08/31/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Warfare Over Health Care

We're being taken for a ride. The Blue Dogs and other fellow travelers ask us to be frugal when considering the general health of our citizens. But where were these spendthrift "deficit hawks" when Congress pushed through the lavish Pentagon spending bill and the operating budgets for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan? No nation on Earth could afford to garrison 130,000 soldiers in one country and 57,000 in another for years and years, and pile these expenses on the biggest military budget in the world without suffering some kind of fiscal catastrophe. Well, welcome to George W. Bush's "New World Order."

It was President Reagan who called Afghanistan the Soviet Union's "Vietnam" (which is odd since he also called the Vietnam war a "noble cause"). Now Afghanistan is our "Vietnam." Those cunning mujahadeen fighters and their allies and descendants, who Reagan called "freedom fighters," are no different today. If anything, they're a lot tougher. They utilize the difficult terrain of their barren, balkanized country, as well as clever guerrilla tactics (as the Vietnamese did) to vanquish would-be occupiers. The U.S. "coalition," in most Afghans' eyes, probably looks like the same old bunch of white guys trying to impose imperial control over their lands. The U.S. policy of escalation and targeted drone killings in the border regions will do little to deter "terrorists" from attacking the United States but does a lot to promote political instability inside nuclear-armed Pakistan.

In Iraq, the violent jockeying for real power has already begun between the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad and the Sunni and Kurdish minorities. Once the fighting escalates to a certain level there'll be loud yelps in the corridors of power in Washington for a renewed U.S. military effort in Iraq. (We can only imagine what will leap from the lips of Newt Gingrich and Liz Cheney.)

But President Obama has shown that in the area of foreign policy, at least, he is clearly in the driver's seat. I'm confident that whatever acts of barbarity occur in Iraq as U.S. soldiers are slowly withdrawn he's not stupid enough to listen to the advice of the Kenneth Pollacks and the Michael O'Hanlons and re-invade the country. The Halliburton/KBR/Brookings Institution party in Iraq is over.

On Afghanistan I'm not so sure.

In Congress, those who wanted to keep the F-22 jet fighter boondoggling along raised an uproar over cutting a measly $1.5 billion out of a military budget that has swelled to over $630 billion. And there are many voices in this same Congress that tell us we cannot afford to spend a fraction of that sum on the health of our citizens, even while fifty million of us have no health coverage at all.

The staggering costs of maintaining a global empire is eating away at the innards of this country. Nothing illustrates this point more than the debate on health care that's going on right now in the Senate Finance Committee. Senators are wrestling with saving a penny here and a penny there when they're aimed at bolstering people's health, but they believe the sky is the limit so long as the money is being funneled into imperial pursuits and foreign occupations. Most obscene of all is seeing the same men and women who called for wasting the nation's blood and treasure on occupying Iraq now become misers when Americans are clamoring for a sensible health care system.