They're off! First out of the gate in the race to crazy is Lindsey Graham, senior Senator from South Carolina, who wants to build permanent military bases in Afghanistan. He'll be passed within a furlong by other, newer nut cases, but for the nonce, he's out front.
The cost of a typical, six-hectare U.S base in the Middle East -- with operations center, residential blocks, communications hub, storage facilities, training center, medical center, repair facilities, logistics center, canteen, recreation facilities and a doghouse (yes, a doghouse is standard) -- runs about $100 million, give or take a few tens of millions. If Haliburton is involved, add another 30 to 50 million in vigorish. Graham doesn't say how many permanent bases he wants to build, but a good guess would be that just building them would add about $4 billion to the total cost of the Afghanistan war.
The $4 billion is a spit in the bucket of a war that will have cost more than $366 billion by the time this is posted. It's increasing at a rate of roughly $5,000 per second. Altogether we've spent $1.2 trillion since 2001 in order to kill nearly 6,000 United States military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 900,000 civilians, journalists and members of allied (called "coalition") military units.
According to the latest National Intelligence Estimates, the $366 billion Afghanistan war has left large parts of the country in danger of falling to the Taliban. Kabul, the capital, is still under Afghan government control, but most of the roads in and out of the city are controlled by the Taliban. The Afghan prime minister, Hamid Karzai, recently told Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander there, "If I had to choose sides today, I'd choose the Taliban." This from our most dependable ally in the country.
So that's what $366 billion of military buys. Four billion dollars worth of permanent bases won't do a damned thing to change that. It will enclose uncounted numbers of American troops in heavily-armed enclaves which Afghanistan's expert guerrilla forces will bleed dry by the death of a million razor cuts -- as they did to the Russians before us and the British before them. The BBC, ABC and several other international news agencies conducted a poll recently that showed 40 per cent of the populace in Afghanistan approved of attacks on U.S. troops, 30 per cent didn't care one way or the other as long as nobody disturbed the opium fields, and most of the rest didn't understand the question.
Only a handful of defense contractors would profit from the construction of Graham's permanent military bases in Afghanistan. But the movement to build them is just the first of many reminders to come that the United States military-industrial complex remains the greatest single power on earth.
We have military bases in 63 countries. They comprise nearly a million buildings and equipment edifices. Our Pentagon is the largest single land-owner in the world. Its budget -- spending will top $800 billion in 2011 -- is greater than the total military budgets of all the other nations in the world.
The most realistic recent study of universal health care in the United States -- that is, of guaranteeing free health care to every single American -- estimated the cost at $110 billion a year. That's one-eighth of what it costs to operate our killing machine for a year, a cost that has been increasing, on average, by 16% per year.
The same politicians, Sen. Graham in the forefront, who approve the costs of killing and in fact want to increase them with $4 billion worth of useless permanent bases tell us that we cannot afford the $110 billion to keep Americans healthy.
One of the first acts of the new Congress will be to cut spending to pay down our national debt. Social security funding will be reduced. Our doctors'' Medicare payments will be reduced. Retirees' prescription costs have already risen because pharmaceutical companies are raising prices and Medicare is cutting benefits.
We'll cut education spending to the bone, raise the payroll taxes of the working poor, cancel any vestiges of oversight of financial institutions so that they can continue to bankrupt individual ciitzens while paying record bonuses to the executives who almost ruined the entire economy two years ago.
My fellow Americans, assume "the position."