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Leon Panetta
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta over Baghdad (News pool/Reuters)

There's a reason many of us observers of the debacle that is the Catfood Commission II and the deficit hysteria in D.C. are so cynical about the possibility that defense cuts are going to be part of the mix. And there's a reason why Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham think they can derail or undo any cuts, whether through the Super Congress or the automatic trigger. It's because they don't think they'd face a veto from President Obama, and they can think that because of President Obama's defense secretary.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been steadily escalating his warnings about the impact of the deep cuts facing the Pentagon if the congressional super committee fails to reach a deal. On Thursday, he played the last – and strongest -- card in his deck, arguing that the hundreds of billions of dollars of mandatory cuts would directly imperil U.S. national security. [...]

He went even further on Thursday, using arguably the strongest rhetorical weapon in his arsenal. Mandatory defense cuts, he warned, would weaken the armed forces to the point that enemies would be emboldened to attack the U.S.

“In effect, it invites aggression," Panetta said during the new conference, just his second since taking office in July. [...]

Panetta said those cuts would leave the military "a hollow force" which "retains its shell but lacks a core."

“It’s a ship without sailors. It’s a brigade without bullets. It’s an air wing without enough trained pilots,” Panetta said. “It’s a paper tiger.”

How's that for taking a page out of the Bush/Cheney playbook? All fear, all the time. The terrorists are going to come get us if senior Pentagon officials can't blow $400,000 in one shot on a conference room for a meeting.

He actually wants to exempt the Defense Department from any future spending cuts, and put the hurt on seniors by cutting Social Security, and by making military retirees and families pay more for their health care. Happy Veterans Day!

Seriously, he's arguing that there is no fat, no waste, no insanely larded up contracts, no obsolete weaponry we're still buying in the Pentagon's budget. There's no place to cut, other than in taking care of the people who've actually been willing to put their lives on the line, in Leon Panetta's Pentagon without endangering the nation.

That's just bullshit. That's what the Democrats in Congress and President Obama should be calling it.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Fri Nov 11, 2011 at 08:17 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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