As Build Back Better Is Gutted, Defense Act Is Deemed a “Must-Pass” Bill

Flint, Michigan’s drinking water. California’s Paradise, California, ashes. A tub of petroleum that once belonged to the Gulf of Mexico. Rising seas and storms which eat cities. Black people are killed by police, protesters are gunned to death by teenagers using war weapons, children shot by childrenin the relative safety of their schools and homes. A lethal pandemic is in its second year. It was fuelled by a vapid antiscience movement and the vocal blessing of a disgraced ex-president.

Ponder all of this, and so much more besides, and I’ll bet my left shoe your absolute last thought would be, “You know what? This country really needs 91 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and a pair of new Virginia-class nuclear submarines.” What the hell, it’s only $9.3 billion we’re talking about. The F-35 is a formidable weapon. keeps falling out of the skyThe subs would be more useful for studying North Atlantic right whale depopulationCape Cod, off the coast

But, here we are, right now, about to authorize the spending of $740 Billion for items similar to that. The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)The 2022 Military Budget Authorization Act and Defense Policy Establishment Act contains close to 70 pages. reads like a Christmas listThis list was compiled by the most terrifying child to ever live. This is only the stuff we’re selling to ourselves, mind you; our list of global arms sales would fell a forest for the paper.

On top of the F-35s and the submarines, there are two Arleigh Burke class destroyers ($3.7 billion), 11 CH-53K King Stallion helicopters ($1.5 billion), 17 F-15EX fighters ($1.8 billion), 92 M1 Abrams tank upgrades ($1.4 billion), $4.8 billion for the Columbia class submarine program, and a nifty $4.9 billion for Space Force “system development and demonstration” and “advanced component and development prototype R and D funding for technologies including space situational awareness, domain control, advanced communications, and related technologies and systems.” SPACE FORCE!!

Santa, I wish you all the best with that.

NDAAs can be dangerous for military policy. They also open the door to high defense spending, which is locked in by subsequent defense appropriations bills. The 2001 NDAA, post 9/11 document that allows the U.S. basically to kill and invade everything, anywhere, anytime, for ever. It was the gateway into torture, total surveillance, and two decades of war on Afghanistan. The 2003 NDAA was basically a “Yeah, what that said” document, with specific language added that gave us two decades of war in Iraq. There has been some talk about repealing the two NDAAs. But, for now, Forever War remains Forever War.

Amazingly enough, this year’s NDAA contains one potentially useful policy. The new authorization’s focus on “Combatting Sexual Assault in the Military” at least acknowledges the crisis of sexual violence in the armed forces. The new policy initiatives “[m]oves the decision to prosecute a serious crime out of the chain of command and to trained military prosecutors.” This is analogous to bringing in an outside prosecutor to handle officer-involved shootings, so local DAs don’t have to investigate or indict their own cops. Despite this, it is clear that there will be no changes in U.S. prosecution policy to eliminate the sexual violence that is an integral part of U.S. imperialism and militarism.

At present, Congress is debating the 2022 NDAA along with President Biden’s signature Build Back Better Act, debt limit legislation, and funding to keep the federal government operating. The deadlines are piling upThe pressure on Democratic lawmakers is intense. It is worth noting, however, that between the BBB Act and the NDAA, only the NDAA gets labeled as “must-pass” by the corporate news media.

“Must-pass”? The term makes it sound as if the preposterous might of the U.S. military will melt like a microwaved Peep if the bill isn’t signed before Congress blows town for the holidays. Between the nukes and the Navy SEALS, I think we have the “extreme violence in all directions simultaneously” capacity well handled. Makes you wonder if there’s money involved, some old system of graft, plunder and revolving doors that manages to scratch its own back while eating its cake, too. Perhaps someone should investigate that or something.

The Build Back Better Act doesn’t get the “must-pass” treatment, of course — yet another testament to the perverse priorities of the people running the show. Parents need affordable day care, Medicare recipients need help with their hearing, families need paid family leave, and the climate needs 10,000 times the help included in the bill, but it’s a beginning. If the environment is poisoned for all living things, who’s going to fly (crash) all those shiny F-35s? Didn’t think of That’s it!, did ya, Mr. Manchin?

Passage of the NDAA is an annual festival of performative bipartisanship — the bills always sail by massive margins — but this year is a little different. With Democrats “in control” of both the House and Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has gone full guerrilla in his attempts to thwart Biden’s agenda. This year’s NDAA has fallen victim to this tacticMcConnell sabotaging its path to passage to jam Democrats with so many deadlines. There is. actual concern the bill might not be on the president’s desk by the New Year.

This would suit McConnell just fine; in his vision of a perfect world, the BBB Act fails with Manchin’s help, the NDAA does not get done before 2022, the federal government shuts down, and the debt ceiling is breached. McConnell can then blame Democrats while he waits for the midterms like an anxious cat that hears the can opener in the kitchen. The ocean is coming and the kids have nowhere to go. “Must-pass,” indeed.