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II. The Military and the Economy The US military is preeminent on a worldwide scale, dwarfing the militaries of other nations; it maintains more than 700 army, navy and air force bases around the globe, and operates more large aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined. To sustain such unparalleled force and global hegemony requires a massive amount of money in continuous, ever-growing streams. The US defense budget is not only the largest in the world but also significantly larger than the budgets of most of our “enemies” combined. In 2009, the US military budget was nine times larger than China’s and comprised about half of total world military expenditures. The United States and its allies comprised around three-quarters of the world’s military expenditures, with total global military spending at a whopping $1.7 trillion.34 The military budget has to come from somewhere, and especially in an economic downturn the war budget continues to take from other basic human needs, whether early childhood education programs, Indian Health Service, energy assistance or federal housing budgets. According to the National Priorities Project, Operation Enduring Freedom has cost around $150 billion since 2001, the Afghan and Iraqi war efforts overall are at $1.05 trillion. 650 600 550 500 450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 USA US$ billion China UK France Russia Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). TheWorld’s Top Five Military Budgets (2009) Winona LaDuke 22 These figures mean that since 2001, the war has cost us $8,763 per household. As of 2009, the direct US appropriations for the Iraq war, which has lasted longer than World War II, are at $642 billion, and our total defense expenditures are the largest at any point in history, representing up to 48 percent of tax revenues. Compare budgets and Indian Country doesn’t even figure. The cost of the war includes future costs resulting from current wars. Economists Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz project that if all the costs of this war are included, like the lifetime of care required for returning troops who are psychologically or physically ill, the cost of the war will be around $3 trillion. In addition, as Lester Brown notes, “the Iraq war may prove to be one of history’s most costly mistakes, not so much because of the fiscal outlay but because it has diverted the world’s attention from climate change and the other threats to civilization itself.”35 Considering that ten of the twenty poorest counties in the United States are on Indian reservations, there are some significant infrastructure needs in Native America that could better use the vast resources going to pay for wars. Veterans have taken note: “Specialist Gerald Dupris of the Cheyenne River reservation and Staff Sergeant Julius Tulley of the Navajo Nation held a news conference to argue that poverty in Indian country was worse than that in Iraq. Both soldiers, along with the Chairman of the National American Indian Housing Council, argued that conditions had worsened as a direct result of the war.” As an example, Dupris and Tulley cited that “the Bush administration had cut the federal budget for Native housing from $647 million to $582 million.”36 At the same time, veterans’ benefits represent only a very small portion of the federal military budget and are dwindling. Veterans’ benefits provide a somewhat secure revenue stream in impoverished communities and The Militarization of Indian Country 23 represent a critical part of tribal economies considering the high rate of unemployment in most tribal communities. While veterans and health and human service programs have all suffered during the economic downturn, it appears weapon sales are recession proof. Despite the global recession of 2008, the United States actually increased arms sales internationally. According to Thom Shanker of the New York Times, in 2008 the United States “expanded its role as the world’s leading weapons supplier, increasing its share to more than two-thirds of all foreign armaments deals.” Shanker adds that “the United States signed weapons agreements valued at $37.8 billion in 2008, or 68.4 percent of all business in the global arms bazaar, up significantly from American sales of $25.4 billion the year before.”37 Increasing worldwide poverty appears to correspond to an upsurge in the purchase of weapons, and therefore, increased killing and death, all of which benefits the US military economy. A PERFECT STORM: A NAVAJO CASE STUDY The Navajo Nation...


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