Where Your Tax Dollar Will and Will Not Go

By David Swanson

During an endless airplane trip from hell yesterday that included an extended stay in Chicago’s scenic O’Hare airport, I had the misfortune to read one book about where our tax dollars go and another book that was, indirectly, about where they do not go.

Nick Turse has done something pretty amazing in producing an entertaining account of the almost limitless variety of ways in which our money is wasted by what he calls the military industrial technological entertainment academic media corporate matrix, or “The Complex” for short, and that’s the book’s title. This mammoth beast is funded by about half of your tax dollar combined with the borrowing of trillions of dollars, largely from China, a nation which – incidentally – represents the closet thing to a military rival to the United States and which as late as September 10, 2001, was being hyped by right-wing pundits as the Enemy, and which is about as much a threat to the so-called American “homeland” as Switzerland is.

Turse illustrates the reach of the Complex by pointing out that it is nearly impossible to purchase or use a product of any sort in the United States that is not produced by a Pentagon contractor. In fact, I am typing this on an Apple computer, and Apple is a major Pentagon contractor. But then, so is IBM. And so are most of the parent companies of most of the junk food and trinket stores in O’Hare Airport, not to mention the coffee stands. Starbucks is a major military supplier, with a store even in Guantanamo. Starbucks defends its presence on Torture Island by claiming that to NOT be there would constitute taking a political position, whereas being there is simply standard American behavior. Indeed. Not only are traditional weapons manufacturers’ offices now found alongside car dealers and burger joints in almost every American suburban strip mall, but the car dealers and burger joints are owned by companies driven by Pentagon spending, just as are the media outlets that don’t tell you about this.

Turse reviews the growth of the traditional military-industrial complex, and Eisenhower never could have imagined it. But, then Turse starts adding: the military-telecom complex, the nascent and unconstitutional homeland militarization complex, the military golfing complex. I am guessing you have no idea how many golf courses the US military (excuse me, YOUR tax dollars) maintain around the world. In fact, much of this book is a tale of luxurious excesses by military brass and CIA spies, living very high on the hog. How many of these types do you imagine you are paying to put up in $1,000-a-night luxury hotels around the world on any given night? If you don’t want to know about it, don’t read this book.

You spare no expense, let me tell you. Wait until you read about the exploding frisbees, cyborg wasps, and Captain America no-meals and no-sleep soldiers being developed by the same people who brought you mechanical killer elephants and telepathic warfare: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Each year, the EPA spends $622 million of your tax dollars trying to figure out how we can power things without oil, while the military spends $73.7 BILLION trying to figure out insane ways to kill people. So, write out those IRS checks with pride!

Then there are the expenses needed to keep military recruitment from completely failing: Hollywood movies funded by the military (I mean, by YOU), pimped out Hummers displayed by sexy models at trade fairs, $150,000 signing bonuses. It’s all due to your generosity. You could have taken the cheap approach of not occupying Iraq. Recruitment was doing fine before that mission began. But that’s not like you. You prefer to kill those who need killing and bribe those needed to make it happen.

The other book I read was written by one person who was so bribed and who decided to push back. “Anti-War Soldier: How to Dissent Within the Ranks of the Military,” is a short autobiographical book by a young man serving in the U.S. Navy named Jonathan Hutto. He was a political activist who had worked for the ACLU and Amnesty International. He opposed the occupation of Iraq. But he had reached a very low point in his life and was deep in student-loan debt. YOU generously sent recruiters into his neighborhood until one successfully appealed to him, and you offered to pay off $65,000 of debt if he simply served as a photo-journalist for five years in the U.S. Navy. (I forgot to mention Turse’s review of the military’s own massive media complex, which includes an uncountable number of newspapers and other media outlets belonging to the military itself.)

The trouble was that, once in the Navy, Hutto wasn’t going to stand for being pushed around, particularly by racists. (Oh, and that luxury living stuff is not for the rank and file.) Hutto is black and had engaged in anti-racist activism before. Hutto recounts his ongoing efforts within the Navy to improve working conditions, and the successes he has already had.

Hutto learned a lot about the rights of members of the military, which portions of the Bill of Rights they still maintain after signing a contract and which they don’t. And he learned about the GI resistance movement during the Vietnam War from one of its leaders, David Cortright, who wrote the preface to “Anti-War Soldier.” Hutto determined that members of the military have the right to appeal to their congress members, and thus was born the Appeal for Redress.

At http://www.appealforredress.org at current count 2,162 active-duty members of the U.S. military have signed this appeal:

“As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq . Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”

Whether or not you are in the military, you can make that sort of statement at events all over the country this month, as Congress weighs whether to throw another $102 billion of your money into the occupation of Iraq. See http://iraqtownhalls.com

If you’re unsure about whether you really want your tax dollars to be used, and not used, the way they are, check out http://dontbuybushswar.org

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