Photo credit: © REUTERS / Bob Strong
The Biden administration’s new Pentagon budget spells danger to the world’s peace, says retired UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, explaining how US interventions, subversive ops, and endemic corruption have resulted in Washington’s excessive military spending.
US President Joe Biden on 27 December signed the $768 billion defence spending bill for 2022, which is up about five percent from a year earlier. The Pentagon’s 2022 budget includes $4 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative, $7.1 billion for the so-called Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), and $300 million in security assistance for Ukraine, according to the White House.
Sputnik: President Biden signed the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) on Monday, less than two weeks after the Senate approved it in an 89-10 vote. You argue that “defence” should be put in quotation marks. Why?
Alfred de Zayas: I am certainly not alone in saying that. Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, Jeffrey Sachs, Stephen Kinzer, William Blum, Aaron Maté, Caitlin Johnstone have said similar things. A defensive budget should address only real and potential threats and not become the excuse to produce more offensive weapons including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, cluster bombs, killer robots (lethal autonomous weapon systems), or to continue financing military interventions in other countries, “regime change” adventures, 800 military bases in 135 countries, including the infamous torture centre in Guantanamo, and an illegal worldwide surveillance of everybody as disclosed to us by the former CIA-operative Edward Snowden. A defence budget should not finance sabre-rattling and military drills very close to the borders of countries. In what sense can this be termed “defence”?
The idea fit well with the “Truman doctrine” and all the new euphemisms that emerged with the infant Cold War. Such Orwellian newspeak and distorted logic has been systematically used by the White House, State Department, and Pentagon, and dutifully echoed by the “quality press” in the US and most “Western” countries, which far from being objective and critical, widely disseminate government propaganda.
After the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the dismantlement of the Warsaw Pact, the world expected disarmament for development, a sustainable detente, and mutual cooperation under the UN Charter. But far from practicing multilateralism and promoting world peace, the United States has intensified its imperial ambitions to be and remain forever the only world superpower. We witness this out-dated imperial thinking with all the bullying and blackmailing of anyone who refuses to obey US orders.
Yet, neither Russia nor China want to threaten or provoke the United States. They merely react to the United States’ illegal sanctions and other provocations. Again and again, Russia and China have made win-win proposals based on dialogue and compromise. But the US lives in the past, in the illusion of being the only hegemon. This wrong perspective on world affairs has led the United States into the quagmire of Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. US crimes against other peoples and nations have engendered worldwide terrorism, which is the only kind of “warfare” that underdogs can conduct against an imperial hegemon. If the US wants to win its “war on terror”, it should stop practicing state terrorism against the Palestinians, Yemenis, Syrians, etc.
It suffices to read Stephen Kinzer’s book “Overthrow” or William Blum’s book “Killing Hope” to realise that the US is not into “defence”, but into overthrowing governments that do not play our game. The list of US-financed subversion and aggressions against Cuba, Grenada, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yugoslavia is long indeed.
Sputnik: Mark Gongloff, an editor with Bloomberg Opinion, tweeted a graph indicating that the Pentagon spends more than the next 11 countries combined. What’s behind this enormous price tag? Is the US afraid of some sort of imminent invasion? How does the US decision to provide military aid, for instance, to Ukraine correlate with the US’ defensive purposes?
Alfred de Zayas: No one dreams of invading the United States. As we know from the Nuremberg Trials, not even Hitler had planned an invasion of the United States. Based on documentation of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and the Geneva International Peace Research Institute as well as studies by Harvard University and think tanks, I explored in my 2014 report to the UN Human Rights Council the reasons for such excessive military expenditures and documented the adverse human rights impacts of the obscenely wrong priorities of the US budget – namely insufficient funding for health care, hospitals, housing, education, job-creation, maintenance of infrastructures, preparedness to address natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, potential asteroid impacts, etc.
Sputnik: Bloomberg notes that the Pentagon’s spending extravaganza also stems from the fact that the DoD is “wasting” US taxpayer money. Does Bloomberg actually mean “corruption”? NPR revealed in May 2021 that the Pentagon “has never passed an audit”. Is the problem of corruption and fraud within the DoD really huge?
Alfred de Zayas: As an American citizen, I very much resent that my tax dollars are not being used for what they should be used. The problem lies in the fake democracy that we have in the United States.
If American citizens were properly informed by the government and the media, if the public were proactively consulted on their priorities, if there were referendums on how to spend our tax dollars, the priorities would be totally different – namely, more funding for education and welfare, a genuine effort to eradicate extreme poverty and illiteracy, affirmative action for the disadvantaged and discriminated Indigenous Americans – the Crees, Cherokees, Dakotas, Sioux, Navajos – for the African-Americans, for the Mexican-Americans and other Latin American immigrants.
As far as corruption in the United States – it is endemic in many military enterprises, private security companies (which on top of this have enjoyed impunity for their crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.) and many weapons producers would not survive a proper audit. Back in 2001, Secretary of “Defence” Donald Rumsfeld admitted that there were 2.3 trillion dollars missing from the Pentagon budget. Was there a serious follow-up? Were there any consequences? Did the corporate media and “investigative journalists” go at it? No.
Sputnik: The Republicans and Democrats showed rare bipartisanship when passing the NDAA in mid-December, although GOP and moderate Democrats are up in arms about Biden’s “excessive spending” on social programmes. Why aren’t they critical about the DoD’s spending spree?
Alfred de Zayas: Such “bipartisanship” is not that rare. In fact, whether you vote Republican or Democrat, you get more of the same – because both parties are committed to the military-industrial complex, to Wall Street over Main Street, to Israel over Palestine, Ukraine over Russia, Taiwan over China. Both Democrats and Republicans are warmongers.
That is why I wrote in my 2012 report to the UN General Assembly: “The two-party system shows itself to be twice as democratic as the one-party system. True democracy requires real choices as well as transparent and accountable governance and administration in all sectors of society”. I expanded on this in my book “Building a Just World Order” (Clarity Press, Atlanta 2021) and in my 25 Principles of International Order.
Sputnik: What message does the huge new US military budget send to the world? Should we brace ourselves for new military adventures by Washington?
Alfred de Zayas: Such a budget is a universal provocation, the consequence of which will be a new arms race. Both Russia and China will have to take measures appropriate to meet the increased threat emanating from Washington. Of course, it would be best to commit to detente, return to confidence-building measures, arms limitation treaties, the Open Skies Treaty, etc. But whether a Republican or Democratic president sits in the White House, the policy will still be dictated by the military-industrial complex, which President Dwight Eisenhower identified as the greatest danger to American democracy already in his farewell speech to the nation on 17 January 1961.
Qui tacet consentire videtur – he who keeps silent is deemed to consent. In this context we should remember the words of the late Desmond Tutu, who said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. Concretely, this means that when the largest power structure on earth threatens, bullies, and blackmails populations around the world to force their obedience, we must denounce this injustice. Refusing to take a clear stance against that power structure is tantamount to siding with it.