Sunday, September 24, 2006


During the last peak of global military spending, in the 1980s, more than $U650 billion was devoted each year by the world's super-and-mini-powers to arming themselves to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction.

For the American and Soviet leaders to convince their peoples that such massive amounts of money were better spent on bombs and missiles than on health and education, they ramped up the threat posed by their enemies to absurdist levels. It was not unusual to turn on the television in the mid-1980s and hear US President Ronald Reagan talking about the Soviet Union as the 'Evil Empire' and warning that "nuclear armageddon" was probably only a few days away.

It was only after the end of the Cold War that most Americans and Russians got a good look at each other and realised their 'enemy' wasn't really that much different to themselves.

When the Cold War melted and the Berlin Wall was pulled down, defence and military spending budgets declined dramatically, through the early 1990s. There was no 'Great Enemy' against whom Russia, China and the US had to arm themselves so utterly.

Now, of course, global arms industry pimps like US President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair don't need the Russians or the Chinese to get their fat defence budgets okayed. They've got 'invisible' enemies like Osama Bin Laden, paranoid conspiracy theories about Muslims trying to take over the world and the currently benign and non-hostile Iran.

The September 11, 2001, attacks on the US by Al Qaeda was just what the global arms industries needed after the 1990s downturn in spending. Literally within days of 9/11, the US okayed new defence spending worth tens of billions of dollars. In turn, Russia and China also romped into massive new fields of defence spending to keep pace with the US in a replay of the Cold War hysteria.

That 9/11 would lead to hundreds of billions of new dollars being commited to buying guns and bombs and jets and missiles and landmines became obvious as soon as Wall Street opened one week after the attacks. The hottest stocks? The biggest arms manufacturers in the world - Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon.

The global military industrial corporations have never seen such profits, or such long commitments to future defence spending, with the leaders of the US, the UK and Australia hinting that their armies will be in Iraq and Afghanistan for at least a decade more.

The US alone will devote more than $US600 billion in 2007 on military spending. Australia will spend more than $US20 billion in that same period.

Jets, missiles, tanks and military-tech cannot be produced fast enough to meet the global demand. Yesterday, the Australian government took delivery of some 60 second-hand American tanks, at a cost of more than $9 million per tank. That the tanks are all but useless outside of desert warfare doesn't seem to matter at all.

By the end of this year, more than $US1 trillion will have been spent worldwide on defence and military, wars and war planning.

Estimates for 2007 are expected to be even higher.

For some perspective on what $US1 trillion can buy, consider this : The United Nations has estimated that it would cost less than $100 billion, in total, to provide fresh, clean drinking water, via wells and bores and pipelines, to more than 90% of all the world's children. In 2005, more than 2 million children, mostly in Third World countries, died from viruses and disease spawned of contaminated water.

$US100 billion is less than the total spent by the US, the UK and Australia during the first year of the War On Iraq.