PressTV & Ian Williams / Foreign Policy in Focus – 2010-12-21 21:32:52
US House Passes $725 Billion Defense Bill
WASHINGTON (December 17, 2010) — The US House of Representatives has passed a massive $725 billion defense bill, including around $160 billion in funding for the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The legislation, passed by 341 votes to 48 on Friday, authorizes the Defense Department to spend nearly $160 billion on overseas combat missions in fiscal year 2011 without major restrictions on the conduct of operations, the Associated Press reported.
The figure is higher than the $128 billion budget for fiscal year 2010. The official cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has now surpassed $1.1 trillion.
Some estimates say that between 40 and 50 percent of the US federal budget goes to military spending, which is a far higher proportion that any other government in the world spends.
The legislation will continue to restrict the transfer of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp to the United States. This is a major setback for President Barack Obama’s efforts to close the controversial prison. Before taking office, Obama had promised to close down Guantanamo. The legislation will now have to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama before becoming law.
Earlier on Wednesday, the House voted to repeal the “Don’t ask, don’t tellâ€ Clinton era policy, which bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The decision will give another chance to Senate proponents of the repeal before the Congress breaks for the holidays. The Senate blocked the repeal last week.
The “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, introduced in 1993, prohibits homosexuals from serving openly in the military. Critics, including gay rights groups, argue that the policy violates the rights of gay military members to free speech and open association.
‘Lobbyists Control US War Budget’
Interview with Ian Williams / Foreign Policy in Focus
WASHINGTON (December 9, 2010) — In the United States Congress is set to vote on a bill that will increase the country’ budget for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to $159 billion in 2011.
The figure is $31 billion higher than the $128 billion budget for the 2010 fiscal year. Official cost for the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past decade has now surpassed $1.1 trillion.
The following is the transcript of Press TV’s interview with Ian Williams from Foreign Policy in Focus about the issue:
Press TV: Though increasing defense spending now, the Pentagon says the war-budget will fall drastically to $50 billion by 2012 because of the Iraq withdrawal, and Afghanistan wind-down. Will that appease a bankrupt American public?
Williams: Well, it is not the American public, it is the defense industry lobbyists and the new incoming Republican chairman of the Defense Appropriations Committee … [that] want to increase the military spending by 4 to 5 percent a year, as opposed to the budget of one percent and the question that very few of the elected representatives are prepared to ask is why we need a defense budget of the present size? Let alone a larger one.
Press TV: The Obama budget plans to spend more on the Pentagon over 8 years than any other administration has since World War II. Is that simply a sign of the times, or is Obama becoming the true war-monger in comparison to George W.?
Williams: … In fact, the budget is far bigger. If you look at the figures for the budget committee on water and energy, you will see improving the nuclear stockpile; you will see large amounts under construction for veterans’ affairs. Some estimates say that between 40 or 50 percent of the US federal budget goes to military spending, which is a far high proportion on any equivalent government in the world.
In the end, if I were an enemy of America, I would wish them to carry on spending like this, because it is speeding the country into bankruptcy.
Press TV: If anything has been learnt from wars waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, shouldn’t it be that throwing money at the problem does not solve the issue, as the US seems to have admitted by supporting talks with their arch-enemies, the Taliban?
Williams: No one in the US government is opposed to throwing money. The problem is the way they spend it. In fact, there are ideologues in the Republican Party. They want to maintain military spending, because they are scared that if the military spending is reduced, that will give the Democrats more money to spend on social welfare programs that they are deeply and ideologically opposed to.
So, they would rather spend money dropping bombs on Afghanistan and Iraq or building bases in the rest of the world than building homes, hospitals and schools for poor American people. It is difficult to calculate, but that is the way they think.
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