Friday, November 12, 2010

Veterans Day + 1

Yesterday was Veterans Day, in some places, Armistice Day; a day when we are supposed to remember and honor the men and women in uniform who serve, and who have died serving, our nation in times of war and peace. And today, the day after Veterans Day, we can then return to forgetting those sacrifices and ignoring the unequal price they pay to ensure the comforts we enjoy.

Since the Conservatives recently regained their section of Capitol Hill turf the news media has been awash in championing their agenda; which is to cut government and reduce taxes (aka: foster unfettered expansion of moneyed interests). Example: CBS news anchor Katie Couric (who I believe has no more stature as a journalist than the kid who delivers the daily paper) touted all the ways in which the Conservatives plan to reign in government and runaway spending. With no fact checking or journalistic inquiry, she parroted the “facts” about the Social Security System being in “red ink” and on the brink of collapse and being a major cause for the burgeoning deficit. That fact is, that is NOT true!

So now the new prevailing and perceived shining path toward restoring America’s Greatness reads as follows: Ending tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of our elite is off the table. Targeted instead are the costs of supporting the poorest of our citizens; Social Security, Medicare, Welfare. It will be an ironic twist of fate if any Tea Baggers on unemployment voted Republican – unlikely UC benefits will be further extended, these folks might be the first to realize how they just voted to cut their own economic throats.

But among all the gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands over concern for our increasing national debt, the absence of the cost of our unnecessary and fruitless war in Afghanistan is the overlooked Elephant in the Room. We are borrowing close to One Billion dollars A DAY from China to maintain this war which has no expectation of any positive outcome whatsoever. Instead, we will continue to pay for it off the backs of people perceived as too lazy to go out and get jobs… which, incidentally, don’t exist. Large segments of our nation are apparently thirstily drinking the Kool Aid being served up by our political leaders.

The cost to our country for this war, and the Iraq war, have been deftly shielded and sanitized for our consumption. This has not always been true in our history. During World War II our nation sold bonds to finance the war. Everyone paid taxes to fund the war and few complained. It was necessary for all citizens to participate in one way or another in the defense of freedom. Everyone felt the pinch; consumer items such as sugar, coffee and materials like rubber and gasoline were rationed. No one was exempt, if you were not serving in uniform you were, in some way, supporting the soldiers who were. We were pulling together.

Again taxes were increased during the Vietnam War. In some sense, the cost to the taxpayer for Vietnam was but one of many pressures the public felt, in addition to the photos of caskets being shipped back home, which forced the government to yield to the growing outcries to bring that war to a close.

That is not the case today. Only recently the Obama administration has lifted the prohibition of pictures being released of flag-draped caskets being returned from the Middle East. But these images seldom make it into the consciousness of the news media; apparently more newsworthy: a Tea Bagger in a three-cornered hat with a misspelled sign calling the president a Socialist is the media’s primary focus.

Those in power have taken great pains to insure that this war costs the American taxpayer nothing; unless, of course, it happens to be YOUR child or loved one who has chosen to serve in the active military. I have not heard one public official suggest taxes be increased to pay for the War on Terrorism. And now it is quite clear that they neither want to factor in the cost of the war anywhere into the incendiary discussions about the rise of our national deficit.

I find it tragic that every day men and women go out on patrol in desolate places of the world based on pointless strategies, facing death and/or injury; while at home, Americans stop but one day a year to honor their commitment with parades and plastic flags made in China. Well hey… they volunteered to be in the service, didn’t they? I wonder who’s on “Dancing with the Stars” tonight?

Further reading:
1. "Bush-Era Tax Cuts Depart From History of America War Finance" Urban Institute
2. “The history of America’s tax system can be written largely as a history of America’s wars.”
and Taxes, by Steven A. Bank, Kirk J. Stark, Joseph J. Thorndike.

24 comments:

PeterDeMan said...

Robert, I don't even know where to start on a comment here. The whole situation is just pure stomach turning. I'm so utterly disgusted at what's happening, and at a president, who I stood and cheered for election night, has turned out to be a man with no backbone, who himself has turned out to be a shill for "corporate america."(small 'a') and no less than an accomplice to the Cons, whose agenda for 50+ years has been to get rid of Social Security and Medicare. I'm not going to make an essay out of this but as usual, you've slammed the nail right on the head with a sledgehammer. Well said.

TechnoBabe said...

I pass on the Kool Aid over and over. The corporations own the country as well as the people we elect to run the country.

Artist and Geek said...

There's more here than I can comment on without starting my blog on yours.

When it comes to politics and backroom deals, the public remains in the dark. Investigative journalism is dead or was never alive to begin with, but is quite effective in keeping people in a state of fear. That social security is in surplus? I had my suspicions, but did not know that.

As to hitting the poor with austerity measures: my WV is "apigsl". Appropriate, though understated.

A little while ago I read that the $100 mill plus a year CEOs have seen a percentage increase in income that does not account for inflation. During the recession.

Buying a small island is still on my bucket list.

Well said, indeed.

Gorilla Bananas said...

I don't think most of the American servicemen in Afghanistan would agree that they are fighting an "unnecessary and fruitless war." Here is one marine's view. That aside, I dare say they would be grateful for your support.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Peter Many of us share the disappointment in president Obama. His slogan of "change" seems merely that... a slogan.

TechnoBabe I had no idea the extent to which this has come true. A post I am working on will illustrate that much clearer... from the horse's mouth. Stay tuned.

Artist These are scare tactics and they are working. Now many young people fear that SS will not be available to them when they reach retirement age. The fix is SIMPLE: raise the income cap SS payroll taxes which has been the same for decades! The Economic Policy institute is non-partisan.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas I don’t have hard statistics to gauge the level of support among the boots on the ground who are putting their asses on the line. One way or another, I would think they would have a stake in having the issue resolved, one way or another, and come home. There were people in my generation who felt strongly we were stopping Communism by being in Vietnam and found personal conviction in that belief. It wasn’t true, though.

I know that the multiple deployments of US servicemen has resulted in record numbers of AWOL and suicides. The History of Afghanistan is that no military force, nor occupation has ever succeeded there. Kardzi is barely the mayor of Kabul, and for whatever good individual soldiers may feel can be justified in the ethical and heart-felt service they provide, the truth is that house of cards will collapse the moment these soldiers leave.

The premise that our presence there is going to have an impact on Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is false. That we are going to be able to install a western style democracy there is false. The whole premise for this war is false. That individuals are doing their best work and should be lauded for that notwithstanding does not negate that war in Afghanistan is the wrong approach.

What angers me is that our people are blind to the work that the Marine you point to are doing their best in the truest spirit of service. Our people don’t care, they aren’t interested. That Cpl. Terry Nash has found a way to embrace what his country has asked him to do likely helps him justify his efforts and helps him sleep at night. The alternative view has caused others to take their own lives in some cases. Cpl. Nash’s positive feelings do not change the overall destiny of this war.

Nance said...

Robert,
You know I'm doing a series this week, calling it Veterans Week, because allotting ONE DAY is to add insult to insult to insult to ignorance.

I am going to re-post this entire post in your name. You've said this part better than I can today. I thank you for this work.

DJan said...

I also thank you for this post you have carefully crafted to echo what I have been thinking. I am saddened by the fact that we only take one day to remember our soldiers and the fallen. You portray it well with your last sentences. If trivia fills the mind, who cares about the real world. It's called aversion to reality. Sometimes I retreat from what I cannot change, just to maintain a little sanity.

Rain said...

You said it all and it's heartbreaking because while some see this as all about politics, you labeled what it's really about-- human lives and not just the war casualties but also the poor who are being shoved under the bus by the right wing with no more caring than squashing a bug and they are on their way to stomping the middle class too which you can see in that deficit commission report.

I have very little hope about it either. I had this idea for a blog about the demographics of who watches what kind of entertainment; so I went to Fox news (first time in literally years) to watch one episode of O'Reilly to see who their advertisers were as I had already done Olbermann a previous night.

The worst of this was listening to the show, hearing the blatant lies, knowing about the news that was left out, and those people are all soooo smug, so sure of themselves. Any concern for this country is all on the other network. Those commentators, what they covered showed so clearly where they are heading and with glee. The advertisers though, oh there were some differences (like no mention of the Valerie and Joe Plame film and plenty of a movie intending to debunk global climate change), but generally same types of ads which means advertisers see it as a heads up or tails up and who cares! I went away from it too disillusioned to continue with my idea...

Robert the Skeptic said...

Nance I would be honored if you thought my article worthy of reposting. Thank you.

DJan Aversion is so apart of the national psyche. We are so encumbered with the pressures of maintaining incomes, caring for families, keeping a roof over our heads, who can blame us if we escape into what little pleasures we can find. Still, we all have a responsibility to be informed and conscious of the lives of others beyond merely our own needs.

Rain I have tried a few times to watch what the "opposition" is saying... I am unable to stomach it. That half our population swallows that swill I find astonishing. That the numbers of Americans who agree with it IS almost half, I find deeply discouraging.

Kay Dennison said...

Well said. I respect our troops but that doesn't mean I respect those who put them in harm's way.
My family has a long tradition of serving our country for better or worse and I respect that, too.

Today the wars are over inanities. My big little brother has been to Iraq twice and I've spent a lot of time worrying about him. He's already said he isn't going back again.

I am tired of all the idiocy taking place in this country.

Our country is no longer the the country our fathers fought for in WWII and I'm not sure where we lost our way but I think we need to find our way back -- not to the bad stuff like segregation but I'd like to see things like respect, responsiblity and honor an accountability back in style.

I didn't drink the kool-aid back in the 60s and I sure as hell won't touch the codswollop they're seling now.

Madame DeFarge said...

There's been an upswing in support for soldiers over here, but not necessarily for the war they're in. It's a fine line between the two, but the issues are big and complicated and too much for the average comment on a blog. Great post though.

The Mother said...

I have another way to save a fortune--and even make a fortune. Drug legalization.

The war on drugs obviously doesn't work, anyway. Legalize it and tax the hell out of it. Done.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Kay I am just sickened that this horrible drain on our financial and human assets is so widely ignored by the populace. It makes me sad.

Madame From what we hear here, British forces have been drawn down considerably and continue to do so. Perhaps the praise for your soldiers comes from relief and acknowledgment of their sacrifice.

Dr. Mom I whole-heartedly agree; the most hungry addiction in the War On Drugs is that of the police agencies addicted to the anti-drug war funds. These law enforcement agencies salivate over the equipment and money funneled their way for this fruitless battle.

Legalize, regulate and tax these drugs just like we currently do to the two LEGAL drugs that are the most addictive and the most deadly (cigarettes and alcohol). Take the profit motive, and therefore the associated crime, out of the equation.

Orhan Kahn said...

Wow, I don't think I've ever read something of yours that was so...bitter. And unfortunetly true. Geez, even I know your Social Security is financially viable for the next 25 years. It really does make me sad that your country has a credit card that is seemingly endless. I have nothing more to say. Its not like you're all going to wake tomorrow and realise the error of your ways.

GutsyWriter said...

Robert,
With a sixteen-year-old who seems to thrive in his military school, I fear his desire to serve and as a mother, had never imagined my son might join the Army. I hate to admit, that this brings things into a whole other picture. I'm sure you understand what I mean.

KleinsteMotte said...

Love your thoughts. I wonder if the people who vote for all the stars on the many shows really understand what happens when the vote by text or phone or on line?? As their votes are registered do they know that all their input devices are also registered?? The connected world is presenting very new challenges to those in office and those who are trying to be. But what is running in the background and where????

Robert the Skeptic said...

Orhan We're all pulling as hard as we can over here; unfortunately, it seems in different directions.

Gutsy I do understand. When I was his age I was facing the draft, involuntary service in the army. Now we have this view that those choosing to enlist in the "volunteer" army have somehow relinquish any objections to how they are used and to what end. Nothing could be more from the truth - BECAUSE these men and woman have chosen a military career, it places more responsibility on the leaders who employ our military might do so in honorable, rational and responsible ways.

KleinsteMotte Kind of like the new voting machine technology.. will we be able to trust it?

Gorilla Bananas said...

Robert,

You've made a lot of assertions in your comment:

The History of Afghanistan is that no military force, nor occupation has ever succeeded there.

As indicated in the link I sent you, the US and its allies are training the Afghan National Army and Police. Once they become capable, there will be no need for foreign forces.

Karzi is barely the mayor of Kabul, and for whatever good individual soldiers may feel can be justified in the ethical and heart-felt service they provide, the truth is that house of cards will collapse the moment these soldiers leave.

There is no way you can know this for a fact. If the Afghan Army and Police are a made into a strong and coherent force, it is most unlikely this will happen. That is certainly the belief of General Petreus who oversaw the strategy in Iraq, which has not collapsed in spite of the end of US combat operations. The Iraqi security forces now outnumber the dwindling US presence by 10-1.

The premise that our presence there is going to have an impact on Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is false.

It has certainly had an impact on the Taliban, who were in control of the country before 2001, when they were hosting bin Laden and Al Qaeda. They were and remain the most fundamentalist movement in the country. In any case, the aim of the US presence to prevent their return rather than impose any ideology on the Afghans.

That we are going to be able to install a western style democracy there is false.

The style of the democracy would be up to the Afghans, but to say they are innately incapable of upholding democratic institutions would be both false and racist. People said similar things about the Japanese prior to 1945.

The whole premise for this war is false.

That depends on what you think the premise is. If the premise of the war is that preventing the Taliban from returning to power is a worthy goal, your claim is a questionable one.

That Cpl. Terry Nash has found a way to embrace what his country has asked him to do likely helps him justify his efforts and helps him sleep at night.

So you think Cpl Nash is simply deceiving himself? Is it not possible that he and many others like him believe in their mission and have witnessed its achievements on the ground, in particular the growing strength and competence of the Afghan National Army and Police. Do you disbelieve what he claims to have seen at close hand?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas You've made a lot of assertions in your comment:

As indicated in the link I sent you, the US and its allies are training the Afghan National Army and Police. Once they become capable, there will be no need for foreign forces.


And you have made the assumption that the Afghan National Army and Police will become capable.
Citing a report from the Rand Corporation:

"A recent GAO assessment indicates about 40 percent of the ANA is capable of conducting operations with support of international forces (GAO, 2008). Accounts of several operations—for example, the one in Kandahar province in summer 2008 to reimpose security after a large number of Taliban broke out of prison in—show a capability to respond quickly and carry out a relatively sophisticated operation."

"Even if the ANA reaches the stage where it can operate independently, the United States and other nations will need to keep a security presence in the country for a substantial period. Moreover, it is likely that an international commitment will be necessary to ensure that the ANA and its infrastructure are sustained for the foreseeable future."

There is no way you can know this for a fact. If the Afghan Army and Police are a made into a strong and coherent force, it is most unlikely this will happen. That is certainly the belief of General Petreus who oversaw the strategy in Iraq, which has not collapsed in spite of the end of US combat operations. The Iraqi security forces now outnumber the dwindling US presence by 10-1.

Your statement says “if” and this is a big IF, though I cannot know anything for a fact until it has happened, my opinion is that there is a strong probability that the ANA will not be sufficient to take control away from the Taliban held area without continued coalition presence.


A recent leak of internal documents to Wikileaks
has revealed that our military and governmental leaders have been less that candid regarding their assessment of the prosecution and expected outcomes of this war.

With respect to Iraq, coalition forces are in the process of withdrawal now, yet advisers and other coalition presence remains high. Even still.
“The increased violence in Iraq
has caused some Iraqis to voice fear a sectarian war is near.” It is yet far to early to claim “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas, continued... It has certainly had an impact on the Taliban, who were in control of the country before 2001, when they were hosting bin Laden and Al Qaeda. They were and remain the most fundamentalist movement in the country. In any case, the aim of the US presence to prevent their [the Taliban] return rather than impose any ideology on the Afghans.

Which the wickileaks documents reveal success in accomplishing this tenuous at best.

The style of the democracy would be up to the Afghans, but to say they are innately incapable of upholding democratic institutions would be both false and racist. People said similar things about the Japanese prior to 1945.

The amount of corruption in this country is abysmal. The election of Kardzi was fraught with examples of election fraud. Even videos on YouTube have been shown of ballot boxes in recent elections being stuffed with phony ballots. The probability of the Afghan people being able to uphold democratic institutions is questionable – my opinion is not racist, I in no way claim this based on nationality or race but on observable facts and specific concerns stated officially by our government. And by the way, I do not appreciate being accused of being racist!!

That depends on what you think the premise is. If the premise of the war is that preventing the Taliban from returning to power is a worthy goal, your claim is a questionable one.

If the premise of the war is something other than to prevent the Taliban from regaining power, please tell me what you think it is? According to your statement in bold above, that is precisely what the goal is.

So you think Cpl Nash is simply deceiving himself? Is it not possible that he and many others like him believe in their mission and have witnessed its achievements on the ground, in particular the growing strength and competence of the Afghan National Army and Police. Do you disbelieve what he claims to have seen at close hand?

Anecdotal claims do not ensure the success of an overall policy any more than claims of magnet therapy relieving back pain make the treatment valid. By mere practicality Cpl. Nash is working in an area which has been cleared of Taliban forces. This is not the case in the entire country. That this location, or any location, continue to remain free of Taliban on the strength of the ANA alone is questionable at best.

Is Cpl Nash deceiving himself? I think he is being optimistic, but the success of the ANA is not entirely in his control. He’s doing his job the best he can; but the probability that the Taliban will retake areas where coalition forces have been withdrawn, as it already has countless times already, if highly likely, in my opinion.

kara said...

i'm just upset that a great american beverage is enshrouded in such negative connotations that i don't even want to drink its powdery goodness anymore.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Kara Actually I am surprised that "Kool Aid" didn't change their product name after Jonestown. "Drinking the Kool Aid" now has become synonymous with mindlessly following self-destructive behavior tendencies... you know, like "Tea Bagger".

jolie-jordan said...

Hi Skeptic...I come via Segret Agent Woman's blog...name's Jolie.

I felt compelled to reply so here goes.

Sorry..I guess I have too many characters for a comment here. I'll put it in a post on my blog. Come check it out.
Jolie