NEW YORK -- This ugly, low-brow midterm campaign has been like watching passengers fighting over the midnight buffet table aboard the sinking "Titanic."
Neither party has told voters the truth about America's economic plight, its vast debts that equal, in percentage, those of delinquent Greece, or the need to restore financial order by slashing all spending as Great Britain it now doing.
Amidst all the invective of this midterm campaign, Tom Brokaw, the respected former national news host for NBC News, recently wrote a fine opinion column, "The Wars That America Forgot About."
He quite rightly asked why the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been ignored during the election race. After nine years of combat, 5,000 US dead and 35,000 seriously wounded soldiers, and expenditure of over $1 trillion -- silence.
These longest and second most expensive wars in US history have dropped off the radar. Not even the latest WikiLeaks shocker, which revealed the US condoning death squads, torture and mass human rights violations in Iraq, became a campaign issue.
No one raised the scandalous fact that US-run Afghanistan and Washington's political satraps there produce and export 94% of the world's heroin. Russian drug authorities just claimed that Afghan heroin kills 10,000 Russians annually.
The Iraq and Afghan wars are ignored, Brokaw rightly says, because Americans are totally focused on high unemployment and economic insecurity. America's wars have become irrelevant.
The US professional military represents less than 1% of the population, mostly working-class people from small towns in America's rural, poorly-educated heartland.
It's not like Vietnam War days, when millions of Americans were drafted to serve in the war, creating huge public protests that eventually ended the war.
The US has adopted Imperial Britain's model of small, all-volunteer armies fighting in remote colonial wars allegedly to bring the light of Christianity and justice to benighted natives.
However, it now costs $1 million per annum to keep each of the 120,000 US troops in Afghanistan. The US has also deployed over 50,000 armed mercenaries in that nation.
Americans have become psychologically and financially detached from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, even as the specter of stalemate or even defeat in both conflicts looms.
Brokaw calls on Americans to re-engage and give their wars and politicians the public attention they urgently need.
Waging stealth wars is undemocratic and unwise.
During World War II, America's "Home Front" was engaged in the conflict by war taxes, rationing, buying war bonds, collecting clothing and metal, and accepting shortages of consumer products. Such actions contributed little to the physical war effort but gave the public a sense of contribution and sharing the ordeal of the soldiers at the front.
By contrast, President George W. Bush actually cut income taxes in wartime, the only time in US history this has happened. The US media was ordered to soft-soap war reporting.
In an act of profound financial deception, instead of funding the Afghan and Iraq Wars through higher taxes, the Bush White House and subservient Congress financed the wars by "Emergency Supplement Requests," which were supposed to be only used short-term for natural disasters and the like.
Bush's view appears to have been, "après moi, le deluge." He raised the national debt by over 72%, vastly expanded the size of government, increased military spending by 50%, on top of cutting taxes.
The first wave of the deluge came in 2007-2008, as a financial cataclysm hit America. More is on the way as the US stumbles from one financial crisis to another - the latest being bankrupt states and pension funds.
The real $1 trillion plus costs of the wars were quietly added to the $12 trillion national debt, America's credit card. Funds to finance these huge war loans was borrowed from China and Japan, putting America ever deeper in thrall to the Asian powers, and undermining its finances.
The Obama administration and Democratic-controlled Congress continued Bush's dishonest method of war finance, hiding costs from the public.
America's wars should be fully funded through direct taxes. History shows great powers cannot long go on waging imperial wars on credit. Look at Spain, Holland, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union. Which empire do we think will be next?
A special war tax ought to be levied on all Americans to fully cover the mounting costs of Afghanistan and Iraq. We must pay for our wars and desire for world hegemony.
It will be interesting to see how all the flag-waving Republican "patriots" and sofa samurais will react when asked to pay for the wars they so passionately support -- provided they are without apparent cost.
If Americans had to actually pay for Afghanistan and Iraq, these wars would be ended in short order.
But if Republicans now redux, it is most unlikely a war tax -- or any major new taxes -- will be implemented. Republicans have gone from being the party of balanced budgets and pay as you go to a northern version of Argentina's wild spending Peronista Party.
Right-wing Republicans will press for more war, in more places -- financed, of course, by the magic of credit. Few stop to think that this manic borrowing is wrecking America.
copyright Eric S. Margolis 2010
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