics briefing, more troops will be needed in Afghanistan just to help pack up. Reporters were told that NATO will need to send home or dispose of 200,000 shipping containers and vehicles.

Nobody seems to know just how many U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force bases there are in Afghanistan. TomDispatch.com cites a source saying it's 550, but says including smaller facilities used to secure roads and villages, the number appears to climb to 750; and that counting other foreign military installations, logistical, administrative, and support facilities, the total is 1,500. In any case, it's more than the number of bases in Iraq at the height of that war.

Of course one can't ever rely on anything the state says. Does drawing down forces in a war theater really mean just replacing uniformed forces with civilian contractors? Does leaving the country really just mean moving troops to a staging area right across the border? The left hand of the state never seems to know what the right hand is doing in any case. In Iraq, the US is actually making new expansion plans for its colossal embassy, while even as bases in Afghanistan are closing and timetables proceed to draw forces down, other plans are afoot for the expansion of facilities in the country.

There's not a lot of method to the madness. One looks far and wide for any foresight on this front and finds it only from Congressman Paul. Ten years and trillions of dollars ago, advising against the ill-fated elective war about to be launched in Iraq, Paul said:

"The United States, with Tony Blair as head cheerleader, will attack Iraq without proper authority and a major war, the largest since World War II will result…. During the next decade, the American people will become poorer and less free, while they become more dependent on the government for economic security."

And so it came to pass. Americans have only themselves to blame. They should have listened to Ron Paul before they marched in.

Charles Goyette [send him mail] is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Dollar Meltdown. His new book is Red and Blue and Broke All Over: Restoring America's Free Economy. He is also editor of Freedom & Prosperity Letter, a monthly political and financial newsletter dedicated to revealing the truth about the U.S.’s political scene and economic climate. To learn more, go here.

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