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War… what’s it good for?

28 January 2008

The White House will ask Congress next week for another $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an amount that would help cover operational costs only until early next year when the next administration takes over.

According to how estimates are done, somewhere between 21 and 51 percent of the United States Federal Budget ($2,387 billion)is for defense and military spending (the high estimate – $1,228 billion includes military pensions, veterans benefits and debt services for previous military expenditures).

The Mexican military budget (as a percentage of the National Budget) has been falling since World War II (even during the war, the budget was rduced — a rather neat trick I cover in my soon to be published book) and the Mexican military actually returns a small profit to the government (natural resource protection is a military mission, and planting fruit trees to protect watersheds  — and selling fruit — is a legitimate military activity; the soldiers’ and sailors’ bank is a mortgage lender; and Mexican military sales to foreign countries — mostly trucks and uniforms — bring in the dough).

Given the creeping militarization of police (and political repression) and raises for soldiers is up this year, the Mexican military budget is up… a whopping 0.44% of the Mexican Gross National Product is spent on defense… 34,861,500,900 pesos (3.2 billion dollars) is the estimate for FY2008 …mostly salaries for the 245,000 men and women (the highest percentage of women soldiers in Latin America)

 

 

Per capita, Mexico’s military is about the same size as Ecuadors, and in numbers is equal to Chile’s… both much smaller nations.  On the other hand, who has Mexico ever invaded.  Other than U.S. gun runners (and their customers, the U.S. financed drug dealers), Mexico doesn’t have any foreign enemies, and hasn’t pissed anyone off recently.  Like, say, Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, Cubans, Venezualans ….

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 29 January 2008 9:33 pm

    You make it sound as if the Mexican military has it pretty good. Let me assure you they don’t. My husband was an officer in the Mexican navy and we and our two children lived off of less than $1000 U.S. a month. We lived in military housing where we had to pay rent and all the utilities. This included the $44 (I will put all expenses in U.S. currency equivalents) a month bill for gas which came to us in a tank that always ran out just as you wanted a hot shower or to start cooking dinner. We were on a wait list for a phone line for over a year and at the time of our departure from Mexico, we still didn’t have a line. The bank of which you speak, the one that lends mortgages, would only do so to a person whose income is high enough to cover the monthly payments directly out of their salary. This excludes mostly everyone with the exception of high-ranking officers. We had a loan from them and it put us under further financial strain.
    Most sailors earn about $500 a month and they have to pay for rent and expenses out of that. Some of them have two and three kids who they will send door to door selling home-baked goods for extra money. The way they are treated and the amount of work they do for the salary they earn is horrible. Whatever surplus or extra money is being made is not being redirected to these hard-working people. It is more than likely lining the back pocket of a corrupt admiral or general as it has in the past.
    While the country is not engaged in foreign wars, this is for the best as they are stretched so thin fighting their own people who have formed powerful cartels and bought off most of the police. Many sailors and soldiers are also often approached by strangers with envelopes filled with money who ask for “a little bit of information in return.” Because their salaries are so pathetic they are vulnerable to these offers.
    While my husband was at his last post a large part of what he did involved drug interdiction. The navy is also has similar missions to the U.S. Coast Guard involving life-saving and marine safety.
    Now that the military is being used to police the police in Mexico, they are also more likely to become the targets of the narcos. A lieutenant friend of my husband who was in intelligence was killed and his head was cut off and sent to his family.
    In Iraq only the soldiers are killed, in Mexico the whole family is often taken out.
    While I’ve never supported the war in Iraq, I was a former soldier in the U.S. Army and I can honestly say that, for good or bad, we were well taken care of as far as housing, clothing, food and healthcare. In the hospital at my husband’s base we paid out of pocket for any medicine or medical service that wasn’t available there.
    Living in Mexico under these conditions was an eye-opening experience and it made me grateful for many things I had always taken for granted in life.

  2. Mr. Rushing permalink
    30 January 2008 7:32 pm

    If Mexico is so awesome, why are so many people leaving it? If Mexico’s foriegn policy is so awesome, then why are so many sons of Mexican American illegal immigrants joining the U.S. Army and fighting in Iraq? If Mexico is so awesome, why are they not teaching thier people English so that they can have an easier life upon fleeing Mexico?

    I am not against an open border, but these are important questions that need to be answered.

    What does the relative size of military expenditures have to do with border crossings? Or “awesomeness”? BTW, Mexicans learn English in GRADE SCHOOL.

  3. 2 February 2008 8:25 pm

    In previous trips driving in Mexico we have gone thru many military checkpoints. They are always scary, yet entertaining. We have had military people ask us what things were that we were carrying, often times toys or games. They are very interested in good maps. These people are typically uneducated and young and inexperienced. Not bad people. Yet they will do bad things, because they really are in the military because they had no other option. They mostly do what they are told to do.

    When you hear horror stories about military actions in Chiapas or Oxaca, it is not the army men who are bad. It is the officers and the government. I am 50 years old and American (USA), and these army dudes on the road are younger than my kids, and way less independent thinking. They might never have been out of their village before joining up. Think about that.

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