The Sept 11th attacks helped launch American into an endless war that, despite the recent pullout from Afghanistan, continues around the world. It also helped shield the Pentagon from what in any other situation would have been a bombshell report that came out on September 10th–that
On Sept. 10, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared war. Not on foreign terrorists, “the adversary’s closer to home. It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy,” he said.
2,300,000,000,000 dollars, which included
an annual waste to taxpayers of some $3 billion to $4 billion
Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described this waste as
a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America.
He wasn’t right about a lot of things, but on this he was spot-on.
Not that some people hadn’t tried to follow the trail, and hadn’t tried to fix the problem:
$2.3 trillion — that’s $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America. To understand how the Pentagon can lose track of trillions, consider the case of one military accountant who tried to find out what happened to a mere $300 million.
“We know it’s gone. But we don’t know what they spent it on,” said Jim Minnery, Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
Minnery, a former Marine turned whistle-blower, is risking his job by speaking out for the first time about the millions he noticed were missing from one defense agency’s balance sheets. Minnery tried to follow the money trail, even crisscrossing the country looking for records.
“The director looked at me and said ‘Why do you care about this stuff?’ It took me aback, you know? My supervisor asking me why I care about doing a good job,” said Minnery.
Notice the words “lose track.” Funny phrase. This story doesn’t describe “losing track.” When I lose track of my car keys, I go searching until I find them. The above story describes willfully looking the other way. It describes a knowing dereliction of duty towards the American taxpayers.
Of course, the GWOT put an end to governmental concerns about wasted money–if you could attached “war on terror” to the request, funding was easy to come by. And the costs of the neverending war seems to get almost no scrutiny (aside from the good people at Brown University who have been mercilessly tracking the numbers.)
Aside: Those are just numerical costs. The human costs of the tragedy are far greater, of course. A recent article in the New Yorker highlights how naive Americans are, with our talk of “democracy” and “women’s rights” for a country where most people are just trying to have a bit of peace, and willing to choose whatever they see as the lesser of two (or more) evils to get it.
Anyway, with the September 11th anniversary looming it’'ll be easy to forget that just the day before, soulless Donald Rumsfeld made a public announcement that the Pentagon was misspending (sometimes willfully) American taxpayer dollars to the tune of trillions. Events the next day would allow many Americans to rationalize that waste in ways that are still hard to understand.