No Blank Check for the Pentagon

In an interview published by the McClatchy Newspaper Chain, Dick Armey, our former Republican Majority Leader, said he felt really bad about voting to go to war in Iraq.

Mr. Armey said “Had I been more true to myself and the principles I believed in at the time, I would have openly opposed the whole adventure vocally and aggressively.”

Chris Matthews on MSNBC on election night said “the decision to go to war in Iraq was not a conservative decision historically” and said the President asked Republicans “to behave like a different people than they intrinsically are.”

In 2004, William F. Buckley, Jr., often called the godfather of conservatism, wrote that if he knew in 2002 what he knew by 2004, he would have opposed going to war in Iraq.

Today, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the subject of waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq.

A couple of years ago, the same committee then under Republican leadership, held a similar hearing.

David Walker, now head of the GAO, but then Inspector General of the Defense Department, testified then that $35 billion had been lost in Iraq due to waste, fraud and abuse, and another nine billion had just been lost and could not be accounted for at all.

I heard a talk by Charlie Cook, the very respected political analyst, who said people really could not comprehend anything over one billion.

But $44 billion is an awful lot of money in anybody’s book.

A Foreign Service officer told me last year, a few months after he had left Iraq, that he sometimes saw SUVs filled with cash with barely enough room for the driver.

Conservatives have traditionally been the strongest opponents and biggest critics of federal waste, fraud and abuse.

Conservatives have traditionally been the strongest opponents and biggest critics of wasteful, lavish and ridiculous federal contracts.

Conservatives – especially fiscal conservatives – should not feel any obligation to defend wasteful spending or lavish federal contracts just because they are taking place in Iraq.

Ivan Eland, in the January 15 issue of the American Conservative Magazine wrote this:

“Many conservatives who regularly gripe about the Federal Government’s ineffective and inefficient use of taxpayer dollars, give the Pentagon a free ride on the profligate spending habits.”

Conservatives admire, respect and appreciate the people in the military as much or more than anyone.

Conservatives believe national defense is one of the few legitimate functions of the federal government and one of its most important.

However, this does not mean we should just routinely give the Pentagon everything it wants or turn a blind eye to waste in the Defense Department.

The Defense Department is a gigantic bureaucracy, in fact the biggest bureaucracy in the world.

It has the same problems and inefficiencies of any giant bureaucracy, and conservatives – especially fiscal conservatives – should not give a “free ride” to waste, fraud and abuse just because it is done by the Defense Department.

Counting our regular Defense appropriations bill, plus emergency and supplemental appropriations bills, plus the military construction appropriations bills, plus the end-of-the-year omnibus appropriations bills, we spend more on defense then all the other nations of the world combined.

Yet the military, like all other bureaucracies, always wants more money.

Well, at some point we are going to have to decide do we want national defense for our people, or are we going to be the policeman of the world and provide international defense for all countries that claim to be our allies.

With a national debt of almost nine trillion dollars, and unfunded future pension liabilities of many trillions more, I believe it is both unaffordable and unconstitutional for us to try to be the policeman of the world.

We will soon not be able to pay social security, and veterans pensions, and all the other things the federal government is doing if we try to maintain an empire around the world.

Conservatives have traditionally been the biggest critics of interventionist foreign policies because they create so much resentment for us around the world.

Conservatives have traditionally been the biggest critics of nation building, as President Bush was when he ran for the White House in 2000.

We need the more humble foreign policy he advocated then, or we need to tell the people to forget about their Social Security because we are giving a blank check to the Pentagon.

Read more by Rep. John J. Duncan Jr.