Chris Powell: Liberals embrace war contracting in Conn. They should read Ike

  Pratt & Whitney’s headquarters, in East Hartford.

Pratt & Whitney’s headquarters, in East Hartford.



Control of the U.S. House of Representatives by a new Democratic majority is expected to yield a military contracting bonanza for Connecticut, whose House delegation, like its Senate delegation, is entirely Democratic and has much seniority.

The 1st District's Rep. John Larson, first elected to Congress 20 years ago, may gain more military jet engine contracts for the Pratt & Whitney division of United Technologies Corp. in East Hartford.

The 2nd District's Rep. Joe Courtney, who has been in the House for 12 years, may become chairman of a subcommittee on sea power and thereby may arrange still more nuclear submarine business for the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics in Groton.

The 3rd District's Rep. Rosa DeLauro, first elected 28 years ago, will be in a better position to steer military helicopter contracts to the Sikorsky Aircraft division of Lockheed Martin in Stratford.

The 4th District's Rep. Jim Himes, in office for 10 years, has many constituents who work at Sikorsky and likely will help DeLauro help Sikorsky.

Being a new member of the House, the 5th District's Jahana Hayes may have to rely on her Connecticut colleagues to accomplish the contract-mongering ordinarily done by seniority. Since her district has no large military contractor and since she has been a teacher, Hayes may monger for federal grants in the name of education.

But even as Connecticut's military contracting interests are imagining new largesse, a study published the other day by Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs estimates that the United States has spent or committed itself to spend nearly $6 trillion on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and other God-forsaken countries since 2001. These wars are estimated to have killed nearly a half million people and to have displaced 10 million as refugees without achieving victory on the battlefield.

Of course, if victory is calculated instead by the livelihoods drawn from military contracting, Connecticut's members of Congress may be spectacular successes. But they also present themselves as liberals and often complain about unmet human needs at home, from medical care to transportation. The U.S. war in Afghanistan against -- what, exactly? -- is in its 18th year without complaint from those members of Congress, nor any complaint from Connecticut's other leading liberals. They have accepted perpetual war as a normal part of life.

Since much of that estimated $6 trillion cost of war has been extracted from countries that feel compelled to purchase U.S. government bonds to sustain the dollar as the world reserve currency, advocates of perpetual war may dismiss its financial expense. But there is still the human cost, both abroad and at home.

President Dwight Eisenhower, a military hero, described that cost in 1953: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."

How quaint Eisenhower sounds today as the United States is intervening militarily in more than 70 countries.

Of course the country needs a strong military. But when will its wars and other military interventions be audited for results? And if our supposed liberals won't audit them, who will?

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.