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Massive Pentagon accounting fraud raises questions about Senator Reed’s credibility



On March 18, 2019, United States Senator Reed, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, confronted the Trump Administration by drawing attention to a list of military construction projects supposedly at risk of being “cancelled, reduced, or raided.” As Senator Reed’s web site put it:

We know President Trump wants to take money from our national security accounts to pay for his wall, and now we have a list of some of the projects and needed base repairs that could be derailed or put on the chopping block as a result.

What President Trump is doing is a slap in the face to our military that makes our border and the country less secure.  He is planning to take funds from real, effective operational priorities and needed projects and divert them to his vanity wall.

The issue seems to be the reallocation of $3.6 billion to pay for the border wall, but there is a serious problem. In November of last year The Nation reported that accounting practices at the Pentagon consist in perpetually making up numbers to justify yearly increases.

As The Nation sums it up:

The status quo has been generating ever-higher DoD budgets for decades, not to mention bigger profits for Boeing, Lockheed, and other military contractors.

The losers in this situation are everyone else. The Pentagon’s accounting fraud diverts many billions of dollars that could be devoted to other national needs: health care, education, job creation, climate action, infrastructure modernization, and more. Indeed, the Pentagon’s accounting fraud amounts to theft on a grand scale—theft not only from America’s taxpayers, but also from the nation’s well-being and its future.

The misappropriation of resources does not even begin to tell the story of the threat to global security posed by the United States military posture. One would think that the disastrous history of the “global war on terror” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Niger, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, … would penetrate the awareness of our national security functionaries. Unfortunately, with very few exceptions, none of that is detectable.

The only ones who are grateful for the ever-increasing, mostly undeclared drone warfare seem to be the “bad guys” and the war industry.

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Sadly, the effects of these wars on personal lives is rarely part of the “thank-you-for-your-sevice salutes” as Major Danny Sjursen calls them in his recent post Uncle Sam Sent Me to Rehab for PTSD. Nor do we as a society internalize the connection between war and the torture as described in Flint Taylor’s recent book, “The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago.” The book features Jon Burge, a military police officer in Vietnam who came home to join the Chicago Police Department and became the leader of its torture ring.

Rhode Island leadership invariably mention the job creation marvels of the war industry. Never mind that it has long been known that military spending is an inferior tool for this purpose. As a 2011 study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst put it:

Channeling funds into clean energy, health care and education in an effective way will therefore create significantly greater opportunities for decent employment throughout the U.S. economy than spending the same amount of funds with the military.

In spite of the massive fraud at the Pentagon, Senator Reed claims that he can trace the effect of the “small” amount to be spent for the inequality, poverty, and death enhancing wall the Trump Administration wants to build at the Mexico-US border. He makes this claim in spite of the obvious fact that it is absolutely impossible to trace $3.6 billion in a department awash in hundred billions dollars worth of accounting fraud.

Preventing the construction of the wall is the right cause, but the arguments presented by the Senator Reed—surely, uncritically followed by the rest of the Rhode Island congressional delegation—are indicative of endless, reflexive support for ever-increasing war spending and perpetual war. Sadly, present and future generations will pay the price for this collective insanity.

Peter Nightingale is a theoretical physicist and teaches at the University of Rhode Island. He strives to leave behind a more just, peaceful, and sustainable post-capitalist world for future generations, and for his children and grandchildren in particular.