"The Pentagon estimates that China might be spending up to $90 billion a year on its military, three times the officially acknowledged budget, a figure that would make it the world’s third-biggest defense spender after the United States and Russia," reported the London Times on July 21. The Pentagon’s experts must have been reading a ten month-old publication by the International Institute for Strategic Studies which observed that "the publicly reported [Chinese] defense budget only represents part of actual military expenditure", then gives its own estimate. But top marks for spotting it.
Last month the Pentagon’s rambling, obsessional, and increasingly neurotic CEO foreshadowed this perceptive report.
Sometimes Donald Rumsfeld makes more of a fool of himself than usual when he opens his mouth. Occasionally his gaffes are amusing, but more often they are indications of mental dislocation. His comment that "Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things" when Iraq was being looted in April 2003 was only one of his more moronic absurdities. This was followed by "I read eight headlines [in US newspapers] that talked about chaos, violence, unrest [in Iraq]. And it just was Henny Penny – ‘the sky is falling’. I’ve never seen anything like it!"
As the old saying almost went: He hadn’t seen nuthin’ yet. The poor fellow was out of his depth, then, and has since been proved to be an incompetent fool — but he still tours the world insulting nations and fueling fear and distrust of the United States. At the beginning of June he was in Singapore, doing his normal thing. But instead of being encouraged by a deferential bunch of wagatail US media people, he was faced in open forum by a more redoubtable figure. Mr Cui Tiankai, a member of China’s foreign ministry, had no intention of taking nonsense from the lightweight Rumsfeld.
The gathering was sponsored by London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, a greatly respected organization staffed by distinguished and entirely apolitical scholars and defense specialists who conduct analyses of military strengths and capabilities. They had asked Rumsfeld to give a speech, and most of it was the usual banal rubbish.
But then he decided to target China, which, he complained was becoming too powerful for the liking of the Pentagon. Mr Cui Tiankai told him he was a belligerent ass, but was obviously wasting his breath because the newly-released Pentagon report on Chinese military strength is a follow-on from Rumsfeld’s speech in which he declared China to be:
* Expanding its missile forces;
* Expanding its missile capabilities within the Asian/Pacific region;
* Improving its ability to project power; and
* Developing advanced systems of military technology.
The man is insane. If there is one regime in the world that has gone berserk in expanding missile forces, increasing missile capabilities in Asia, projecting military arrogance to every corner of the globe, and developing bizarre systems of demoniac military technology it is the Cheney-Bush war administration.
There is a fascinating document called the "Base Structure Report" that lists some — just some — of the Pentagon’s power projection springboards around the world. The Pentagon admits to having 770 military bases in 39 countries from Antigua to the UK, but doesn’t catalog any of the new strongholds in Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan (smack up against the Chinese border), nor — and this is sidesplitting stuff — does it mention Afghanistan or Iraq where gigantic military fortresses and strike airfields have been and are being built, thanks to Cheney’s Halliburton.
There is no mention of installations in the Balkans, and not a word in this "comprehensive listing of installations and sites owned and used by the Department" (which includes leasings) about Qatar, for example, where the vast airfield and Command headquarters cost $1.5 billion. The Pentagon’s global inventory of property is as deceitful a document as we might expect from an outfit that has Rumsfeld trying to run it.
But something Rumsfeld’s Pentagon will never mention is that China doesn’t have any foreign bases.
Washington has 7088 nuclear weapons. China has, perhaps, five hundred, of which about a score are intercontinental. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace notes that "China currently has the capability to strike US cities with a force of approximately 20 long-range Dong Feng-5 missiles, each armed with a single 4- to 5-megaton warhead," and the Institute for Strategic Studies says it has about thirty ICBMs.
The United States, at the nuclear-button-finger of the fundamentalist religio-plutocracy running the White House, has hundreds of missiles aimed at China, most with 20-megaton warheads. The Washington zealots have 550 intercontinental nuclear missiles with multiple warheads, and 114 nuclear-capable strategic bombers, including 72 at the ‘combat ready’ state. China’s 20 geriatric nuclear-ready bombers could not survive in modern war.
Cheney and Bush control 432 nuclear missiles in 16 nuclear-powered submarines that boom round in the depths of the oceans, ready to obey their orders. China has one strategic submarine that may or may not be able to launch a nuclear missile. (Ironically, these figures are taken from ‘The Military Balance 2004-2005’ published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the hosts in June of the finger-wagging Rumsfeld.) In short, China has nothing even approaching or likely to ever approach the military might of Washington’s expansionist empire-builders.
The reason China continues to try to improve its nuclear riposte force is because it hopes it might be able to land some missiles on the continental US if it was attacked. China knows that Washington could not accept the rocketing of a single US city.
Cheney and Bush would be perfectly relaxed about reducing the whole of China to a radio-active wasteland, which they could do, given their thousands of nuclear bombs and warheads. And the US has an agreement with Taiwan to use military force against China if it tries to recover its island territory by military means. But the one thing that would give even Cheney pause for second thoughts is the knowledge that China would immediately reply with all 20-30 missiles at its disposal. And last week a Chinese general said as much, although it’s hardly a first-strike capability, and it never will be.
But Rumsfeld was worried, he whined, because his experts estimate "that China’s is the third largest military budget in the world, and clearly the largest in Asia." How weird that a country of over a billion people should want a large defense capability. How very strange that a country menaced by scores of US military bases, many packed with nuclear bombers, is apprehensive about its security. How odd that a country off whose coastline there roam US nuclear-armed submarines and aircraft carriers whose hundreds of warplanes carry cruise missiles and nuclear bombs should want to improve its means of protecting itself — or at least deterring the military empire that so obviously threatens it.
Rumsfeld’s figures are entirely subjective, of course. As were his Pentagon "estimates" of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and a few other things his carefully-selected yes-men got ludicrously and dangerously wrong in recent years. The Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) stated last year that China’s defense expenditure in 2003 was some US $56 billion, about twice its declared budget figure. Rumsfeld announced that his experts have determined that "China’s defense expenditures are much higher than Chinese officials have published". Well, gee, thanks, Rumsfeld. The IISS – your hosts at the Shangri La Hotel in Singapore – already told us that in last October’s issue of their definitive study. What’s new?
Well, part of what’s new is the fact that Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush have increased US taxpayers’ military spending by tens of billions of dollars. China’s program is estimated by the Pentagon at $90 billion for 2005-6. The Pentagon swallowed over three times that amount five years ago. Then the fun and games began, and the money poured into the coffers of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, and the rest of the deserving poor.
In 2002 US military spending rose to $348 billion, then to $404 billion in 2003. In 2004 the toys and the boys and girls were said to cost the US taxpayer $455 billion — about half the entire world’s spending on military machines. In a couple of years the Pentagon’s increase was more than the amount it estimates for the entire Chinese military budget. And $455 billion buys a lot of goodies.
But that figure is suspect, just like China’s declared expenditure. For example, there is an enormous accounting fiddle concerning nuclear weapons. It involves the sort of creative book-keeping that would attract the envy of Enron’s most devoted practitioners of off-balance-sheet-accounting. For example, spending on nukes comes from the Energy Department’s budget allocation, not the Pentagon’s. Then Veterans’ Affairs expenditure is also under a different heading — not a Pentagon one. There are various other fiddles, but the end result is that the true 2004 figure for military splurging by the Pentagon was not $455 billion, but $548 billion. Don’t believe me? OK, ask the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the Commerce Department of the US government. It produced the figures. (Other respected independent analysts put the figure rather higher, but let’s stay with US official figures.)
The Pentagon’s declared spending on various military jamborees in 2005-2006 doesn’t include the cost of the disastrous debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the combined cost of which is about a billion a week. China hasn’t invaded anyone recently, that we know of, so it is spared the cost of occupying countries by force.
Mind you, China does have one unfair advantage: it doesn’t have a Halliburton to suck up billions of dollars through presenting inventive invoices. Neither does China have military manufacturers who donate vast sums to political parties. So China doesn’t have the disadvantage of having to pay back such companies with taxpayers’ money through contracts that are carefully doled out around the country to areas controlled by deserving politicians.
Don’t get me wrong: I have no time for the Chinese form of government. It persecutes its own people and has dozens of Guantanamo Bays and even worse. The torture frolics at Abu Ghraib and the murders at Bagram in Afghanistan seem insignificant when compared with the labor camps of the People’s Republic, while Beijing’s treatment of minorities is scandalously brutal and quite on a par with that meted out to Kurds by Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, China has a right to protect itself against what it sees as a massive and ever-increasing military threat to its national interests.
Rumsfeld whines that in a year the People’s Republic of China spends about 90 billion dollars on defense. This is less than a sixth of the amount that the Pentagon is given to dish out on its spending sprees. Rumsfeld complains that China is trying to project power, while the Pentagon establishes more and more bases close to China’s borders, from Central Asia to Japan. There is a saying about sauce for the goose and sauce for the gander, but it doesn’t mean anything to an Empire that is as arrogant as it is belligerent.
Don’t do as we do, orders the Cheney-Bush administration: do as we say.
BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes on military and political affairs. He can be reached through his website www.briancloughley.com