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The day before the 9/11 Attacks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that the Pentagon could not account for $2.3 trillion. Are the continuing increases in our military budget just a normal reaction to increased real threats of terrorism—and hence to our national security—or is the military bureaucracy self-perpetuating and directing us into unneeded wars and extravagant expenditures?

It could definitely be argued that the military bureaucracy is indeed self-perpetuating, and that many members of Congress, lobbyists, and rapacious defense contracting firms are directing us into unneeded wars entailing extravagant expenditures.

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Since President Eisenhower's historic 1961 speech warning of the danger of allowing the "military-industrial-complex" to arrogate to itself an unwarranted role in the formulation of geopolitical policy, the United States has found itself completely enmeshed with this powerful juggernaut, mostly to its detriment.

The staggering costs incurred by allowing a revolving door between the Pentagon, the White House, and the major defense contractors have been glaringly obvious for over a half-century, with no evidence that the status quo will ever change due to minimal public awareness, and hence concern.

Yet, as the example of Donald Rumsfeld clearly demonstrates, this is a problem that simply accelerated when he and his colleagues in the Bush administration were able to use the fear generated by the 9/11 attacks to expand an already bloated and perennially unaudited military budget and start a war based on a false and massively destructive premise.

As defense budget analyst Winslow Wheeler has pointed out, even a few years after the end of the Iraq War, the US military budget, in 2015 dollars, significantly exceeded the peaks of the wars in Korea and Vietnam, which were much higher intensity conflicts and involved hundreds of thousands of more troops than the then-current war in Afghanistan.

He has estimated the total cost of all the conflicts engaged in by the United States since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 at approximately $5 trillion. And he is hardly alone in his belief that all of that spending has achieved nothing aside from turning the Middle East into a devastated wasteland.

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