Chalmers Johnson and Tom Engelhart lay out the Death Spiral at the Pentagon today, in a must-read article.
Here's the tiniest taste:
Recently, reviewing lobbying disclosure reports, the Washington Times discovered "that 18 of the top 20 recipients of federal bailout money spent a combined $12.2 million lobbying the White House, the Treasury Department, Congress, and federal agencies during the last quarter of 2008." Citibank alone, according to the New York Times, fielded "an army of Washington lobbyists," plunking down $1.77 million in lobbying fees just in the fourth quarter of last year.
And it isn't only sinking financial institutions begging for federal dollars that have bolstered their Washington lobbying corps. So have the biggest U.S. armaments companies – "drastically," according to reporter August Cole of the Wall Street Journal. In 2008, he found, Northrop Grumman almost doubled its lobbying budget to $20.6 million (from $10.9 million the previous year); Boeing upped its budget from $10.6 million to $16.6 million in the same period; and Lockheed-Martin, the company that received the most contracts from the Pentagon last year, hiked its lobbying efforts by a whopping 54 percent in 2008.
It is important to realize that this is far beyond a simple good-guy/bad-guy, or will Obama keep his promises kind of issue.
There is a political/military incestuous financial relationship that goes back decades. One of the reasons that Barack Obama kept Bill Gates around is that Gates really does seem to want to tackle out of control spending at the Pentagon; so far all that's gotten him is a completely hostile relationship with the US Air Force and increased aircraft industry lobbying.
Moreover, the Pentagon is obviously moving to set up President Obama as being a stereotypical weak-on-defense liberal.
My evidence of conspiracy?
Sunday night: General David Petraeus is hailed at the Super Bowl half-time as an American hero to thunderous applause (and it is difficult not to see in him a future politician).
Tuesday: the following story is released:
CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, supported by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months at an Oval Office meeting Jan. 21.
But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that he wasn't convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military leaders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting.
Obama's decision to override Petraeus' recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.
A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilizing public opinion against Obama's decision.
Petraeus was visibly unhappy when he left the Oval Office, according to one of the sources. A White House staffer present at the meeting was quoted by the source as saying, "Petraeus made the mistake of thinking he was still dealing with George Bush instead of with Barack Obama."
Actually, I think it is Obama who may be due for a surprise. Since the days of Douglas MacArthur as Army Chief of Staff swearing at FDR when he attempted to cut the Army's budget, the Pentagon has never shied away from fighting for its pieces of the pork. Recently, Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral McMullen even seriously proposed that the annual Defense Budget (in peactime!) be permanently pegged at 4% of GDP.
The military chiefs are playing the game of intimidate the new guy, just like they did with Bill Clinton over the issue of gays in the military. Whether they will be successful depends not just on whether or not the new President has that spine of steel, but whether or not he can find sufficient senior brass available to support his line. Mostly what he has right now are retirees-turned-(you guessed it)-defense lobbyists--not to mention the Raytheon lobbyist he has placed in charge of Pentagon operations. This is not a good hand.
Especially not when--here going back to the Johnson/Engelhart article--you discover that the defense industry is willing to sacrifice current military capabilities on the altar of saving their butts as jobs programs:
If you want to get a taste of what that means, then click here to view an ad for that company's potentially embattled boondoggle, the F-22, the most expensive jet fighter ever built. What you'll discover is not just that it will "protect" 300 million people – that's you, if you live in the USA – but that it will also employ 95,000 of us. In other words, the ad's threatening message implies, if the Obama administration cuts this program in bad times, it will throw another 95,000 Americans out on the street. Now that's effective lobbying for you, especially when you consider, as Chalmers Johnson does below, that for any imaginable war the U.S. might fight in the coming decades, the F-22 will be a thoroughly useless plane.
The F-22 is a boondoggle, pure and simple, designed to counter a Soviet advanced warplane that was never produced. No other air force--not China, Great Britain, or France to name but the prime possibilities--has any such plane on the drawing board.
And you could essentially have a new wing of upgraded F-16s every year for the next decade on what we will waste on the F-22.
Yes, it's still the economy, stupid, to most people--and I understand that. Your job and your mortgage are your job and your mortgage.
But while our liberal and progressive friends rail against bank presidents and corporate CEOs they see as anti-America, you have to wonder when they are going to realize that the defense industry has been robbing them blind for bloody f**king decades, and that they lack the initiative to acquire the technical knowledge to do a damn thing about it.