FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The US Military’s A/C Bill for Iraq and Afghanistan Gives Me the Shivers

by DAVE LINDORFF

The United States Military is spending $20.2 billion a year for air-conditioning the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read that again please: $20.2 billion just to provide air-conditioning for our troops in these two desert countries.

How much is $20.2 billion?

Well, I live in Pennsylvania, where the eighth-largest school district in the country, here in Philadelphia, is about to lose 1300 of its 11,000 teachers–that’s 12% of the teaching staff in an already overcrowded school system, because the state’s Republican governor and legislature want to cut some $500 million in education funding from the state’s $27-billion budget. That military air-conditioning bill could not only restore those teachers by closing the $400 million budget deficit facing the Philadelphia School District. It could almost fund the entire budget of the state! In fact, it could probably fund the school budget deficit in almost all the school districts in the nation.

$20.2 billion is more than the entire budget of the state of North Carolina!

It is the same as the $20-billion shortfall expected next year in the federal Pell Grant program that provides scholarship aid to low-income students attending college.

It is about one-forth of the entire budget of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

It is two-and-a-half times the size of the entire 50-state federal Head Start program of early childhood education.

Now I know our soldiers have it tough over there in the 120-130-degree heat in Iraq, and it’s pretty hot in Afghanistan too, at least in the valleys. But then again, very few Iraqis and even fewer Afghans have air-conditioning. Many have probably never even seen an air-conditioner. And most, if they had one, wouldn’t have any electricity to run it with. (That’s why air conditioning is so costly for the US military. Not only do they have to ship in the A/C units. They have to truck in the gas to run the generators to produce the electricity to run the A/C, at great personal risk to the drivers of the fuel trucks).

That $20.2 billion, by the way, is also about a tenth of the total cost of the two ongoing wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’m tempted to say something about what an incredible waste this is, and about how far we’ve come from the days when soldiers were expected to crawl through the mud, live off the land, sweat to death in the summer and freeze to death in the winter, but I think I’ll just leave you with the numbers above.

Ten years the US has been fighting in Afghanistan, and eight in Iraq, and the best we can say is that we sure can air-condition our military in tough terrain.

What I will say is that if we’re spending $20 billion to air-condition the troops (most of whom, by the way, are not out in the field fighting (those grunts probably don’t have A/C). It’s the ones my colleague, Vietnam veteran John Grant, calls the REMFs (for rear-echelon MF-ers) who get all the cooling.

But this is just the tip of the absurdist iceberg. I’m sure we’re spending hundreds of billions more on equally outrageous stuff. How else to explain the astonishing fact that, according to the Pentagon, each US soldier in Afghanistan costs $1.2 million a year!

How much is $1.2 million? Well, my town of Upper Dublin, PA just spent $140 million to build a new high school. So that entire high school could have been financed by the return of 117 US troops. The current budget deficit of my town’s school district is exactly that: $1.2 million. So bring one soldier home from Afghanistan and we could replace my district’s missing state funds.

I’m told $1.2 million is also the cost of a commercial scale 1 megawatt wind turbine, so if we brought home all 100,000 US troops from Afghanistan, hell, we’d be able to put up 100,000 wind turbines each year, and in the time it took us to battle to fight the Afghan War to date, we could be generating one-tenth of the total US electric energy needs from wind! Talk about your swords into plowshares!

The irony is that our top-of-the-line military has been fought to a standstill not by another air-conditioned army, but by a small group of guys with no bullet-proof vests, no Kevlar helmets (no helmets at all, actually), no fancy guns, no heavy artillery, no air support, no satellite positioning devices, no armored personnel carriers or armored Humvees, no tanks, no drones and no night-vision equipment. And no A/C.

I’ve got a easy solution to cut the military’s cooling bill: bring all the troops home. They can have all the air-conditioning they want here. It’s cheap. And if we were creating the electric power with those windmills financed by the savings on not having troops abroad, it would be cheaper still.

DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent collectively-owned, journalist-run, reader-supported online alternative newspaper now beginning its second year of daily publication.

 

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail