The United States’ Life-Saving Funds were Spent on Death
by Xan Holbrook
As the country’s under-equipped healthcare system buckles under the weight of a global pandemic, let’s talk about the United States Military: A bulbous, bloated, bloodsucking, bombastic bully, looming over all other nations on Earth like a cheeseburger solar eclipse. President Eisenhower delivered the pithiest and most damning summation of the whole foul enterprise near the end of his tenure, and the clinical, could-give-a-fuck-about-whether-you-lived-or-died abstract noun of Military-Industrial Complex is close to perfect, as both name and character description.
Progressives have warned about the dangers of such a massive deficit between the amount the US Military receives and the way in which other public institutions either have their throats cut or are starved out of existence. I, and most citizens of most nations, understand the importance of having a strong military. However, the amount of money that a military needs to simply keep going is eye-watering. Even more so when one considers how terrible veterans’ aftercare is, both in the United States and most other NATO countries. Many who end up in the private sector remark on the vast amounts of money there is to be made in security, as opposed to soldiering. So where does the cash go, if not to the squaddies?
Understandably, weapons and equipment cost a great deal. What is slightly less well known is one office in the grubby, bureaucratic underbelly of the Pentagon. The big hungry babies at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, seem to have an inexhaustible supply of public money, and put it to use on some of the most pointless shit in the history of warfare.
Here’s what they’ve got up to, while you’re scrambling for toilet paper and surgical masks, while a real and present virus is laughed off as ‘Chinese’ by the con-man in chief, while many ordinary Americans wait for a wave of death and disease, while cities close down wholesale.
How did it end up with a turret on top?
The criminally underrated HBO movie The Pentagon Wars, starring Richard Schiff, John C. McGinley and Kelsey Grammar, casts a wry look at how funding politics, military bombast, and pen-pushing concoct machinery that will more than likely get people killed, all at a massive cost to the taxpayer. That film specifically mentions the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), and how it went from a simple Armored Personnel Carrier to being, in the words of the film, “a quasi-tank that has less armor than a snow-blower, but carries enough ammo to take out half of D.C.” Although modified later on to meet more sane guidelines, it took a congressional hearing and for a whistleblower’s sacking for this to happen. All at a cost $5.7 billion.
In more recent years, the defense department proves it has not learned its lesson, by managing to spend $3.3 billion on the development of the amphibious EFV (E for Expeditionary), overrunning initial costs by a staggering 270%, before the project was cancelled in 2011.
What you could have had instead: 163 Hospitals built.
Since the development of the ballistic missile (spoiler alert: that’s what the space race was actually about) and the ensuing Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties, much defense spending has been centered on carefully maneuvering around the enshrinement of Mutually Assured Destruction. This means that a lot of missile defense has to be covert in nature, and if necessary, futuristic.
Instead of, you know, decommissioning these affronts to human life that sit in silos, alive but watching like a retrovirus, DARPA thought it would be a great idea to outsource its weapons to Megatron and build the Airborne Laser (ABL). Sounds exciting, until you realize its an old Indian Boeing 747 that shoots lasers, and thus the military equivalent of riding around on a lawnmower while wielding a .357 Magnum. It took 16 years and an eye-watering $5 billion before common sense popped its head around the door to remind everyone to stop being so silly and cancel the bloody project.
What you could have had instead: 67,980 trained nurses.
Repeat: We Have No Intelligence
The late 90s: In that glorious era where there were no enemies to fight, barring some genocidal lunatics in the former Yugoslavia, and a blowjob under a desk was enough to bring down a Presidency, Chief-of-Staff Eric Shineski announced a bold new future. Technologically savvy, sleek, and straight out of Empire Earth’s Nano-Age. Unmanned vehicles and planes, a veritable SkyNet, operating its own information network, the stupidly named Warfighter Information Network – Tactical, or WINT (drop the W, swap it for the T, you’re welcome). However, 9/11 redirected much of the military’s priorities elsewhere, and the project was shelved.
Well, not quite.
People still kept on running on expenses through the project’s name, and the future unmanned weaponry was nowhere to be seen, barring UAVs which had been a common feature since the early 90s. Despite this, the dormant project still managed to rack up costs that were 25% over budget.
By the time of its cancellation, $19 billion was gone. And no robots.
What you could have had instead: 594,000 fully-funded scholarships to relieve struggling workers’ student loan payments.
I don’t need to remind you, scrimmaging for toilet rolls that you are, of the absurdity of all this. If this pandemic can teach us anything, it’s that all the bullets and bombs can’t override the fact that nature, and its microscopic overlords, have the last laugh on us. So dial it back. One less M-16 can feed a family for a couple of weeks, at least?