Written by Eric Zuesse; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org
The US military is the most respected institution by the American people. According to investigations by the Inspector General of the US Department of Defense — investigations which were based on inspections of only portions of the Department’s financial records, not of all of them, and so the amount is incomplete — that Department had disappeared at least $21 trillion of funds from US taxpayers during the 18-year period 1998-2015. The US population, during that period, was around 300 million people; so, at a bare minimum, approximately $70,000 was being stolen (or otherwise disappeared at the US Defense Department) from each American during that time. However, $10 in 1998 was worth $14.54 in 2015; so, considering inflation, each American was robbed, during that period, of at least around $90,000, by the most respected institution. The average US household or “family” has 2.54 people. So, the average US household lost AT LEAST around $223,000, from thefts (or ‘lost money’) by the US military, during 1998-2015. (This fact has never been published before, because this calculation has never before been done; the loss to individual persons and families hasn’t previously been calculated.)
Where did this money go? Did it go to US soldiers? Maybe a tiny bit of it did, but the typical US soldier doesn’t seem to be rich. They even have an abnormally high suicide-rate. The US Government doesn’t publish any comparison of the average lifetime income of a military versus a non-military person, and obviously it would do so if soldiers made more than non-soldiers, because that fact (if it’s true) would greatly assist military recruitments. The present writer has contacted several US military recruitment offices, and each of them said they didn’t know the answer to the question as to whether the average lifetime income of a veteran is higher than the average lifetime income of a non-veteran. Wouldn’t they know it — and be publicizing the fact — if it were so? But they provide no answer to this question. Furthermore, according to Vice Admiral James Houck, speaking on 12 November 2014, “Veterans have a harder time getting jobs than other people do, and it makes me wonder why.” So: no indication seems to exist that this $21 trillion went to any typical soldiers.
Of course, generals and other brass who sit on boards of the US international corporations that sell to America’s military — corporations such as Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics — or who lobby for them in the US Congress, or who are fellows at Brookings Institution or other corporate-funded think tanks that routinely recommend to the US Congress, and in op-ed articles, new military invasions, might have gotten some of this money, but nobody knows. In fact, this lack of information is the reason why the Inspector General of the US Department of Defense has highlighted that $21T, in the first place.
No one knows where this $21T went. However, expenditures on the US military — including not just the Defense Department but the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the military retirement system which is paid directly from the US Treasury Department, and all of the other military costs of the US Government — are currently at least half of all of the entire world’s military expenditures, and so there’s plenty of money for America’s weapons-manufacturing firms to get. The many news-articles in the press that argue for even more money to be spent on weapons could well be funded, ultimately, from this approximately one trillion dollars per year in disappeared funds that are going into the US military, to buy those weapons — since the money doesn’t seem to be going to soldiers. Or: is it instead being used in bribes to foreign governments, so as to get them to buy more US weapons? The IG of the US DOD just doesn’t know.
During 2-6 March 2017, the Morning Consult and Politico “National Tracking Poll #170301” asked “a national sample of 1,992 registered voters” the question “Here is a list of federal departments and agencies. For each of the following, please indicate if you think the department or agency should have its annual budget increased, decreased, or kept about the same?” For “Department of Defense” (the Department that actually buys the weapons), 47% chose “Increased,” and 17% chose “Decreased.” The highest of all for “Increased” was Veterans Administration, which services the injured and disabled vets: 60% of respondents said “Increased,” and 10% said “Decreased.” By contrast, the EPA, which deals with global warming and the rest of the environment, was 33% “Increased,” and 24% “Decreased.” The FDA, which oversees the safety of foods and of drugs, was 30% “Increased,” and 22% “Decreased.” However, there’s no indication of anything like a trillion dollars a year being pilfered from the EPA or the FDA, both of which are agencies that produce additional costs to US corporations, instead of produce virtually all of the income to military US corporations (such as to the contractors to the US Department of Defense). The least popular federal departments and agencies, therefore, were the ones that large US corporations dislike the most, and love the least. Maybe the American people don’t care whether they are being robbed by the corporations whose main or only market is the US Government and the foreign governments that the US Government labels to be its ‘allies’, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. Clearly, that’s a good type of business for a big investor to control, especially for a big investor who invests in politics as much or even more than in military corporations of any other types of corporations directly. It’s the way for a big investor to leverage political control into enormous personal profits, which might include some of the approximately trillion dollars a year that disappears annually at the Defense Department.
Incidentally: this trillion dollars a year is spent and is received, but whether it’s all in addition to the trillion-dollar-plus annual congressionally budgeted US expenditures on the military, is unknown, because nobody except the spenders and the recipients keep any track of any of this money. Conceivably, the US is actually spending two trillion dollars per year on its military. Furthermore, the entire Fiscal Year 2018 Enacted federal budget is only $1.208 trillion; so, the current annual federal deficits of around a trillion dollars that are being added each year to the existing (coincidentally) $21 trillion dollar federal debt might be from the constantly disappeared and disappearing DOD money.
The existence of this problem has been known, and increasingly documented, for many years. Back on 18 November 2013, Reuters headlined “Special Report: The Pentagon’s doctored ledgers conceal epic waste”, and reported that “At the … offices that handle accounting for the Army, Navy, Air Force and other defense agencies, fudging the accounts with false entries is standard operating procedure.” That report showed that at least a substantial portion of the waste is due to military procurements, monies that go to pay US Defense Department contractors: “Over the past 10 years, the Defense Department has signed contracts for the provision of more than $3 trillion in goods and services. How much of that money is wasted in overpayments to contractors, or was never spent and never remitted to the Treasury, is a mystery.” It could have been pocketed by anyone along the payments-chain to the ultimate contractors, such as Boeing and United Technologies. Furthermore, the waste was okayed all the way to the top of the Pentagon: “A review of multiple reports from oversight agencies in recent years shows that the Pentagon also has systematically ignored warnings about its accounting practices.” This was wanted by the top people, not unwanted by them.
For some reason, this situation continues on for decade after decade, and yet Americans are far more worried about ‘illegal aliens’ and about ‘foreign tampering with American democracy’ than about this enormous documented theft from us — theft which is clearly being done on behalf of a small number of Americans much more than on behalf of any non-Americans. Are foreigners really the biggest threat to the American people, or are a few very wealthy Americans actually a much bigger threat to us — and far more responsible for America’s soaring wealth-inequality and spreading poverty (depriving the needs for “butter” so as to feed the military monster’s gluttons for “guns”), than any foreigners are?
Maybe America’s targets should be the people who now control what and whom America’s targets are. But that type of change can happen only in a democracy. Is the US a democracy? And, if we are, then why do pretty much the same group of mega-corporate-funded US Representatives and Senators and Governors and Presidents become re-elected, and advance in their careers, instead of being targeted for investigation and possible serious prosecution as maybe being even traitors who have tolerated these thefts? Can such people as that, really stand above the law, in a democracy? And, what about the people who control the ‘Defense’ contractors? Why are immigrants, and Iran, and Russia, and China, and North Korea, and Syria, and Yemen, and Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and Iraq, and Libya, being targeted as ‘America’s enemies’? Is it done so that there will be targets for those weapons to be used against? Is that the real business-plan here? When did any of those nations last invade America, or even threaten to invade America? Didn’t Israel do that, on 8 June 1967, and Saudi Arabia do that, on 11 September 2001? But they are our ‘allies’, and Saudi Arabia is even the largest foreign buyer of US weaponry. (And how transparent are those regimes?)
US President Barack Obama repeatedly said that America is “the one indispensable nation,” meaning that every other nation is “dispensable.” Is that, ultimately, the business-plan? Current US President Donald Trump seems to have adopted it with even more gusto than did his predecessor.
Hasn’t this business-plan been succeeding long enough, now? It’s not published (at least the finances of it aren’t); it’s never published; but all the evidence indicates that it exists. If it is ever to be investigated, then whom could be trusted to do the investigation? Is this situation actually hopeless? Do Americans accept that the actual perpetrators will never be punished, and that the perpetrators will never restore to us the trillions of dollars they’ve taken from us, to kill people in foreign lands, who never attacked ours? Is this, now, ‘patriotism’, in America?
There exists impunity at the very top in America, just as is the case in other regimes, such as in the Saudi regime, which is the American regime’s most important ally. However, the American regime is unique, because only it controls the world’s top reserve currency, the dollar. The Sauds are especially important because they perform the biggest role of any foreign power in continuing the dollar as the world’s top reserve currency. A Bloomberg News article recently explained how the US regime thus is able not only to get away with piling over a trillion dollars a year onto its Government’s debt and yet still retain its status as the supplier of the world’s chief reserve currency, but can and does even go beyond that, actually to make economic war with its currency, by means of imposing economic sanctions against any nation that it seeks to conquer, such as Iran and Russia. That Bloomberg article is titled “How the US Has Weaponized the Dollar: The currency’s ‘exorbitant privilege’ gives the nation extraordinary leverage.” (For example: what Mohammed bin Salman did to Jamal Khashoggi is what Donald Trump wants to do to Meng Wanzhou and to others who refuse to bully Iran.) A different Bloomberg News article explains how this reserve-currency system got finally instituted in 1974 by US President Richard Nixon and King Saud. It was titled “The Untold Story Behind Saudi Arabia’s 41-Year US Debt Secret”.
That is the key to the current world order. It also explains how the US Government can now manage to spend, actually, around as many dollars on its military each year as all other nations in the world put together. This is the institutional reality, and it can be understood only if one acknowledges: impunity at the top (especially the head-of-state) tends to produce psychopathy at the top. This fact, this tendency toward psychopathy at the very top (and especially in the head-of-state), is the basic reality that is being displayed by today’s history — the history being made in our own time.
One can’t understand our time, without understanding this basic reality. For example: it explains why the average US household lost at least around $223,000, from thefts (or ‘lost money’) by the US military, during 1998-2015; and why the individuals who were responsible for it have never been punished, much less punished as traitors.