09:52 GMT +320 October 2019
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    Military 'Affluenza': Pentagon Must Be Held Accountable for Its 'Crimes'

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    The Pentagon suffers from "affluenza," according to American journalist William J. Astore, who said the US Defense Department has been "showered with money and praise" despite being responsible for the "deaths of innocents."

    In an editorial published Thursday by website Truthout, Astore compared the "US military as an institution" – not active soldiers, whom he said are "not spoiled" – to Ethan Couch, the American teenager who in 2013 killed four people in a car accident while driving drunk.

    A judge sentenced Couch to probation, not jail, in part because of the defense's claim that the teen suffered from "affluenza" and was overwhelmed by a sense of entitlement that rendered him incapable of distinguishing right from wrong.

    Astore, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, refuted a claim President Barack Obama made in his State of the Union Speech in January, in which he called the US military the "finest fighting force in the history of the world."

    Astore said Obama's "hyperbole," and similar "over-the-top claims" from his predecessor President George W. Bush and other US leaders, show that the military is "this sort of favored son, the country's golden child. And to the golden child go the spoils."

    He compared the Pentagon's $750 billion annual budget – two-thirds of the government's discretionary spending – to the combined $95 billion in federal funding that the departments of education, interior, and transportation received last year.

    Still, US defense officials and military officers testifying before Congressional committees have protested "minimalist cuts to the soaring Pentagon budget."

    Astore said the Pentagon lacks accountability for its "mistakes, profligate expenditures, even crimes." He cited the "quagmires" of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya; the spread of Daesh; the US attack on an Afghan hospital and the resulting civilian deaths; and the abuse and torture of foreign detainees.

    "In fact, no matter what that military doesn't accomplish, no matter how lacking its ultimate performance in the field, it keeps getting more money, resources, praise," he said.

    Astore insisted that the military "must be called to account." He proposed slashing the Pentagon's budget, holding senior leaders accountable for mistakes and "cutting the easy praise."

    In December, Couch and his mother fled from their hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, to Mexico as prosecutors investigated a video that showed him drinking alcohol, a probation violation. Couch, now 18, has since been arrested and returned to Texas, where the criminal case against him is pending.

    Tags:
    military spending, US Defense Department, Pentagon, Ethan Couch, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, United States
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