By David Swanson
When Senator Russ Feingold and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid propose cutting off the funding for the war, they are proposing the only thing that can possibly benefit U.S. troops. In fact, there is no way to make any sense of the idea that they could possibly be hurting U.S. troops. The funding is not for the troops.
When President George Bush claims that the money is for the troops, he is quite simply lying. The funding is not for the troops.
When Senator Barack Obama or Senator Carl Levin claims to want to pressure Bush to end the war, while at the same time promising to fund the war forever in the name of funding the troops, we are being told something that cannot possibly make any sense. The funding is not for the troops. It is for the war. You can’t end the war while providing it. You can’t hurt a troop by denying it.
Nearly everyone across the political spectrum in the United States agrees, honestly or hypocritically, that we should “support the troops.” I certainly think we should. We should do the only thing that makes them safer, the only thing that takes them out of a situation in which they can be charged with war crimes, the only thing the vast majority of them tell pollsters they want: we must bring them home. Then we must support them and their families, help them find education and work, help them recover physically, psychologically, and financially. We currently fail horribly at all of this.
But voices from across the political spectrum also talk about the troops in a way that makes no sense. Those on the right accuse Congress of trying to cut off money for the troops by ending the war. Those on the left accuse Bush of threatening to cut off money for the troops by vetoing a war funding bill. I receive Emails from activist groups promoting peace that gratuitously reinforce this piece of nonsense.
The biggest problem with this is the obvious one. If defunding a war really did hurt the poor men and women we’d lied to about fictional foreign threats and compelled to go risk their lives, then we could never defund a war. We would have to ask the Unitary Executive to end the war, while providing him with money to continue it. And when we’d dragged on in that manner for years, and it came time to pretend once again that we could solve everything through an election, we’d have to elect a new Unitary Executive committed to both ending the war and never defunding it. And we know which half of that incoherent position would win out post-election.
But the fact that believing “the funding is for the troops” gives us eternal war doesn’t mean it isn’t true that “the funding is for the troops.” Maybe we simply have to have eternal war.
Fortunately, there are other reasons to conclude that the funding is not for the troops. First and foremost, the money that would be required to bring our troops safely home is such a small fraction of the Pentagon’s budget, or even of the cash that the Pentagon has “misplaced” in Iraq, that there can be no question of ever cutting it off. The Pentagon could fund a withdrawal and never notice the financial expense.
So, when we talk about cutting off funding “for the troops,” what are we really talking about?
We must be talking about their meals and armor and vehicles. But there are several problems with making that sort of claim. First, by cutting off funding after a certain date and demanding that the troops be brought home before that date, you are not denying them anything they need while they are deployed.
Second, we have never provided them adequate supplies and services, and the Congress Members who have pushed to cut off the war funding are some of the same ones who have pushed hardest to try to change that.
Third, the war funding has nothing to do with changing the level of equipment and services we provide the troops; the big bucks go to mercenaries, not troops; and the really big bucks go to the profiteers providing the worst services for the highest prices.
Fourth, if we start to talk about the need for troops to protect other troops, we get into an inescapable escalation without end.
Fifth, if we really cared about the well being of our troops, we would also care about the well being of our veterans and our nontroops, and the primary reason millions of them are living in misery is the mammoth amount of money we are spending in Iraq rather than on housing, health care, and education in the United States.
If Bush vetoes a war funding bill, he will be doing so because it asks him to end the war someday and he never wants to end the war. He will NOT be cutting off money for troops. And neither will Congress if it does its Constitutional duty and slams the vault shut and ends the occupation of Iraq.
The next time you say “fund the troops” in any context, you will be saying “Never end the war.” Please don’t say that. Please change the discourse. The funding is for Halliburton and Blackwater. Cut it off as soon as possible.