endless war vs health care: greenwald on u.s. priorities

Glenn Greenwald outdoes himself in this column, no small feat.
Something very unusual happened on The Washington Post Editorial Page today: they deigned to address a response from one of their readers, who "challenged [them] to explain what he sees as a contradiction in [their] editorial positions": namely, the Post demands that Obama's health care plan not be paid for with borrowed money, yet the very same Post Editors vocally support escalation in Afghanistan without specifying how it should be paid for. "Why is it okay to finance wars with debt, asks our reader, but not to pay for health care that way?"

The Post editors give two answers. They first claim that Obama will save substantial money by reducing defense spending -- by which they mean that he is merely decreasing the rate at which defense spending increases ("from 2008 to 2019, defense spending would increase only 17 percent") -- as well as withdrawing from Iraq. But so what? Even if those things really happen, we're still paying for our glorious, endless war in Afghanistan by borrowing the money from China and Japan, all of which continues to explode our crippling national debt. We have absolutely no ability to pay for our Afghan adventure other than by expanding our ignominious status as the largest and most insatiable debtor nation which history has ever known. That debt gravely bothers Beltway elites like the Post editors when it comes to providing ordinary Americans with basic services (which Post editors already enjoy), but it's totally irrelevant to them when it comes to re-fueling the vicarious joys of endless war.

. . .

So according to The Washington Post, dropping bombs on, controlling and occupying Afghanistan -- all while simultaneously ensuring "effective governance, economic development, education, the elimination of corruption, the protection of women's rights" to Afghan citizens in Afghanistan -- is an absolutely vital necessity that must be done no matter the cost. But providing basic services (such as health care) to American citizens, in the U.S., is a secondary priority at best, something totally unnecessary that should wait for a few years or a couple decades until we can afford it and until our various wars are finished, if that ever happens. "U.S. interests in South Asia" are paramount; U.S. interests in the welfare of those in American cities, suburbs and rural areas are an afterthought.

As demented as that sounds, isn't that exactly the priority scheme we've adopted as a country? We're a nation that couldn't even manage to get clean drinking water to our own citizens who were dying in the middle of New Orleans. We have tens of thousands of people dying every year because they lack basic health care coverage. The rich-poor gap continues to expand to third-world levels. And The Post claims that war and "nation-building" in Afghanistan are crucial while health care for Americans is not because "wars, unlike entitlement programs, eventually come to an end." Except, as Bacevich points out, that's false...

Read it here, it's great.


redsock said...

Direct from the "liberal" editors of the Post:

"All this assumes that defense and health care should be treated equally in the national budget. We would argue that they should not be ... Universal health care, however desirable, is not "fundamental to the defense of our people." Nor is it a "necessity" that it be adopted this year ..."

GG goes on to say that roughly 45,000 deaths are associated with lack of health insurance in the US every single year. (The "evil doers" would love to rack up a body count of even 10% of that.)

The ending quote from Adam Smith in 1776 shows that not much has changed in 233 years.

deang said...

not much has changed in 233 years

But something has in the last 30 to 40 years. I am struck every day with how blithely Americans accept the idea of permanent war and of instigating more than one declared war at once. Endless war and multiple simultaneous wars are ideas that ought to provoke outrage, but these days they're accepted as normal, routine even, in the US.

In the Vietnam era and into the 70s, even in the 80s, a declaration of permanent war would have been thought of as absurd, surreal, even laughable. If a president had seriously pursued it as policy, there would have been massive protest, not just against a specific war but against the absurdity of endless warfare. And while the US was indeed attacking Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos at the same time in the early 70s, Nixon could not have been so brazen as to openly declare three separate wars, because the public wouldn't have accepted it. He had to try to keep it secret, and the public was so enraged when they found out that multiple universities were shut down and ROTC offices destroyed by protesters. Today, no one bats an eye at the War in Afghanistan and the War in Iraq and the War in Pakistan all going on at once.

Even in the 80s, Reagan couldn't have declared permanent war nor explicitly launched multiple wars at once, much as he would have liked to and even though he was the first president to declare a "war on terror." He had to pursue mass slaughter in Central America and southern Africa and the Middle East by proxy, and there was a great deal of domestic protest and other forms of activism against it.

I don't think the change is just because of the 9-11 attacks. There were ten years preceding that in which Americans were "softened up" into accepting extreme militarization by the rise of right-wing media, the relatively futile protests against the US attacks on and sanctions against Iraq, and the successful selling of intense bombing campaigns in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Some things have changed a lot in four decades.

painterhead said...

hi L-girl
painterhead here
just figured out the comments aspect of my blog, i.e. that i have them.
thanks for your kind words on the painting
i've re-posted it after a few touch ups along with other pics which will show in ottawa next week at the gctc theatre.
link and circulate as you see fit. i'll be sending it to the people in the painting once i've finally got it finished, likely next week.
i'll have more time then to check out your blog as well

L-girl said...

There were ten years preceding that in which Americans were "softened up" into accepting extreme militarization by the rise of right-wing media, the relatively futile protests against the US attacks on and sanctions against Iraq, and the successful selling of intense bombing campaigns in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Yes. And by the old boiled-frog method. Endless war has been creeping up on the US public for so long.

AND the US public doesn't even know about many of them! If you listed all the US invasions, occupations and wars-by-proxy in the last 30 years, I'd bet huge segments of the population have never heard of half of them - more than half.

Dean, I wonder if you are perhaps overselling the amount of protest that went on in the 1980s. Another way to look at it: if there had never been a draft, how much protest would there have been against Vietnam?

L-girl said...

Painterhead, welcome! It's a beautiful piece, and I'd love to know how you conceieved of it - what your connection to the resisters is, if any. Best of luck with the show.