Private Wars Paid for Publicly

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The last war that touched Americans deeply was the Vietnam War. Men nationwide were drafted. Body bags arrived daily. Protests erupted in many places. The national news led off with war news. Vietnam was the last deeply public war

When the government ended the draft, America’s wars became far less public wars involving public participation and far more private wars of the State. Mercenaries took over the fighting. Paid armed forces doing the bidding of the State for its purposes do not ring as many patriotic bells as do draftees fighting for what are perceived widely as genuine threats. Wars became a spectator sport. Every war after Vietnam (Grenada, Iraq, Libya, Iraq again and Afghanistan) has been less a public war and more a private war. After the initial spectacle, the enthusiasm quickly waned. The complaints about these wars are on a very different plane than with Vietnam. The end of the draft has defanged the anti-war sentiments. The public does not distinguish the taxes that support mercenaries from the taxes that support other government programs.

All the private wars initiated by the State still have been paid for publicly. There is no other way in this system. The burdens placed on the public by the State and its military-industrial suppliers are not separated from any other burdens. There is no clear identifier. Statistics are manipulated to understate the war costs, and they do not arouse the emotions as do body bags, mutilated bodies and involuntary family disruptions. War costs are actually more than half the federal budget, says one anti-war organization. Whatever they are, the government surely lowballs its numbers. The true amounts run into the trillions. Military spending really does impoverish Americans, because they get virtually nothing for their money. It is consumed in supporting troops in faraway places and building weapons that provide no urgent benefits to anyone but those who are paid to build them, man them, and use them in wars.

For 25 years, America’s rulers have been able to indulge in private wars. They have built up private forces. They have squandered immense amounts of wealth, substituting enormously expensive weapons systems for human cannon fodder. They have done their best to make the public believe that their private wars were the public’s wars, essential for their security and defense. It has been one lie after another.

2:07 pm on December 3, 2013