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Colbert Conservatives and Military Waste

Posted on Nov 25, 2009

By David Sirota

Pop quiz—name the political leader who said the following:

“We must be willing to pull the plug before sinking more dollars into weapons that do not provide what our warriors need.”

Now name the leader who said this:

“[W]e cannot track $2.3 trillion in [Pentagon spending]. ... We maintain 20 to 25 percent more base infrastructure than we need to support our forces, at an annual waste to taxpayers of some $3 billion to $4 billion. ... There are those who will oppose every effort to save taxpayers’ money. ... Well, fine, if there’s to be a struggle, so be it.”

I’m willing to bet many self-described “conservatives” guessed Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich. I would make that wager based on the enraged response to my recent column about government data showing that our waste-ridden, $600-billion-a-year defense budget will cost about seven times more than the health care legislation currently before Congress.

In e-mails, letters and Web site comments, right-wingers didn’t vent anger at Pentagon profligacy, but at the criticism of Pentagon profligacy—as if brazenly throwing away billions on outdated weapons systems and obsolete military programs is now a conservative value. Notably, the vitriol didn’t include contrary numbers disproving the figures I referenced (none exists)—the responses just used Fox News-ish slogans like “the cost of freedom” to deride all criticism of Pentagon spending as unpatriotic ultraliberalism.

Of course, if that’s true, then Stephen Colbert’s refrain that “reality has a well-known liberal bias” is now less a laugh line than a devastatingly accurate commentary on the deranged terms of America’s political discourse. I say that because here are some objective, nonpartisan, non-ideological facts:

—The 2010 Pentagon budget means “every man, woman and child in the United States will spend more than $2,700 on [defense] programs and agencies next year,” reports the Cato Institute. “By way of comparison, the average Japanese spends less than $330; the average German about $520; China’s per capita spending is less than $100.”

—The Pentagon budget “dwarfs the combined defense budgets of U.S. allies and potential U.S. enemies alike,” reports Hearst Newspapers.

—“President [Obama] is on track to spend more on defense, in real dollars, than any other president has in one term of office since World War II,” reports National Journal’s Government Executive magazine.

—In 2000, the Pentagon admitted it has lost—yes, lost—$2.3 trillion. In 2003, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a subsequent Department of Defense study said it was only $1 trillion. To put such numbers in perspective, contemplate what those sums could finance. One trillion dollars, for instance, could pay the total cost of universal health care for the long haul; $2.3 trillion would cover universal health care plus the bank bailout plus the stimulus package.

Obviously—obviously!—these points are no cause for alarm and certainly no cause for defense spending reductions, right? All they must prove is that the archconservative Cato Institute, William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper chain, National Journal employees and Pentagon officials are secretly America-hating liberals. And—obviously!—so are two of the most aggressive neoconservative hawks ever to hold government office, Sen. John McCain and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. After all, they’re the ones who issued those scathing statements about wasteful defense spending in the pop quiz above. That means they’re actually terrorist-appeasing lefties, right?

Really, how could anyone other than traitorous communists see the data and then consider backing the mildest Pentagon spending cuts? I mean, come on—in a country whose paranoid conservative movement now makes a dead-serious ideology out of Stephen Colbert wisecracks, how dare any red-blooded American even think of pondering basic budgetary facts?

David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books “Hostile Takeover” and “The Uprising.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at

© 2009


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By Floss Tweed, November 30, 2009 at 6:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One of the obvious reasons there’s so much Pentagon waste is that Congress members encourage military spending for their districts, which garners them votes and disguises the brutal fact that the country’s manufacturing sector is down the toilet.

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By FRTothus, November 29, 2009 at 11:10 am Link to this comment

So powerful are the words: from each according to his ability, to each, according to his need—most Americans believe they are in the Declaration of Independence!

Commerce puts us at odds with each other… (Respect TAO Walker). 

“[Nearly 70% of the military budget] is to provide men and weapons to fight in foreign countries in support of our allies and friends and for offensive operations in Third World countries .. Another big chunk of the defense budget is the 20% allocated for our offensive nuclear force of bombers, missles, and submarines whose job it is to carry nuclear weapons to the Soviet Union… Actual defense of the United States costs about 10% of the military budget and is the least expensive function performed by the Pentagon…”
(Rear Admiral Gene LaRoque, U.S. Navy retired)

“There is no reason to accept the doctrines crafted to sustain power and privilege, or to believe that we are constrained by mysterious and unknown social laws. These are simply decisions made within institutions that are subject to human will and that must face the test of legitimacy. And if they do not meet the test, they can be replaced by other institutions that are more free and more just, as has happened often in the past.”
(Noam Chomsky)

“We may not be strong enough to stop wars when the powers that be want them, but at least we are wise and humane enough to take political and moral stands as publicly as possible. This is, after all, the foundation we must build from.”
(Leslie Cagan)

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.”
(Edward Bernays, “father” of modern public relations (PR))

” Rollback [the destabilization and overthrow of Third World leftist-populist governments with right-wing governments] as a foreign policy ... causes untold devastation and misery for millions overseas, and hinders any potential positive U.S. influence in world affairs… To the extent the U.S. public backs rollback, this support is rooted in a misguided sense of patriotism. Patriotism itself - love of one’s country and one’s people - is a natural and reasonable human feeling. But patriotism which measures one’s country by military superiority over all rivals regardless of consequence is irrational… There is surely a more rational form of patriotism that searches for excellence in social, economic and moral spheres rather than in weapon systems. “
(Thomas Bodenheimer and Robert Gould)

“Can it be believed that the democracy which overthrew the feudal system and vanquished kings will retreat before tradesmen and capitalists.”
(Alexis de Tocqueville)

“War is the biggest business in America.”
(Jim Garrison)

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By Leefeller, November 29, 2009 at 10:21 am Link to this comment

Watching our roads crumble, unemployment lines growing, Schools growing cobwebs as they close, dumping money into the great black hole of war makes much sense.

One can now always sleep better feeling safe on an empty stomach!

Fear, the war hawk opportunists best-ist money maker.

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By TAO Walker, November 28, 2009 at 3:23 pm Link to this comment

Gerard wonders “out-loud” and no-doubt sincerely how to get from “here” to the Tiyoshpaye Way.  The “good news” is it’s always in us and all-around us.  There isn’t any “bad” news, really, but it’s unfortunately true the domesticated peoples are for-the-most-part all sealed hermetically into suffocating shrouds of manufactured illusion called “individual”-ity.  This has the intended effect of cutting our tame Sisters and Brothers off, at least in their perceptions (and in other much more long-term lethal ways, too, of course) from mutually beneficial sentient engagement with their Native Habitat.

“Individuals” are easy-pickings for predators both two-legged and retro-viral (call these our “tormentors,” since everything we know about them we’ve had to learn the-hard-way).  ORGANized into the Genuine Living Communities some of us Indians call Tiyoshpayes, though, we do have a natural immunity to all the “comfort-and-CONvenience” seductions of “civilization” and much more natural resistance to the degenerative effects of its toxic industrial waste-products, as well.   

It may not be such “good news” to those addicted to the false “security of the make-believe command-and-CONtrol apparatus CONfining them to the “global” feedlot, that there simply is no intellectual or institutional answer to their predicament….at-least partially self-inflicted as it is.  No political “movement” will see them clear of the CONtraption.  No hero figure can “lead” anyone to any “promised land.”  Yet the “seeds” of Tiyoshpaye are in our very Humanity, since it is the Natural Organic Form of our Kind within the Living Arrangement of our Mother Earth. 

Maybe recovering a sense of that will encourage at-least some among our captive Human Relations to make-a-break-for-it, knowing finally there really is a viable alternative to the death-dealing CONtrivance they’ve been born into and told all their half-lives is “the only game in town.”  There’s nothing ideological about it….or even geographical.  Just quit having your precious attention sucked into the ‘black-hole’ of endless distraction, and let it turn naturally, as it will, to the never-ending Song ‘n’ Dance of Life Herownself.

The Medicine needed is right where we are living and breathing right now.  It is in our Personal Humanity, in each others’, and in All Our Relations….together in Nature’s Way.  No need to search for it (and no chance of finding it anyhow) in any “marketplace.”


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By gerard, November 28, 2009 at 11:21 am Link to this comment

Best string yet!  Summary of problems: fear of being thought “weak on defense”—need to implement domestic industrial policy—invest in our own country and its people—movement from “inside” necessary, not outside—insidioius belief in “exceptionalism”—why are so many afraid?—
need for “Tiyoshpaye Way” (please apply it to our current needs? How to get there from here?)—power of Pentagon over Congress.

Suggestion of psychological factors that keep the.
crisis going, most interesting!  More on this?

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By Rodney, November 28, 2009 at 8:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The money isn’t lost it’s stolen. Halliburton, Blackwater, KBR,Dynacorp and a whole host of war profiteers have raped our treasury under Bush and continue to do so under Obama. When we invaded Iraq, billions of dollars were stolen following our invasion.Pallets of unaccounted American money along with tens of millions of Iraqi dollars stolen from Saddam’s palace and Iraqi banks that never was reported or investigated. Why do think we are still fighting in Afghanistan? It’s because we turned the place into a narco-state and we do not want to leave the billions in heroin profits to people who do not like us. It’s the reason we continue to have a military presence in Iraq. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia

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By the tshirt doctor, November 28, 2009 at 6:40 am Link to this comment

i’ve got a video on Rumsfeld making those statements here:

i’ve been talking about this too.  Welfare for military suppliers.

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By teadrinker, November 27, 2009 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment

I’ve been saying the same mantra on different forums: We live in a de facto military dictatorship. For those who would dismiss me as fringe, just go back and re-read David Sirota’s telling article 2x. Then research more. Read about Nick Cook, a respected military journalist who looked into the military black budget,

According to veteran black-budget watcher and secret-plane journalist Bill Sweetman, editor of Defense Technology International, the planned black budget for fiscal year 2010 is just over $50bn.

Why won’t the rubber stamp committees in Congress do anything? If they don’t play ball, their political careers are over; additionally, there may be conflicts of interest and or bribes or even threats on their lives. How many of our dear public servants in Congress could be invested in defense industries? Wouldn’t it be lawful to have all our reps to have to disclose their investment in defense spending, then compare that with their voting records? Defense spending is the quintessential issue, and all Americans need to demand accountability now and in the future.

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By melpol, November 27, 2009 at 6:51 pm Link to this comment

Without anybody to fight a boxer will have to wash cars to earn a living. It is the
same with workers in the defense industry, they have to find somebody to fight or
they will be preparing burgers in a fast food restaurant.  Capturing and killing the
ghost of al-Qaeda is a pursuit that is endless. Millions of imagined enemies will
die because women in America must be wined and dined. Darwin was right, he
observed that life is a bloody battle for good sex.  His wisdom was based on the
fact that Mother Nature rewards the victor with an irresistible vagina, and the
loser is left with four fingers and a thumb.

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By TAO Walker, November 27, 2009 at 3:19 pm Link to this comment

It’s been several millennia since Chinese sages first characterized “war” as a particularly dangerous “drug,” to be used (they cautioned) only as a last resort.  D.R. Zing rather tersely reveals just how dangerously far below that time-honored standard the ‘modern’ allamerican imperialists (in their DEAD END might-makes-right delusions) have fallen.

What’s more, since “addiction” is only a disease, after all (even if, like so many “wars,” it is very often one “of-choice”), it might be a lot more effective to diagnose those who have it in a clinical fashion, rather than the usual moralistic manner.  One benefit of that will be to prompt people to seek some actual organic treatment for the festering mess that is the “Pentagon,” instead of persisting in the fatally-mistaken belief there is a “political” remedy for it….“politics” having long-since been proven a principal enabler of the “habitues.”

It will be helpful, too, to strip “war” of all the make-believe cachet that’s become attached to it.  There’s no “glory” in it, really….no heroics, no “immortality,” no (and this may be the hardest to let-go) “national security,” even.  Those are all merely a few among “war”‘s many mass-hallucinations.

So what might be some real Medicine for the sickenss that is “war”?  There are probably some here who won’t be surprised when this Old Indian recommends The Tiyoshpaye Way.


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By rap, November 27, 2009 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

David Sirota wrote:

“Notably, the vitriol didn’t include contrary numbers disproving the figures I referenced (none exists)—the responses just used Fox News-ish slogans like ‘the cost of freedom’ to deride all criticism of Pentagon spending as unpatriotic ultraliberalism.”

Why are so many of us so afraid we’re willing to pay more than $2700 a year per person for military protection, and do it without question? Protection from what? Why do we feel so vulnerable? How real are the boogeymen we want to protect ourselves from?

Is it possible we’re afraid for our lives because of how we think and live, how we treat ourselves and one another? I would argue that military might and aggression is not the cost of freedom; it is a THREAT to freedom. Responsibility (personal accountability and self-development) is the price of freedom!

We cannot run around constantly referring to ourselves as the “Chosen” or the Exceptional Ones (American Exceptionalism) without consequences. We get what we concentrate on. Egotism and self-aggrandizement at the expense of others carries a heavy price. It is behavior I don’t personally support or want to pay for. What about you? As some wise soul once observed, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

We Create Our Own Reality – how we define ourselves and the world around us forms our intent, which in turn, forms our reality.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, November 27, 2009 at 9:11 am Link to this comment

America may not be the healthiest, the best educated, the richest, nor the
happiest place on earth anymore, but one thing we can still do is kick some
serious old-fashioned nation-state symmetrical warfare ass.

The beloved military-might overkill in this country is about one thing—
American Exceptionalism. And conservatives cling to AE because to admit that
other countries can do something better than Americans is tantamount to
admitting that our system, our Great American Way Of Life, has failed.

America is now like a high school kid who struggles with physics, literature,
and history. He can’t get a girlfriend because the cool kids have rejected him.
He’s too self-centered to play team sports. But somehow he finds solace in the
weight room. Whenever he gets depressed he feels better when he lifts.
Although nobody really likes him anymore, everyone gives those bulging biceps
and 6-pack abs plenty of respect and distance.

Pathetic. And dangerous.

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By drbhelthi, November 27, 2009 at 7:27 am Link to this comment

Viewing the vastness of the pentagon from the air, gave me an impression of the vastness of the associated waste, years ago. I am convinced that reducing the pentagon to one ring would also reduce the waste about seventy-five percent.  One little Tomahawk missile, fired from a location in the bay, only removed one general and staff, whom the NAZI-types in charge considered to be a problem for their treasonous plans. It removed only a genuine patriot and staff, who cared for Americans and American soldiers.  Removing the NAZI-types responsible for the treason, the waste and the Tomahawk, requires a movement by the US constituency, from the inside, not the outside.  Nor will such be planned by the dictator-types responsible for the quasi dictatorship that exists in the USA.  As more self-respecting Officers and NCOs in the US Army, Air Force, Marines comprehend the treasonous activities they are ordered to engage in currently, their behavior can be predicted to become increasingly altruistic to their homeland.  Perhaps the crew of the USS xxxx, that fired the Tomahawk, will begin a landslide - - .

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By DHFabian, November 27, 2009 at 6:31 am Link to this comment

What puzzles me: Americans look at these figures, and shrug our shoulders. But if you talk about establishing a legitimate, non-punitive welfare system for a tiny fraction of the cost, like the ones found in the more advanced nations, Americans go ballistic. Think about it: When AFDC was at its most “generous”, back in the 1970’s, it used a mere 6% of the federal budget, yet all we heard was that it was “breaking the budget,” “bringing us to our knees.”

Imagine what could be possible if our government would start investing in the people and the country, instead of squandering our collective resources on serial wars.

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By JeffersonSmith, November 26, 2009 at 9:37 pm Link to this comment

There is a relentless drum beat in America: Democrats are weak on defense; Democrats want to treat terrorism as a police matter not the war it is…  This senseless mocking of the patriotism of Democrats plays directly into the hands of the “War-Defense Industry”. 

When Republicans are in power, Pentagon budgets expand; when Democrats are in power Pentagon budgets expand; why, because both Republicans and Democrats have defense industry in their States and Districts, and it pays both parties politically to “bring home the bacon”, with an added incentive for Democrats when they demonstrate support for a strong defense.

Until Democrats start to reframe this argument and become willing to implement a domestic industrial policy that doesn’t incentivize corporations to export jobs, the remaining US industrial base, predominantly geared toward the “War-Defense-Surveillance-Security Industry”, will continue to grow.

The US is the biggest exporter of arms in the world, the Pentagon and State Department are the biggest sales agencies for US arms exports, which subsidize US weapons development and production.  We are a nation that has institutionalized unending war and until we, the people of this nation, demand that this stops, nothing will change.

Since WWII this nation has not had five years of continuous peace, this is not a result of terrorism, it is a result of perpetuation of the “status quo”.

Unfettered defense spending is not a result of Obama’s policies, it is deeply rooted throughout the polity and can only be up-rooted by persistent and active opposition to these outdated and demonstrably irresponsible policies in the name of defense.

Until the US people start to value their freedom and economic health more than they fear external risks, nothing will be done.

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By gerard, November 26, 2009 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment

How many people work in the Department of “Defense”?
How many people work for private “contractor?
How many people work for companies like Raytheon and Lockheed (and many more) which manufactre all the equipment used in war from weapons to accessories to housing to food to defense infrastructure?
How many people work in military hospitals, health centers etc.?
How many people make computers for the Defense Department?
How many people train people to use military equipment, to repair military equipment, to transport military equipment?
How many people work in military intelligence?  In “Homeland Security”?  On bases all over the world?

It goes on and on, and that’s why it is so difficult to curtail or stop.  Hook it into that magic word “security” and drape it in a flag labelled “patriotism” and you can see that a major, major, major effort is required to change it. 
The line of least resistance is “business as usual.”

Remember, too, that to do a lot of this will require a rollback in recent laws that have made it all possible—laws that have over-ridden limitations the Constitution and Amendments intended.

Not to say it can’t be done.  In fact, it must be done. First, enough people have to want to do it. But once the benefits showed up (in health, education and welfare, neglected as they are) the rollback would probably proceed with little resistance.  We made it. We can unmake it and make something better.

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By Night-Gaunt, November 26, 2009 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment

Not racist, but of class if you aren’t of the top 10% who own about 75% of the wealth, then you and I are all slaves in waiting.

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By montanawildhack, November 26, 2009 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment


I contradict myself all the time… It’s part of my idiom…..

And as for me being racist???  I’ll tell you what’s racist-sending poor white, black and hispanic American kids to go off and die and be maimed for nothing in 2 useless illegal and immoral wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 Obama was against the war in Iraq??? Bullshit!!! He voted to fund the war in the Senate… That’s support… Screw this guy…. I’m free to call Bush an Evil White Devil and to call Obama a Uncle Tom!!!

Happy Thanksgiving….

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By turbamagna, November 26, 2009 at 5:07 pm Link to this comment

How much longer will Mother Nature continue to endure the curse of this blighted of species - the Human (sub-Human) Race?
How long before Mother Nature once again switches the Earth’s polarity and erases this churlish, vile and generally corrupt aberration from its face and begins to experiment anew?

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By G.Anderson, November 26, 2009 at 10:20 am Link to this comment

In third world countries, any available money goes to the military, regardless of how many people are starving.

This has always been one of the central problems in third world countries, because once the guns are paid for, then there isn’t enough money for education or economic development. 

This issue has kept many third world countries from dealing with endemic poverty, and educational issues. It also alows industrialized nations to raid third world resources, further exacerbating those same developmental issues.

It should be clear by now, that this countries economic issues more and more resemble the third worlds, as the corporations continue to gut us.

It would be one thing, if the military was getting what it needed, but since it’s not, we have to ask once again, who runs this country, and why do they run it this way? 

I also wonder how long the military is going to take being short changed in this way?

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By Night-Gaunt, November 26, 2009 at 9:40 am Link to this comment

“I can’t remember when I heard anyone in the MSM talk about cutting the WAR budget… They babble on and on about cutting Medicare, Social Security etc but NEVER bring up the money pissed away on WAR….”-montanawildhack

That is the reich wing way and the “liberal” media of the Corporate MSM saying the same thing over and over. With rare exceptions.

There was no need to be so racist in your next paragraph was there? That is racist don’t you know?

I am curious why you took the reich wing tact of criticizing Obama over not enough military because his general wanted a few more? (What else do you expect a general in the field to say, retreat? Not in our imperial culture.) A few more that wouldn’t have made much of a difference. You contradict yourself Montanawildhack.

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By Jim Yell, November 26, 2009 at 8:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If our spending for the military were balanced, we would make up lost Military Industrial Jobs by spending adequately to administer our Natl Parks, develope energy sufficiency, revamp our public education, and have national healthcare amongst other civilized people.

Instead money is poured into the pockets of investment and manufacture of pretend weapons, many only have use if use at all as means to surpress the population if they finally get a belly full of being made fools by the Military Industrial Complex.

Do not forget that the Ospery was just a small amount of the criminal mis-use of defense spending. A plane that has disappeared from the radar after a “brave” boast that they were being sent to Iraq for active duty. When is the last time anyone heard of an Osprey opporating anywhere? Lies, Lies and more Lies. Generals who go into retirement and fat pay checks with the Military Industry should have there retirement benifits cancelled.

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By Tim Kelly, November 26, 2009 at 6:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is obvious that the conservatives are the ones that hate America.  It is their spending that will end this country.  After the country fails, the conservatives will impose martial law and radical change that resembles nothing of the freedoms and values America was based on.

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By D.R. Zing, November 26, 2009 at 2:08 am Link to this comment

Mr. Sirota is getting to the heart of the matter with this column. 

All that defense spending translates to wealth, wealth dedicated to destroying human civilization, but wealth nonetheless.

It is why Obama finds himself in LBJ’s straight jacket, knowing the wars are insane but firmly bound by an economy that will collapse if all of the wars are ended—and just as likely to collapse if they are not. 

It is why on so many news programs discussions about the Afghan war are about nuance: 

Should we send more troops?

Should we send less troops?

Is Obama dithering?

But almost no one on television is willing to admit that the real reason we are at war is that our economy is dedicated to and dependent on war.

War junkies. 

My name is America and I am an addict.

My name and my problem is war. 

I am an addict named America.

My drug of choice is war.

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