Like his father before him, George W. Bush has discovered Mars. In Greek and Roman mythology the red planet symbolized storms and turmoil in human relationships and hence became the Roman god of war. On the heels of his secret Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad and the capture of Saddam, W has decided to announce a mission to Mars. How appropriate.
W’s plans to explore Mars could cost taxpayers a bundle. Conservative estimates indicate a price tag of nearly a trillion dollars. But big numbers don’t intimidate the president from Texas. W is already spending billions per month on his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Vietnam war cost U.S. taxpayers about $111 billion for eight years of war. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about 500 billion in today’s dollars. So, in addition to some 58,000 Americans who lost their lives in Vietnam, that war cost Americans almost $62 billion per year, a little over $5 billion per month in today’s money.
W, who has prevented media coverage of the returning caskets of nearly 500 American service men and women who have lost their lives in Iraq thus far - more than were lost in Vietnam in the comparable period of that war - last year asked the Congress last for, and got, an $87 billion package to finance his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Far fewer service men and women are involved in W’s wars than were involved in Vietnam at the peak of that war, but the costs are higher in Afghanistan and Iraq because Vietnam-era soldiers were low-paid draftees whereas today’s all volunteer force is better paid and better equipped.
It remains to be seen how Americans will respond to rising local and state taxes, shrinking local and state budgets, and cuts in services in everything from fire and police protection to school programs, all a direct result of W’s undaunted enthusiasm for foreign wars and, perhaps, a trip to Mars. But observers here and abroad are already pointing out that the one trillion American dollars W would like to spend on Mars exploration would go a long way in the direction of solving real problems right here on our own troubled planet:
Our priorities are seriously askew. A large part of the problem is a lack of self-control that finds luxuriant expression in unrestrained militarism and rapacious consumerism. Modern advertising-driven consumerism is damaging the environment and increasingly fragile ecosystems stressed beyond our human ability to repair or even mitigate the damage.
Our world cannot and will not support the extravagantly wasteful standard of living to which many of us in the affluent West have become so accustomed. Yet our vaunted economic/social/political system, in the name of continued economic growth and stock market profits, is busy globalizing Western consumerism’s unrestricted desire for ever more consumer goods and feeding run amok capitalism’s insatiable appetite for the limited supply of natural resources, despite the resistance of negatively impacted indigenous peoples, religions, and cultures and a growing number here in the West who are coming to their senses.
All while our president proclaims that “they hate us because we are free” and suggests that we can bomb the rest of the world into understanding “how good we are.”
And now he wants to go to Mars. Well, even at a cool trillion, I suspect the price would be a bargain if W could be persuaded to leave next week or next month and take along his entire cabinet as well as Ariel “the Butcher” Sharon, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, and Saddam Hussein. The whole crew of war mongers richly deserve each other and a long vacation in a place far, far away.
Maybe then we could get down to the serious business of learning how to live together in peace and solve our common problems, while we still have time and something resembling a civilization.
Article courtesy of Media Monitor’s Network