Scott Ritter: Why the Pentagon is a multitrillion-dollar fraud

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The US Department of Defense has failed its sixth annual audit in a row, but taxpayer money will keep going down that drain

Recently, the Pentagon admitted it couldn’t account for trillions of dollars of US taxpayer money, having failed a massive yearly audit for the sixth year running.

The process consisted of the 29 sub-audits of the DoD’s various services, and only seven passed this year – no improvement over the last. These audits only began taking place in 2017, meaning that the Pentagon has never successfully passed one.

This year’s failure made some headlines, was commented upon briefly by the mainstream media, and then just as quickly forgotten by an American society accustomed to pouring money down the black hole of defense spending.

The defense budget of the United States is grotesquely large, its $877 billion dwarfing the $849 billion spent by the next ten nations with the largest defense expenditures. And yet, the Pentagon cannot fully account for the $3.8 trillion in assets and $4 trillion in liabilities it has accrued at US taxpayer expense, ostensibly in defense of the United States and its allies. As the Biden administration seeks $886 billion for next year’s defense budget (and Congress seems prepared to add an additional $80 billion to that amount), the apparent indifference of the American collective – government, media, and public – to how nearly $1 trillion in taxpayer dollars will be spent speaks volumes about the overall bankrupt nature of the American establishment. 

Audits, however, are an accountant’s trick, a series of numbers on a ledger which, for the average person, do not equate to reality. Americans have grown accustomed to seeing big numbers when it comes to defense spending, and as a result, we likewise expect big things from our military. But the fact is, the US defense establishment increasingly physically resembles the numbers on the ledgers the accountants have been trying to balance – it just doesn’t add up. 

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Despite spending some $2.3 trillion on a two-decade military misadventure in Afghanistan, the American people witnessed the ignominious retreat from that nation live on TV in August 2021. Likewise, a $758 billion investment in the 2003 invasion and subsequent decade-long occupation of Iraq went south when the US was compelled to withdraw in 2011– only to return in 2014 for another decade of chasing down ISIS, itself a manifestation of the failures of the original Iraqi venture. Overall, the US has spent more than $1.8 trillion on its 20-year nightmare in Iraq and Syria. 

These numbers are mind-numbingly large – so large that they become meaningless to the average person. The US defense enterprise is so massive that it is literally a mission impossible to speak of balancing the books. The American people might be willing to shrug off an accounting error or two. But the defense budget equates to American military power and the perceptions of national worth that translate into notions of American exceptionalism.

The fact of the matter is that our cavalier approach to defense spending has resulted in fraud of a massive scale. The American people were sold a bill of goods – a military capable of projecting power world-wide to sustain the so-called “rules based international order” upon which the notion of American exceptionalism has been premised. As it turns out, the US military is as hollow as the numbers on the Pentagon ledgers. The American people have bought an apparatus that is incapable of fighting and winning a major war against any of the potential opponents arrayed against it. We failed to defeat Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban. And we are not able to defeat either China or Russia, let alone regional powers like North Korea and Iran. And yet we will simply continue to invest, in seemingly unquestioning fashion, into this enterprise, expecting somehow that a system that cannot pass an audit will somehow magically produce a different result despite the fact that we, the American people, are doing nothing to demand such a result.

In short, the defense budget is the equivalent of “pay-to-play,” in which the American people pay the US government to produce the results necessary to sustain their overinflated sense of self-worth. We Americans have become so accustomed to being the biggest, baddest bully in the global arena that we assume that simply by pouring money into a system that had produced the desired results for more than seventy years that we could keep the good times rolling. But when you allocate money to a system that has been allowed to become conditioned to operate without accountability, don’t be surprised when the shiny mansion on the hill you thought you were buying turns out to be little more than a house of cards.

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