Everyone knows that war in general and the Iraq war specifically has meant big money for defense contractors, but a new congressional report puts it in stark relief:

…[T]he scale of the use of contractors in Iraq is unprecedented in US history, according to a new congressional report that may be the most thorough official account yet of the practice.

As of early 2008, at least 190,000 private personnel were working on US-funded projects in the Iraq theater, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) survey found. That means that for each uniformed member of the US military in the region, there was also a contract employee – a ratio of 1 to 1.

“It is … exceptional the degree to which the military’s currently relying on such contractors,” said CBO director Peter Orszag at an Aug. 12 press conference.

In the Korean conflict, the ratio was 2.5 uniformed personnel for each contractor. In Vietnam, the comparable figure was 5 to 1.

The Balkans conflict of the 1990s provided a glimpse of the future, as it also featured a 1-to-1 military-to-civilian worker ratio.

But in the Balkans, the overall deployment numbers “were of a much smaller scale than what we are seeing in Iraq,” Mr. Orszag said.

Defense contractors, especially those that manufacture weapons, plan to use recent events in Georgia to push even more resources into the military-industrial-congressional complex. From Noah over at Danger Room:

In 2006, the U.S. Army ran a number of war game scenarios, to see how effective their planned array of networked tanks, robots, and fighting vehicles might be in the conflicts of tomorrow. The battles the Army chose for were “major combat operations” — full-scale fights between two major armies. And the location Army planners picked was the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

At the time, these so-called “Caspian Sea scenarios” seemed oddly out of sync, for a military engaged in a pair of counterinsurgencies. But that was before Russia sent troops into Georgia, Azerbaijian’s neighbor to the west. Before, supporters of the Army’s $200 billion “Future Combat Systems” told the public…those robots and tanks were really meant to kick butt in small wars, they insisted. Now, backers of…high-price military hardware programs are pointing to the Russian threat, as the new justification for their gear.

“We’ve spent so many resources and so much attention on Iraq that we’ve lost sight of future threats down the road. The current conflict between Russia and Georgia is a perfect example,” Rep. John Murtha, the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee chair, tells the Wall Street Journal.

The military-industrial complex thanks Vlad the assailer,” Neptunus Lex quips. “Relevancy is such a valuable commodity.”

Air Force Association president Michael Dunn…said that if U.S. F-16 and F-18 fighters were carrying out combat missions over Georgia, they would be in grave danger from highly advanced Russian surface-to-air missiles on the border that a newer plane like the F-22 can evade. “The debate has got to shift as a result of this war.”

In other words, “We gotta have more cash for weapons! The Russians are coming!!!”

The idea that the U.S. needs more money for “defense” is ludicrious. The U.S. spends about $750,000,000,000 yearly on defense. That’s more than all of the other nations of the world combined. For the amount of money the U.S. government will spend just on the Iraq war, you could desalinate enough seawater to give every African fresh, clean drinking water until 10,000 AD; launch everyone from South Ossetia into outer space; or cover New Hampshire and Vermont in gold leaf, just for the fun of it. The government throws so much money at the Pentagon and private contractors that just last year they could not account for more than $150 billion of it. The Defense Department’s financial records are in such a mess that they cannot even fail an audit. And just in the case of the Navy, this is some of what we’ve got for the money:

Nuclear weapons have been mishandled; major contracts — including one for a fleet of new tanker planes — have been botched; the Air Force’s civilian and military leaders have been ousted by the Secretary of Defense; a top general apparently committed suicide.

All of this is totally unbelievable when you consider that the State Department has fewer Foreign Service officers right now than the military has band members. (I’m not kidding.) There is absolutely no way the Defense Department or the war-profiteers like KBR, Lockheed-Martin and Boeing need a budget increase.

This “defense” largesse, though, should be a wakeup call for Christians who waver on whether to fully embrace the nonviolent, self-sacrificial love of Christ as a viable solution to evil and injustice in the world. One nation on the planet, just one, is spending $750,000,000,000 a year on the paraphanelia of violence and have seen the prime challenges and adversaries they’ve identified in the world grow more threatening, not less. If that price tag, which represents huge resources that could be put to work instead ending poverty, feeding the hungry, etc., is not sufficient resources for proponents of violent solutions to achieve their end, I offer that no amount of resources will ever be enough.

Resource nonviolent solutions if you want to end violence.

  1. Marty says:

    The United Methodist Women are at the forefront of issues related to peace and justice. Last month my UMW Circle had a program straight out of the 2008 Program Guide on globalization which included the viewing of the film “Iraq For Sale” by Robert Greenwald. It was extremely difficult for them to watch. Most knew nothing about war profiteers. It was quite a shock. A few more eyes have now been opened.

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