Cost of wars to exceed one trillion dollars

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Sometime over the next 30 days, the amount of money the American government will have spent on making war in Iraq, and Afghanistan, will exceed one trillion dollars. You can watch the expenditure totals increase in real time at The overall U.S. "defence" budget for 2010 is about $2 billion a day, greater than during the Vietnam or Korea wars (after inflation).

Spending that amount on the military, and their hopeless adventures, might seem like an act of collective insanity on the part of the U.S., especially when so many problems cry out for better uses of the money. However it would be a mistake to attribute U.S. military spending -- the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of humanity -- to collective craziness. There is an explanation for this apparent folly: follow the money.

In January the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that governments could not limit the right of corporations to spend money on political campaigns. This ruling legitimizes the main practice of American electoral politics: candidates seeking money for campaigns -- from corporate sponsors. Corporations make political "investments" in candidates and expect something in return: public spending, and legislative votes to protect, and advance corporate interests. Influence peddling, and bribery are at the heart of the U.S. political process.

Corporations looking to "manufacture consent" funnel money through trade associations to lobby the public. The balance of political forces in the U.S. is overwhelmingly skewed to corporate America. Hardly any elected official outside of Bernie Sander of Vermont defends an alternative perspective. Pollsters find the American public recognizes the corruption of politics by corporate donations, but also that citizens are apathetic, and disengaged from politics. U.S. corporations want the war economy, the world gets the American war economy.

In a seminal 2008 work, published fully two decades after his official retirement from Princeton, legendary U.S. political scientist Sheldon Wolin has called the U.S. system "inverted totalitarianism." In totalitarian Germany, under Hitler, the state controlled business; in the U.S., business controls the state. Under fascism, the public were mobilized in support of war; in the U.S. the public is demobilized, distracted from public life. In the totalitarian states (Stalinist, or Fascist), the centrally controlled media emitted the propaganda; under inverted totalitarianism, the privately controlled commercial media play that role.

In Democracy Incorporated, the 87-year-old Wolin calls the role played by corporations in American politics "managed democracy." He identifies the military-industrial complex as "superpower." The money corporations make from the arms trade supports Imperial America, though no American political figure (except Ralph Nader) ever mentions the American Empire. According to Wolin, universities play an important role in managing democracy, while the American left is too feeble to oppose surperpower.

Wolin wrote largely about the Republicans and the Bush era but told Chris Hedges his analysis applies to the Democrats under Obama as well. Jeff Cohen explained to the Real News how after the Vietnam War the Democratic party came under control of big money. Corporate funding of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) produced Bill Clinton, Al Gore (and his 2000 running mate Joe Lieberman). In 2006, then relatively unknown Senator Barack Obama was the only political leader to speak at the launch of the Alexander Hamilton Project (stepchild of the DLC), Wall Street funded and housed at the Brookings Institute. According to Cohen, the Obama association with the Hamilton project headed by Robert Rubin (Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary, formerly of Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup, and mentor to current Obama Treasury Secretary Geithner, and economic advisor Larry Summers) explains why he could out fundraise Hillary Clinton on Wall Street.

Obama is now being advised by a conservative to bomb Iran in order to save his presidency. Citing five opinion polls favourable to the use of force, author Daniel Pipes, who has been making virulent attacks on Obama (including accusing him of lying about his religion) says if the president were to destroy the Iranian "nuclear" capacity he would regain his standing with the American public.

The U.S. have good reasons not to embark on yet another war. Sadly though, is going to be registering record amounts of money for some time to come.

Duncan Cameron writes from France.

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.