by Mel Gurtov
June 27, 2015
Antiwar.com

Back in 1959, President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Khrushchev took a break from their summit and walked in the woods around Camp David. Khrushchev, in his memoirs, relates a conversation in which the president complains of how hard it is to resist the military’s demands for more money. Military leaders, said Eisenhower, invariably insist the US will fall behind the Soviet Union unless he gives them the money for this or that weapon system. “They keep grabbing for more, and I keep giving it to them.” He asked Khrushchev if that was also the case in the USSR. “It’s just the same,” said Khrushchev, who went on to describe virtually the same script. “Yes,” said the president, “that’s what I thought.”

Congress members are very much a part of the military-industrial complex, which is why someone (Tom Hayden?) long ago suggested that the more accurate term is MAGIC: the military-academic-governmental-industrial complex. Most people elected to Congress, and certainly any among them who serve on the armed services committee of either house, think two things when it comes to national security: the more weapons produced, the more secure we are; and the more money allocated to “national defense,” the better. These folks never met a weapons system they didn’t like. And when, in relatively lean times, they have to decide between social well-being and the Pentagon’s wish list, well, they don’t have to think twice.

These days Congress members, mainly on the Republican side, are busy finding clever ways to hide stuffing the Pentagon’s stocking with strategically senseless, duplicative, exceedingly expensive weapons and related items. Remember sequestration in 2013? It was supposed to cap military and other spending in order to help bring the overall budget back to balance. Clearly, in the minds of the military-firsters, this effort was never meant to apply to the Pentagon, as evidenced by the much larger budget hit that social welfare programs took compared with the military, and by the little publicized Overseas Contingency Operations fund, which is not subject to sequestration. Yes, military spending has gone down over the last three years (see the chart below); but at over $600 billion (not counting veterans’ benefits and interest on the national debt from past wars), it’s around 54 percent of all US government discretionary spending and still close to 40 percent of global military spending.

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