[News] How the House Armed Services Committee, in the Middle of a Pandemic, Approved a Huge Military Budget and More War in Afghanistan

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Fri Jul 10 11:54:42 EDT 2020


theintercept.com
<https://theintercept.com/2020/07/09/how-the-house-armed-services-committee-in-the-middle-of-a-pandemic-approved-a-huge-military-budget-and-more-war-in-afghanistan/>
How
the House Armed Services Committee, in the Middle of a Pandemic, Approved a
Huge Military Budget and More War in Afghanistan
Glenn Greenwald - July 9, 2020[image: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
of Calif., left, House Republican Conference chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.,
and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of La., smile as they arrive for a
news conference on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 in Washington. (AP
Photo/Alex Brandon)]
<https://theintercept.imgix.net/wp-uploads/sites/1/2020/07/AP_19015567103352.jpg?auto=compress%2Cformat&q=90>

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. smiles as she arrives for a news conference on
Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

AP

*While the country is subsumed* by both public health and an unemployment
crisis, and is separately focused on a sustained protest movement against
police abuses, a massive $740.5 billion military spending package was
approved last week
<https://theintercept.com/2020/07/02/house-democrats-working-with-liz-cheney-restrict-trumps-planned-withdrawal-of-troops-from-afghanistan-and-germany/>
by the Democratic-controlled House Armed Services Committee. The
GOP-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee will almost certainly send
the package with little to no changes to the White House for signing.

As we reported last week
<https://theintercept.com/2020/07/02/house-democrats-working-with-liz-cheney-restrict-trumps-planned-withdrawal-of-troops-from-afghanistan-and-germany/>,
pro-war and militaristic Democrats on the Committee joined with GOP
Congresswoman Liz Cheney and the pro-war faction she leads to form
majorities which approved one hawkish amendment after the next. Among those
amendments was one co-sponsored by Cheney with Democratic Rep. Jason Crow
of Colorado that impeded attempts by the Trump administration to withdraw
troops from Afghanistan, and another amendment led by Rep. Ruben Gallego
(D-AZ) and Cheney which blocked the White House’s plan to remove 10,000
troop stationed in Germany.

While those two amendments were designed to block the Trump
administration’s efforts to bring troops home, this same bipartisan pro-war
faction defeated two other amendments that would have imposed limits on the
Trump administration’s aggression and militarism: one sponsored by
Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to require the Trump administration to
provide a national security rationale before withdrawing from
the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF)
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/01/inf-donald-trump-confirms-us-withdrawal-nuclear-treaty>
signed with the Soviet Union in 1987, and another to impose limits on the
ability of the U.S. to arm and otherwise assist Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen.

<https://theintercept.imgix.net/wp-uploads/sites/1/2020/07/rent.png?auto=compress%2Cformat&q=90>

NPR website

Perhaps most remarkable is the amount of the military budget itself.
It is three
times more <https://www.globalfirepower.com/defense-spending-budget.asp>
than the planet’s second-highest military spender, China; it is ten times
more than the third-highest spender, Saudi Arabia; it is 15 times more than
the military budget of the country most frequently invoked by Committee
members as a threat to justify militarism: Russia; and it is more than the
next 15 countries *combined* spend on their military. They authorized this
kind of a budget in the midst of a global pandemic as tens of millions of
newly unemployed Americans struggle even to pay their rent
<https://www.npr.org/2020/05/01/848247228/rent-is-due-today-but-millions-of-americans-wont-be-paying>
.

How does this happen? How do Democrats succeed in presenting an image of
themselves based on devotion to progressive causes and the welfare of the
ordinary citizen while working with *Liz Cheney* to ensure that vast
resources are funneled to the weapons manufacturers, defense sector and
lobbyists who fund their campaigns? Why would a country with no military
threats from any sovereign nation to its borders spend almost a trillion
dollars a year for buying weapons while its citizens linger without health
care, access to quality schools, or jobs? Who are the people in Congress
doing this, and why?

These are questions that are rarely examined in media venues. News
sites, op-ed pages and especially twenty-four hour cable news are obsessed
with trivialities: Trump’s latest tweet or offhand remark in a rally;
symbolic culture war distractions in which Congress plays little role; the
offensive remarks of people who wield little power. As a result, what the
U.S. Government really does — in the bowels of the Congress and in the
underbelly of sub-Committee proceedings — receives little substantive
attention.

This media dynamic is exacerbated by the journalistic practice of obsessing
on the areas where the two parties squabble, while steadfastly ignoring the
very consequential and numerous areas where they find full agreement — such
as approving close to a trillion dollars in military spending and ensuring
the oldest war in U.S. history continues without end. When the two parties
are in agreement, as they so often are, this is boring from a media
perspective, so it is typically ignored. This has the dual-propagandistic
effect of creating the appearance that the two parties never agree when
they in fact agree constantly, while also suppressing those vital
policies which receive overwhelming bipartisan consensus.

In reporting on the approval of this military budget last week, I
watched all fourteen <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbwU7NXt0ng> hours
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z16SPe_63ww&> of the Committee
proceedings. It was remarkably revealing about how the U.S. Government
really functions, who the culprits are, what their motives are in pursuing
policies that so blatantly have no benefit for the people they pretend to
represent, and the vast gap between the image they create for themselves
and the reality of what they really do in Washington.

It is, of course, impossible to understand how the Congress works without
understanding those who wield power in it. The Chairman of the House Armed
Services Committee selected by Nancy Pelosi and her caucus is the obscure
but powerful Rep. Adam Smith of Washington. He has a long record of
supporting pro-war policies, from the invasion of Iraq to numerous
Bush/Cheney War on Terror transgressions to blocking reform of the NSA
after the Snowden reporting to denouncing the Obama administration’s
efforts to reduce the troop presence in Afghanistan.

When Chairman Smith had a progressive challenger in 2018, who criticized
him for this militarism, the defense industry, as my colleague Lee Fang
reported
<https://theintercept.com/2018/11/04/adam-smith-sarah-smith-military-affairs-challenged-over-pro-war-votes-support-from-defense-lobby/?comments=1>,
poured money into his coffers to ensure their loyal pro-war servant kept
his perch as Chair of this crucial Committee.

[image: Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.,
speaks during a hearing on the FY2019 budget with Defense Secretary Jim
Mattis, left, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, and Under
Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and Chief Financial Officer David L.
Norquist, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 12, 2018 in Washington. (AP
Photo/Alex Brandon)]
<https://theintercept.imgix.net/wp-uploads/sites/1/2018/11/AP_18102570275311_small-1541185766-e1541185960449.jpg?auto=compress%2Cformat&q=90>

Adam Smith speaks during a hearing on the FY2019 budget on April 12, 2018,
in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

A similar episode occurred the same year when a progressive challenger
emerged to run against the former Marine and Iraq War veteran Jason Crow.
House Majority Leader Steney Hoyer, as Fang also revealed by publishing a
secret recording, tried to bully
<https://theintercept.com/2018/04/26/steny-hoyer-audio-levi-tillemann/> his
opponent out of the race. Crow now joins with Liz Cheney to continue the
War in Afghanistan. Pro-war Democrats wield all the power for military and
foreign policy because that is who House Democratic leadership selects.

When these Committee members return to their blue districts, they talk
endlessly about topics such as the NRA, LGBTs, and reproductive rights —
issues on which many do little work and over which they wield little
influence — in order to manufacture brands for themselves as good, caring
progressives, which is how they are re-elected over and over from very blue
districts. But as these little-discussed proceedings demonstrate, when they
return to Washington, what they really do is spend their time collaborating
with lobbyists for weapons manufacturers to ensure that as much taxpayer
money as possible is diverted away from social programs and into the
coffers of the “defense” industry.

There is a pocket of anti-war and anti-imperalism resistance on the
Committee and in the broader Congress, particularly on the left and to some
extent on the isolationist right. But, as the House Armed Services
Committee hearing of last week proves, they are outnumbered by the Adam
Smiths, Jason Crows and Liz Cheneys who work in bipartisan tandem to ensure
their defeat and maintain a path of Endless War for the United States.

And it is impossible to overstate the central role which the concocted,
wildly exaggerated “Russia threat” plays in all of this. Over and over, the
pro-war Committee members from both parties invoked the scary threat of
Moscow and the Kremlin to justify this bloated budget of imperialism and
aggression.

Having spent large amounts of time watching many hours of these Committee
proceedings and speaking to several people with in-depth knowledge of the
Committee, I decided it would be very worthwhile to devote this week’s
SYSTEM UPDATE episode to showing how this Committee works and what it did
last week so that some much-needed light is brought to these usually-hidden
proceedings. We’re very proud of the show we produced this week because it
fulfills the goal of providing in-depth examinations of complex but
extremely consequential matters that receive far less media attention than
they deserve.

The program can be viewed on the Intercept’s YouTube channel
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejqYrzEX14E&feature=youtu.be> or on the
player below:
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