By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
“As President Obama stood on the podium in the Pentagon briefing room Thursday to outline the nation’s defense priorities, the military stood with him,” reported The Washington Post, as if the military brass had any other alternative than to serve as props for the President. Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, who opposed the Reagan defense buildup when he was a left-wing congressman from California, was there as well.
“For a president denounced by Republican rivals as a weak and irresponsible commander in chief, the show of military support (emphasis added) represented a political windfall for Obama as he begins campaigning in earnest for a second term,” the paper added.
Obama’s unprecedented trip to the Pentagon’s briefing room to make the announcement was significant and newsworthy, but there is no evidence that the military officials were there voluntarily in support of Obama’s defense cuts.
On the contrary, there is reason to believe they would not support Obama’s plan. Indeed, The Washington Post editorial page noted that defense spending represented more than 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product under President Eisenhower and under Obama’s plan would drop from about 4.5 percent to under 3 percent. The paper went on, “Meanwhile, other than cuts to finance the new entitlements in his health care bill, the president has yet to propose meaningful trims in the exploding costs of entitlements such as Medicare, which did not exist during Mr. Eisenhower’s presidency. Would Ike have regarded what Mr. Obama is proposing as ‘balanced’? It’s hard to see how.”
The editorial also noted that the administration “already has cut or canceled 30 weapons systems,” amounting to some $300 billion.
This figure is taken from a speech by Robert Gates, before he stepped down as defense secretary, when he told the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in May of last year, “All told, over the past two years, more than 30 programs were cancelled, capped, or ended that, if pursued to completion, would have cost more than $300 billion.”
Gates also drew the comparison to Eisenhower, saying, “When President Eisenhower warned of the ‘Military Industrial Complex’ in 1961, defense consumed more than half the federal budget, and the portion of the nation’s economic output devoted to the military was about 9 percent. By comparison, this year’s base defense budget of $530 billion—the highest since World War II adjusted for inflation—represents less than 15 percent of all federal spending and equates to roughly three and a half percent of GDP—a number that climbs to about four and a half percent when the war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan are included.”
Gates’s successor, Leon Panetta, the former CIA director, had a record of opposing weapons systems and military action when he was a left-wing congressman from California. This was Panetta’s record:
- Panetta in 1983 endorsed the nuclear weapons freeze, a concept backed by the Soviet Union which would have frozen in place a Soviet nuclear advantage in Europe.
- Panetta supported a ban on the testing and deployment of new nuclear ballistic missiles.
- Panetta opposed CIA covert operations to undermine the Communist Sandinista regime, calling Reagan’s support for the Nicaraguan freedom fighters a “dirty war.”
- Panetta opposed the neutron bomb, an enhanced radiation weapon designed to counter a Soviet tank build-up in Europe.
- Panetta opposed the B-1 bomber, which was funded under Reagan and is today a key part of the fleet.
- While most members of Congress were saluting Reagan and our troops for liberating Grenada, Panetta criticized the Reagan action and warned against the dispatch of a U.S. naval task force to the vicinity of Cuba. “This is not a time to seek out new targets to flex our military muscle,” Panetta said.
- Panetta opposed the MX “Peacekeeper” missile, arguing it would jeopardize arms negotiations with the Soviets. Reagan had warned that defunding the system would “weaken our ability to deter war…”
Yet, Gates pointed out in that AEI speech, “The Reagan build-up of the 1980s fielded a new generation of weapons platforms that continue to be the mainstay of the force today—the M1 tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, Burke guided missile destroyers, F-15 fighters, and much more.”
So Panetta was wrong on the Reagan buildup. But he has apparently not learned his lesson, as The New York Times reports that Panetta favors radical cuts in the size of the Army, even beyond what has been publicly reported, from 570,000 down to 490,000 troops.
Going even further, the Times said that Panetta is expected to propose cuts to next-generation weapons, including delays in purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet.
We were virtually alone in predicting this. We had reported extensively on Panetta’s anti-defense views and his personal ties to radical left-wing forces and Communist Party member Hugh DeLacy.
Panetta has been portrayed in some media as opposed to cuts, even while he unveils them.
But his real attitude toward America’s enemies was on display on the January 8 edition of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” when he said about Iran, “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.”
One day later, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had begun uranium enrichment at a facility in the northern part of the country.
Two days later, the U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning Iran’s decision to begin those enrichment operations, saying it was “contrary to its obligations under multiple United Nations Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors resolutions…The circumstances surrounding this latest action are especially troubling. Iran only declared the Qom facility to the IAEA after it was discovered by the international community following three years of covert construction. Iran has announced it intends to consolidate and increase its production of uranium enriched to a near 20 percent level at this facility. There is no plausible justification for this production. Such enrichment brings Iran a significant step closer to having the capability to produce weapons-grade highly enriched uranium.”
Appearing on the Sean Hannity program on Fox News, GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Panetta was “ignoring the facts.” Candidate Ron Paul, by contrast, agrees with Panetta.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at [email protected].