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War and Debt Is Why Our Trains Are Broken

By Eric Margolis

June 07, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - NEW YORK CITY – America is falling apart. Anyone who travels in this great land knows it.

This great city is crumbling. I’m scared to take the underwater tunnels to Long Island or New Jersey. Our local airport, LaGuardia, should be in Zimbabwe.

The American Society of Civil Engineers warns that crumbling roads, rusting bridges, decaying railroads and transit systems are costing the nation $129 billion each year, and that crumbling infrastructure adds $97 billion annually and caused travel delays of $28 billion annually.

I raise this scandalous issue because Switzerland, a tiny nation of only 8.2 million, just opened the remarkable Gothard Base Tunnel, the world’s longest and deepest rail and road tunnel drilled right through the highest Alps.

I was in Switzerland in 1996 when the 151.8 km (94.3 mile) long tunnel project was begun, and I just watched its grand opening this week on TV. The project came in a year ahead of schedule and under budget at $10.1 billion. The Swiss are as skilled at watching their pennies as drilling through granite mountains. Rock amounting to 5 Giza pyramids was excavated.

The new Gothard Tunnel (there are two older, narrower ones) cuts almost an hour off the travel time from Zurich to Milan. More important, it will alleviate the frightful congestion and pollution from cars and heavy transport trucks in the narrow Alpine valleys. It creates a direct rail link from Rotterdam in the north to Genoa on the Mediterranean. One day soon, China’s fast-expanding high speed rail network, aka ‘the new Silk Road,’ will tied in to the Alpine network.

Each day, 250 trains will whizz under the Alps. High above the new tunnel are groups of 20th-century Swiss forts whose cannon and machine guns cover the land route over the strategic pass. I’ve inspected the largest at Goschenen, whose 155mm cannon can reach well into Italy. But the Swiss now seem to prefer more trade than old forms of security.

Compared to Switzerland’s excellent roads, beautiful bridges or viaducts, punctual to-the-second trains, the US looks – and perhaps is – a third world nation. Swiss, French, and German trains travel at 230-300km an hour, offering fast, clean, safe, civilized travel (at least when France’s rail workers are not on strike). I just took a French TGV express train from Lorraine on the German border direct to Charles De Gaulle airport in about one hour – what it takes to get from Manhattan to New York’s Kennedy Airport by taxi.

America’s vast highway system was built during the golden era of President Dwight Eisenhower. Today, America’s infrastructure is backwards, primitive, and humiliating for the self-proclaimed ‘greatest country on earth.’

Why is this? Because Americans and their government in Washington has chosen imperialism over taking care of home.

While the US crumbles, it pours billions upon billions into foreign military misadventures. The foolish war in Afghanistan will soon hit $1 trillion. Iraq is on the way to a second trillion. Washington is running little wars in East Africa, Yemen, now West Africa, Pakistan, and the Mideast, while gearing up for possible conflicts with Russia and China.

Invading small, weak Muslim nations may be glamorous and career-enhancing. – and certainly the objective of the neocon fifth column. Fixing sewers, dams and bridges is not – and does not make billions for arms manufacturers.

History is full of empires that ignored their own infrastructure and social well-being in favor of pursuing military glory abroad. All are on the trash-heap of history. America is headed that way, addicted to debt and war. We spend close to $1 trillion annually on the military and nuclear forces. This sum is not for ‘defense,’ but for offense around the globe.

Of course we have no funds to replaced New York’s 1900-vintage water conduits and sewers, or build desperately needed new bridges across the Hudson and East River. That’s because the funds are going to bomb Afghan tribesmen, Iraqi rebels and prop up vile regimes like those of Uzbekistan, Uganda, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The Swiss don’t waste a centime on stupid foreign wars. That’s why their beautiful nation works as efficiently as a Swiss watch.

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia. http://ericmargolis.com

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