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Why We Fight | The Nation

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The Notion

Unfiltered takes on politics, ideas and culture from Nation editors and contributors.

Why We Fight

The twin headlines on the front page of the Washington Post today, "Gonzales Defends Surveillance," and "Bush's Budget Bolsters Pentagon," made me think of Eugene Jarecki's stirring documentary about the military-industrial complex, Why We Fight.

Jarecki not only provides a historical overview of an arms buildup that dates back to President Eisenhower--who warned of the military establishment's "acquisition of unwarranted influence"--he shows how a lack of opportunities at home helps drive enlistment for foreign interventions abroad. Bush's appalling new budget will only exacerbate this trend by starving domestic programs, cutting taxes and boosting defense spending to a record $439.3 billion at a time of ever-increasing deficits. Defense spending has grown by 45 percent since Bush took office, accounting for more than half of all government programs. And that doesn't include the $120 billion needed this year to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What has over half a trillion dollars bought in terms of America's security? Shoddy intelligence, quagmire in Iraq and a nucular (née nuclear) Iran? Bin Laden's still alive and Hamas is running Palestine.

Democrats (and a few sensible Republicans) are rightfully incensed about Bush's proposed spending and tax cuts. "More deficits, more debt, and more denial," said John Spratt, ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. But these criticisms contain nary a peep about the size and scope of America's bloated and wasteful military budgets. Out in Abilene, Kansas, General Eisenhower is rolling over in his grave.

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