U.S> and World Politics

Money for War

U.S. arms sales soar and bipartisan militarism thrives amid COVID-19 pandemic

By Kenny Stancil

The United States sold more than $175 billion in military equipment to foreign governments in the fiscal year that ended September 30, Pentagon and State Department officials announced Friday—a 2.8 percent increase compared to 2019, when weapons exports totaled just over $170 billion.

The latest figures on arms transfers were released one day before President Donald Trump said that “military the most important thing a president can do,” during his meandering speech at the Republican Party’s Saturday night rally on behalf of Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue of Georgia who are facing Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively, in runoff elections next month that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

Although he spent most of the evening repeating unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the November election and baselessly asserting that Democrats will “cheat” again, Trump on Saturday still encouraged rallygoers to support the two GOP lawmakers at the polls on January 5 to avenge his loss in the “rigged” presidential contest.

“At stake in this election is control of the U.S. Senate and that really means control of this country,” the president said. “The voters of Georgia will determine which party runs every committee, writes every piece of legislation, controls every single taxpayer dollar.”

Trump’s rationale for backing Loeffler and Perdue came in the form of a warning: “If the radical Democrats...get power, they will...ram through the most extreme left-wing agenda ever conceived while at the same time, destroying our military through a lack of funding.”

Whereas Trump portrayed congressional Democrats as eager to pursue “draconian military cuts,” journalist Sarah Lazare argued last week that “the annual approval of the gargantuan U.S. military budget,” which she called “one of the most reliable rituals in so ordinary and overwhelmingly bipartisan, it’s barely considered newsworthy.”

The U.S. “…has by far the biggest military budget on the planet, spending more than the next ten countries combined,” Lazare continued. “There is no indication that U.S. lawmakers plan to reverse this trend any time soon: For six consecutive years the military budget has either increased or stayed roughly the same, taking inflation into account. As the National Priorities Project pointed out in June, the military budget in 2019 accounted for 53 percent of the federal discretionary budget.”

While millions of the country’s working-class households—battered by the Covid-19 pandemic and corresponding economic crisis—await a new relief package that ameliorates widespread hardship, “Congress had no problem passing legislation to continue U.S. military violence,” Lazare added.

She pointed out that the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed on July 23 in a vote of 86–14, while the House version was approved on July 21 by a margin of 295–125. The NDAA was subsequently approved last week by both chambers of Congress.

Lazare wrote that while it is “entirely routine at this point, it’s useful to highlight on the eve of yet another massive Pentagon handout how the budget for war could instead go toward life-preserving social goods.”

“That we can find the money for war but not for coronavirus relief exposes the moral rot at the center of U.S. politics, a rot that must be dug out and expunged if we are to get through this crisis,” she added.

Common Dreams, December 6, 2020