Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Letter to City Council Members about the Wars


On February 15, 2003, occurred the largest global protest against war the world has ever seen. Over 12 million people came out in the streets in over 60 countries and on five continents. So impressive was this outpouring of anti-war feeling that the New York Times claimed there were now two superpowers: the US National Security State and global public opinion. But that day of worldwide action did not stop Bush and Cheney from illegally attacking Iraq, did not stop them from replacing diplomacy with aggressive war. And now we see the consequences, and the importance for all people and especially people in official positions of influence to choose publicly not to be complicit in silence but to speak up with the truth.

Consider the financial consequences alone. In 2008, the military spent $976, 121,986,000; that’s $1.9 million spent every single minute for wars falsely labeled “defense.” In July 2009 the $636 billion Pentagon spending bill passed 400-30. But that didn’t include money for the Afghan and Iraq wars, or in the Energy Dept. for nuclear weapons, or for “Homeland Security.” A special aspect of the appropriation is the unneeded pork money—for a new presidential helicopter fleet, new cargo jets, an alternative engine for the next-generation F-35 Fighter, and more. But this is peanuts compared to the $128 billion for the Iraq and Afghan wars, which brings the total appropriated by Congress just for these wars to above $1 trillion. (As stated in ADG 7-31-09, but Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes in The Three Trillion Dollas War estimated $3 to 5 trillion, and recently Stiglitz raised the estimate to $4 to 6 trillion because of the unexpectedly large number of wounded vets.)

These costs play out in our individual taxes. Andrew Bacevitch ( “Unequal Sacrifice,” The Nation, 9-20-10, in a review of Kriner and Shen, The Casualty Gap), writes: “Since 9-11, the Pentagon budget has more than doubled to approximately $700 billion per year,” and “current war costs [are] $400 billion annually.” Thus “the per capita cost of ongoing US wars comes to more than $3,300 per annum. Add that as a surcharge to every American’s tax bill (or subtract that amount from the annual payout to Social Security recipients).” This taxation for wars will not change in the foreseeable future, argue Kriner and Shen, because officials of the US Security State will continue to successfully cover up US soldier casualties and the fact that the majority of them are poor.

And now, by extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, shrinking the estate tax, and freezing discretionary spending on everything except war, Pres. Obama is leaving less for education and infrastructure.

Yet these wars, these sacrifices, have not shielded the US, nor defended liberty. We hear from all who choose armed-force over negotiation and diplomacy that once in a war we must “support the troops” for their sacrifice in our defense. But name one US war after WWII in Europe that comes close to being a war of defense. What does it tell us that the VA provides health care for more than 23 million US veterans; as many as a quarter of the nation’s population qualifies for VA coverage; and federal cemeteries are running out of space? Have that many citizens defended the country from attack? Name the wars caused by another country attacking the US.

So let us remember Martin Luther King, Jr.’s great sermon, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” (April 4, 1967): “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” Silence about the wars–US permanent war-- must end. The myth of US defensive wars is not sacrosanct; casualty facts must no longer be kept secret; the enormous financial and human costs, the true costs of US wars, must be disclosed. We must “break the silence of the night” of these wars, just as King urged light for the Vietnam War.

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