America's war business is thriving

America's war business is thriving
Comment: On the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, it is only fitting to recognize that the United States' war industry is thriving. And the thirst for war shows no sign of abating, writes Said Arikat.
6 min read
09 Mar, 2015
The Amreican military industry is in rude health ]Getty]

Fifty years ago, on Sunday, March 8 1965, 3,500 American marines disembarked at Da-Nang, ushering in the long and bloody Vietnam War that would last for ten years, cost the lives of 58,303 American soldiers, another 400,000 wounded and more than two million Vietnamese killed. The war would end in the stunning defeat of the United States. And the anniversary went almost unnoticed in the American media.


Of course it would be untrue to suggest that US involvement in South East Asia only began on that miserable day in 1965. The US had really been involved militarily aiding French colonialism in one capacity or

     This right-wing Congress loves wars, and judging from the way legislators hailed Netanyahu last week, they want another.

another, before, during and after the Second World War, and was ferrying men and material for the French as they were being defeated at the epoch battle of Dien Bien Phu (March 13-May 7) 1954.


The Americans began aiding the anti-nationalist South Vietnamese right after the French were thrown out, beginning in November 1955. It behoves us to note that US army Maj. Dale R. Ruis and Master Sgt. Chester M. Ovnand would become the first Americans killed in the American phase of the Vietnam War on July 8, 1959, when Viet Menh guerrillas struck a so-called Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) compound in Bien Hoa, 20 miles northeast of Saigon.


Nonetheless, March 8 1965 is the date designated as the (official) beginning of America's Vietnam War, an all-out war that would involve close to 600,000 American soldiers, in combat, in Vietnam, only two years later in the summer of 1967.


Young American men and women opposed to the war flooded America's town squares and campuses. Soldiers back from the war told stories about America's horrific war effort, against Vietnamese city-folks and farmers alike, sparing no weapon in the effort to break their will, including chemical weapons Napalm and Agent-Orange and carpet bombings by 100s of B-52 bombers.


The movement against US involvement in the Vietnam War, which began small – among peace activists and leftist intellectuals on college campuses – gained national prominence, after the United States began bombing North Vietnam in earnest, in tandem with heightened resistance by the people of Vietnam, a convergence that would soon cause the war to be seen by the American people as unwinnable. 


But the quest of the "The Military Industrial Complex" for wars and profits would not be easily diverted from the path of war. Only many years, many thousands of American lives, and many hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives later, and only after the crushing defeat of American militarism in Vietnam on April 30th 1975, would the war profiteers cower in the shadows, lay low for a while and take a respite from the death-trade (while exploring potential wars in other regions like the Middle East, South America, and Africa.) 

Brief respite

The respite would prove brief and only last until the election of right-wing Republican Ronald Reagan as president in 1980. First Lebanon, then Grenada then Panama, then Iraq. Why, with so many death squad leaders in South America, Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan and Iran-Contra shenanigans, happy times were here again for the war profiteers. 


The truth of the matter is that the United States has been at constant war, primarily in the Arab world, since the end of the Cold War in 1990. Before the criminal attacks of 9/11, the United States had been waging war on Iraq for more than ten years. Maybe unknown, or out of the hearing range of average Americans, but to the Iraqi people it was real, with endless death and destruction, day in and day out; from enforcing the no-fly zones in the north and south of Iraq, to fancy euphemisms like "Desert Fox" (1998) used to camouflage major bombing raids that would last for days on end, destroying schools, hospitals, roads and baby-formula factories.


The fig-leaf of propriety was no longer necessary after the horrific attacks of 9/11. America's love for war would come out of the closet. No weapons system would to be too expensive for the warmongers.


So, on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, it is only fitting to recognize that the United States' war industry is thriving, with endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and is gearing up for war in Nigeria, and who knows where else. And war is good business.


According to a Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government report issued in March 2013, the decade-long American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (and the war against terror) would end up costing as much as $6 trillion, the equivalent of $75,000 for every American household. Linda J. Bilmes, a public policy professor who authored the report, said that Washington increased military benefits in late 2001 as the nation went to war, and the protracted nation-building efforts launched in both Iraq and Afghanistan will generate expenses for years to come when calculated to include all costs involved. They will be no less than $4 trillion. They could be as high as $6 trillion.


Bilmes, who claims that the United States had already spent $2 trillion at the time of the report (March 2013), adds: "As a consequence of these wartime spending choices, the United States will face constraints in funding investments in personnel and diplomacy, research and development and new military initiatives." She warns: "The legacy of decisions taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will dominate future federal budgets for decades to come."


But even without including costs like potential veteran benefits or post-traumatic stress syndrome (PSTD), etc.; the costs already incurred are staggering. 

Staggering sums

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) study, issued December 2014, on post-9/11 military operations found that the cost – including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, weapons procurement and maintenance, and base support – exceeded the total the US spent on the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the first war against Iraq of 1990-1991 alltogether.


The study breaks down costs like this: $686 billion (43 percent) for Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan); $815 billion (51 percent) for Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (Iraq); $27 billion (two percent) for Operation Noble Eagle (providing enhanced security at military bases and military operations related to homeland security); $81 billion (five percent) for war-designated funding not considered directly related to the Afghanistan or Iraq wars.


The congressional study (dated December 8, 2014) states that about 92 percent of the funds went to the Department of Defence, with the remainder split between the State Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies. The key factor determining the cost of war during a given period over the last 13 years has been the number of US troops deployed, according to the report.


To that end, the study says, that predicting "future costs of the new US role in countering the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis) is difficult because of the nature of the air campaign and uncertainties about whether the US mission may expand" to include ground operations.


To curtail costs moving forward, the CRS analysis recommends: "Congress may wish to consider ways to restrict war-funding to exclude activities marginally related to war operations and support, and to limit the use of ground troops in Operation Inherent Resolve," referring to the US military intervention against the Islamic State group.


But of course we know better. Congress will not curtail costs, quite the contrary. This right-wing Congress loves wars and judging from the way legislators hailed Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week, they want another, even bigger one, in Iran. War, you see is good business, and the anti-war marchers are nowhere in sight.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.