Duck and Cover in 2018?

Many of us remember the days of bomb shelters, of hiding under our school desks, of wondering if Russia would send a nuclear bomb our way during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Fast forward more than 50 years later, and our fears are coming back.

Many would say we residents of Planet Earth have been lucky that we haven’t yet been wiped out by a nuclear war. But have we become seduced to believe that it will never happen? Or if it does, if we strike first, we won’t be harmed? That’s like thinking if we run across the street day after day without looking both ways that we’ll never be hit. But messing with nuclear weapons is more devastating, killing thousands, perhaps millions of creatures and spreading cancer-causing radiation to others and our food supplies around the globe. Additionally, a first striker most likely would be struck by the country it bombed.

Recently HuffPost senior reporter Ashley Feinberg shared what appears to be a January 2018 draft of the the Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis put this roadmap for US Nuclear strategy with input from the President.

The 64-page document suggests developing devices that will make it easier for the military to use such bombs. The final version of the NPR will be published in February, according to HuffPost. Some are calling it “a roadmap for nuclear war.”

NBC News tells us that Trump wants the US to boost its stockpile tenfold, to 1960s levels.

Former President Barack Obama previously had already come up with a 30-year, $1.3 trillion plan to “modernize” the US arsenal and its command-and-control systems. Peace advocates have been rallying for years to stop this plan.

Now Trump goes further, such as proposing to build “low-yield” nukes, which are said to be easier to use and to pack smaller blasts, but causing as much destruction of those dropped on Japan 72 years ago. 

David Swanson of World Beyond War, a global movement to end all wars, notes that Trump in his State of the Union speech said that we needed to build more nuclear weapons to counter “rivals” who “challenge” US “values.” The NPR draft suggests their use to counter “cyber warfare,” for example.

Swanson noted on February 6 that former U.S. SenatorSam Nunn and former Russian Foreigh Minister Igor S. Ivanov signed a letter to Presidents Trump and Putin. Go to act.rootsaction.org to also sign this letter requesting these leaders to take four steps that will make our world safer from the threat of nuclear weapons.

If these bombs are ever used, no one will be safe, rich or poor, anywhere on Earth.

If you are as concerned about our current Administration playing around with nuclear weapons like they’re some type of war toys, spread this message to all you know.

Get involved in your community. Visit your elected leaders at the Federal level while they’re home on spring break, or join groups who are visiting their representatives in Washington, DC. Write letters to the editor to your local and state newspapers. Call in to talk shows, share your concern on social media. Coordinate local actions with other groups in your community.

Our children’s and grandchildren’s lives are at stake, as is our planet’s.

 

Sources:

www.businessinsider.com/nuclear-posture-review-trump-huffpost-draft-report-2018-1

WorldBeyondWar.org

Promote Diplomacy with North Korea

From National Peace Action – Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Director for Policy and Political Affairs

As President Trump continues insulting and threatening North Korea, undermining hopes for diplomacy and increasing the risk of war, he also
appears poised to abandon the hard-won Iran nuclear agreement. As you know, that would be a disaster in its own right, but it would also be a disaster for the prospects of ever negotiating our way out of the crisis with North Korea.

The Iran agreement has been doing exactly what it was meant to: ensuring Iran’s paths to the bomb are all blocked. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [1], the European Union [2], and over 80 nuclear policy experts [3] all say that Iran is adhering to the agreement. Even some of Trump’s top advisors Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford [4] and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis [5] agree the agreement is worth keeping.

Nonetheless, Trump has indicated he may decertify Iran’s compliance with the agreement on or before the October 15th deadline regardless of whether there is material evidence of a violation. That would then line up a vote in Congress on whether or not to reimpose sanctions on Iran, and that’s where you come in.

 If Trump backs out of the Iran agreement, that would put war with Iran back on the table. At the same time, it would send a terrible signal to North Korea about the U.S.’s ability to stand by its international commitments, which could unravel any hopes of negotiating a similar agreement to scale back North Korea’s nuclear program.

If diplomacy with North Korea is taken off the table completely, war on the Korean Peninsula also becomes much more likely. To ensure the door to diplomacy stays open, and to prevent Trump from marching us into one or even two new wars of choice, members of Congress need to be speaking out in support of diplomacy with Iran and North Korea.

*We need you to email your Members of Congress and ask them to protect the Iran agreement and call for direct talks with North Korea.*

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If Trump does decertify Iran’s compliance with the agreement, it will still be up to Congress to reimpose sanctions, and there are some indications that such a vote could be close. On top of Trump’s key military advisors urging him to stick with the agreement, Congressional Republicans are starting to think twice about walking away from the deal. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) [6] said he thinks Trump should “enforce the hell out of” the deal rather than back out of it. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said “I don’t think we should relieve Iran of its obligations.”

If stopping Trump from destroying the Iran agreement comes down to a vote in Congress, as it well may, we’re going to need all the votes we can get. If we hope to pressure the Trump administration to get serious about negotiating with North Korea, we’re going to need as many members of Congress speaking out as we can get.

Your activism around the Iran nuclear agreement was crucial to getting the deal through Congress and preventing a war. Now we need your activism again to protect that achievement and push for a similar agreement with North Korea. *Email your Members of Congress Today and ask them to defend diplomacy with Iran and demand diplomacy with North Korea.*

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References:

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-31/iran-
sticking-to-nuclear-agreement-with-powers-iaea-reports

[2] https://www.armscontrol.org/blog/2017-09-21/p51-iran-
nuclear-deal-alert-september-2017

[3] https://www.armscontrol.org/pressroom/2017-09/more-80-
nuclear-nonproliferation-experts-reaffirm-support-iran-nuclear-deal

[4] http://thehill.com/policy/defense/352463-top-general-
says-iran-complying-with-nuclear-deal

[5] http://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/03/jim-mattis-iran-deal-243411

[6] http://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/03/trump-iran-nuclear-
deal-republicans-243375

The Asheville Convention 2014

The Asheville Convention

By John Heuer

For the first time in our 29 year history, Veterans For Peace held its National Convention in North Carolina. From July 23 through the 27th, some 350 VFP members and friends gathered at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Host Chapter 099 offered free homestays and convenient campgrounds for out of towners who couldn’t afford motels or UNCA dorm rooms.

We made a concerted effort to encourage post 9/11 vets to attend, waiving registration fees and raising $10,000 to assist in their travel expenses. Over 50 young vets attended the convention, from all across the US and the UK. Nineteen members of the Eisenhower Chapter in the NC Triangle participated as volunteers, presenters, attendees, and hosts. A lot of North Carolina pride went into this convention. Humility, too.

After all, the convention was being held on historic Cherokee Nation lands. The legacy of US militarism, is not lost on 1st Nations’ survivors, whose families were herded onto reservations comprising the least desirable lands. “Least desirable” that is, until gold or oil or other “precious’ minerals were discovered on the reservations. Hundreds of abandoned uranium mines on or near indigenous lands continue to poison their air, land, and children. Navajo musician/artist/activist Klee Benally provided riveting testimony to these travesties in word and song.

But Eastern Band Cherokee Nation Elder Freeman Owle provided a gracious welcome to the convention. Freeman is an educator, historian, story teller, and stone carver. His words of both welcome and forgiveness set the tone for the entire convention, as did the extraordinary spoken words and song of April “Little Red Feather” Adams, a US Army veteran from 1990 to 2000, a member of the Cherokee Nation Western Band, and our newest VFP National Board member.

What did we accomplish?

Veterans For Peace rededicated ourselves to the abolition of war and preparation for war. We are working to end current wars, prevent future wars, and dismantle the machinery of war. When citizens are educated about the costs of war, $2 trillion annually spent for war and preparation for war, when one tenth of that cost could cure hunger on earth, they recognize that our so-called civilization needs a course correction.

Our convention theme, Peace or Perish—Abolish War on Planet and Poor, was highlighted by a plenary including Black Workers for Justice leader Angaza Laughinghouse, Asheville’s Beloved Community Center leader Rev. Amy Cantrell and US Army veteran, history professor at Essex County College in Newark, NJ, Margaret Stevens. The plenary “Peace at Home, Peace Abroad” focused on the idea that we can never enjoy peace at home while making war abroad, nor can we help build peace abroad while we make war on our communities here at home.

The murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO by a militarized police force trained not to protect citizens, but to treat them as targets, brings that point home with excruciating clarity.

On August 6th 2014, the 69th anniversary of the advent of nuclear warfare, the Raleigh Committee to Reverse the Arms Race held its “First Wednesday Vigil” at the Fayetteville Street Post Office, as it has every month since 1982.

If we survive the era of nuclear weapons, it will be at least a small miracle, and a miracle, in good measure, of our own making. The US government is on record for proposing a $1 trillion investment in our nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years.

Why would we squander such vast treasure on an arsenal that, if ever deployed, would mean our own destruction? It is a colossal waste of resources, and the poster child for “A Bridge to Nowhere.” What do we the people do when our governments (not just our own) are hell bent on amassing destructive power while neglecting the needs of their citizens at home?

September 21st 2014

The UN declared an International Day of Peace, which was first celebrated in 1982. (Sometimes events have to catch up with holidays for which they are named.) The tradition became a world-wide observance of International Day of Peace on September 21st of each year, an opportunity for combatants to lay their weapons down, and for all of us to imagine a world without war.

Veterans For Peace will participate in a massive Peoples March for Climate in New York City, planned for September 21st, prior to the UN Climate Summit starting that week. Communities across North Carolina and the world will participate in a convergence of peace and environmental activists calling for an end to the wars, on planet and poor. Included are official pronouncements, ringing of bells (it is Sunday, after all) and public assemblies. Preachers are encouraged to exhort their parishioners to take a moment of silence to forgive themselves, and then make a call to an estranged community or family member, and to express gratitude and respect for this fragile, garden planet earth.

Because peace begins with thee and me.

 

 

 

 

PeacEnvironmentalism

Remarks at North Carolina Peace Action Event in Raleigh, N.C., August 23, 2014.

 By David Swanson

http://warisacrime.org/content/peacenvironmentalism

 

Thank you for inviting me, and thank you to North Carolina Peace Action.

It’s an honor for me to have a role in honoring the 2014 Student Peacemaker, iMatter Youth North Carolina. I’ve followed what iMatter has been doing around the country for years, I’ve sat in on a court case they brought in Washington, D.C., I’ve shared a stage with them at a public event, I’ve organized an online petition with them at RootsAction.org, I’ve written about them and watched them inspire writers like Jeremy Brecher whom I recommend reading. Here is an organization acting in the interests of all future generations of all species and being led — and led well — by human kids. Can we give them some applause?

But, perhaps revealing the short-sightedness and self-centeredness of myself as a member of a species that didn’t evolve to manage a whole planet, I’m especially happy to be recognizing iMatter Youth North Carolina because my own niece Hallie Turner and my nephew Travis Turner are part of it. They deserve LOTS of applause.

And the full iMatter planning team, I’m told, is represented tonight as well by Zack Kingery, Nora White, and Ari Nicholson. They should have even more applause.

I take complete credit for Hallie and Travis’s work, because although I didn’t really teach them anything, I did, before they were born, tell my sister she should go to our high school reunion, at which she met the man who became my brother in law. Without that, no Hallie and no Travis.

However, it was my parents — who I suppose by the same logic (although in this case I of course reject it) get complete credit for anything I do — it was they who took Hallie to her first rally, at the White House protesting a tar sands pipeline. I’m told that Hallie didn’t know what it was all about at first or why the good people were being arrested, instead of the people committing the offenses against our loved ones and our earth being arrested. But by the end of the rally Hallie was right in the thick of it, wouldn’t leave until the last person had gone off to jail for justice, and she pronounced the occasion the most important day of her life thus far, or words to that effect.

Perhaps, as it turns out, that was an important day, not just for Hallie but also for iMatter Youth North Carolina, and, who knows, just maybe — like the day Gandhi was thrown off a train, or the day Bayard Rustin talked Martin Luther King Jr. into giving up his guns, or the day a teacher assigned Thomas Clarkson to write an essay on whether slavery was acceptable — it will eventually turn out to have been an important day for more of us.

I’m a bit ashamed of two things though, despite all my pride.

One is that we adults leave kids to discover moral action and serious political engagement by accident rather than teaching it to them systematically and universally, as if we don’t really think they want meaningful lives, as if we imagine comfortable lives is the complete human ideal. We are asking kids to lead the way on the environment, because we — I’m speaking collectively of everyone over 30, the people Bob Dylan said not to trust until he was over 30 — we are not doing it, and the kids are taking us to court, and our government is allowing its fellow leading destroyers of the environment to become voluntary co-defendants (can you imagine volunteering to be sued along with someone else who’s facing a law suit? No, wait, sue me too!), and the voluntary co-defendants, including the National Association of Manufacturers, are providing teams of lawyers that probably cost more than the schools Hallie and Travis attend, and the courts are ruling that it is an individual right of non-human entities called corporations to destroy the inhabitability of the planet for everyone, despite the evident logic that says the corporations will cease to exist as well.

Should our kids do as we say or as we do? Neither! They should run in the opposite direction from anything we’ve touched. There are exceptions, of course. Some of us try a little. But it is an uphill effort to undo the cultural indoctrination that has us saying phrases like “throw this away” as if there really were an away, or labeling the destruction of a forest “economic growth,” or worrying about so-called peak oil and how we’ll live when the oil runs out, even though we’ve already found five times what we can safely burn and still be able to live on this beautiful rock. 

But kids are different. The need to protect the earth and use clean energy even if it means a few inconveniences or even some serious personal risk, is no more unusual or strange to a kid than half the other stuff they are presented with for the first time, like algebra, or swim meets, or uncles. They haven’t spent as many years being told that renewable energy doesn’t work. They haven’t developed the fine-tuned sense of patriotism that allows us to keep believing renewable energy cannot work even as we hear about it working in other countries. (That’s German physics!)

Our young leaders have fewer years of indoctrination into what Martin Luther King Jr. called extreme materialism, militarism, and racism. Adults block the way in the courts, so kids take to the streets, they organize and agitate and educate. And so they must, but they are up against an educational system and an employment system and an entertainment system that often tells them they are powerless, that serious change is impossible, and that the most important thing you can do is vote.

Now, adults telling each other that the most important thing they can do is vote is bad enough, but saying that to kids who aren’t old enough to vote is like telling them to do nothing. We need a few percent of our population doing the opposite of nothing, living and breathing dedicated activism. We need creative nonviolent resistance, re-education, redirection of our resources, boycotts, divestments, the creation of sustainable practices as models for others, and the impeding of an established order that is politely and smilingly steering us over a cliff. Rallies organized by iMatter Youth North Carolina look like moves in the right direction to me. So, let’s thank them again.

The second thing I’m a little ashamed of is that it is not at all uncommon for a peace organization to arrive at an environmental activist when choosing someone to honor, whereas I have never once heard of the reverse. Hallie and Travis have an uncle who works largely on peace, but they live in a culture where the activism that receives funding and attention and mainstream acceptance, to the limited extent that any does and of course trailing far behind 5Ks against breast cancer and the sort of activism that lacks real opponents, is activism for the environment. But I think there’s a problem with what I’ve just done and what we usually tend to do, that is, with categorizing people as peace activists or environmental activists or clean elections activists or media reform activists or anti-racism activists. As we came to realize a few years back, we all add up to 99% of the population, but those who are really active are divided, in reality as well as in people’s perceptions.

Peace and environmentalism should, I think, be combined into the single word peacenvironmentalism, because neither movement is likely to succeed without the other. iMatter wants to live as if our future matters. You can’t do that with militarism, with the resources it takes, with the destruction it causes, with the risk that grows greater with each passing day that nuclear weapons will be intentionally or accidentally detonated. If you could really figure out how to nuke another nation while shooting its missiles out of the sky, which of course nobody has figured out, the impact on the atmosphere and climate would severely impact your own nation as well. But that’s a fantasy. In a real world scenario, a nuclear weapon is launched on purpose or by mistake, and many more are quickly launched in every direction. This has in fact nearly happened numerous times, and the fact that we pay almost no attention to it anymore makes it more rather than less likely. I imagine you know what happened 50 miles southeast of here on January 24, 1961? That’s right, the U.S. military accidentally dropped two nuclear bombs and got very lucky they didn’t explode. Nothing to worry about, says comedy news anchor John Oliver, that’s why we have TWO Carolinas.

iMatter advocates for an economic shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and for sustainable jobs. If only there were a couple of trillion dollars a year being wasted on something useless or destructive! And of course there is, worldwide, that unfathomable sum is being spent on preparations for war, half of it by the United States, three quarters of it by the United States and its allies — and much of that last bit on U.S. weapons. For a fraction of it, starvation and disease could be seriously dealt with, and so could climate change. War kills primarily through taking spending away from where it’s needed. For a small fraction of war preparations spending, college could be free here and provided free in some other parts of the world too. Imagine how many more environmental activists we could have if college graduates didn’t owe tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for the human right of an education! How do you pay that back without going to work for the destroyers of the earth?

79% of weapons in the Middle East come from the United States, not counting those belonging to the U.S. military. U.S. weapons were on both sides in Libya three years ago and are on both sides in Syria and Iraq. Weapons making is an unsustainable job if ever I saw one. It drains the economy. The same dollars spent on clean energy or infrastructure or education or even tax cuts for non-billionaires produces more jobs than military spending. Militarism fuels more violence, rather than protecting us. The weapons have to be used up, destroyed, or given to local police who will begin to see local people as enemies, so that new weapons can be made. And this process is, by some measures, the biggest destroyer of the environment we have.

The U.S. military burned through about 340,000 barrels of oil each day, as measured in 2006. If the Pentagon were a country, it would rank 38th out of 196 in oil consumption. If you removed the Pentagon from the total oil consumption by the United States, then the United States would still rank first with nobody else anywhere close. But you would have spared the atmosphere the burning of more oil than most countries consume, and would have spared the planet all the mischief the U.S. military manages to fuel with it. No other institution in the United States consumes remotely as much oil as the military.

Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spends $622 million trying to figure out how to produce power without oil, while the military spends hundreds of billions of dollars burning oil in wars fought and on bases maintained to control the oil supplies. The million dollars spent to keep each soldier in a foreign occupation for a year could create 20 green energy jobs at $50,000 each.

Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. War “rivals infectious disease as a global cause of morbidity and mortality,” according to Jennifer Leaning of Harvard Medical School. Leaning divides war’s environmental impact into four areas: “production and testing of nuclear weapons, aerial and naval bombardment of terrain, dispersal and persistence of land mines and buried ordnance, and use or storage of military despoliants, toxins, and waste.” A 1993 U.S. State Department report called land mines “the most toxic and widespread pollution facing mankind.” Millions of hectares in Europe, North Africa, and Asia are under interdiction. One-third of the land in Libya conceals land mines and unexploded World War II munitions.

The Soviet and U.S. occupations of Afghanistan have destroyed or damaged thousands of villages and sources of water. The Taliban has illegally traded timber to Pakistan, resulting in significant deforestation. U.S. bombs and refugees in need of firewood have added to the damage. Afghanistan’s forests are almost gone. Most of the migratory birds that used to pass through Afghanistan no longer do so. Its air and water have been poisoned with explosives and rocket propellants.

You may not care about politics, the saying goes, but politics cares about you. That goes for war. John Wayne avoided going off to World War II by making movies to glorify other people going. And do you know what happened to him? He made a movie in Utah near a nuclear testing area. Of the 220 people who worked on the film, 91, rather than the 30 that would have been the norm, developed cancer including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell. 

We need a different direction. In Connecticut, Peace Action and many other groups have been involved in successfully persuading the state government to set up a commission to work on converting from weapons to peaceful industries. Labor unions and management support it. Environmental and peace groups are part of it. It’s very much a work in progress. It was likely stimulated by false stories that the military was being slashed. But whether we can make that a reality or not, the environmental need to shift our resources to green energy is going to grow, and there is no reason North Carolina shouldn’t be the second state in the country to do this. You have moral Mondays here. Why not have moral every days of the year?

Major changes look larger before they happen than after. Environmentalism has come on very quickly. The U.S. already had nuclear submarines back when whales were still being used as a source of raw materials, lubricants, and fuels, including in nuclear submarines. Now whales are, almost suddenly, seen as marvelous intelligent creatures to be protected, and the nuclear submarines have begun to look a bit archaic, and the deadly sound pollution that the Navy imposes on the world’s oceans looks a bit barbaric.

iMatter’s lawsuits seek to protect the public trust for future generations. The ability to care about future generations is, in terms of the imagination required, almost identical to the ability to care about foreign people at a distance in space rather than time. If we can think of our community as including those not yet born, who of course we hope far outnumber the rest of us, we can probably think of it as including the 95% of those alive today who don’t happen to be in the United States of America, and vice versa.

But even if environmentalism and peace activism were not a single movement, we’d have to join them and several others together in order to have the sort of Occupy 2.0 coalition we need to effect change. A big chance to do that is coming up around September 21st which is the International Day of Peace and the time when a rally and all sorts of events for the climate will be happening in New York City.

At WorldBeyondWar.org you’ll find all sorts of resources for holding your own event for peace and the environment. You’ll also find a short two-sentence statement in favor of ending all war, a statement that has been signed in the past few months by people in 81 nations and rising. You can sign it on paper here this evening. We need your help, young and old. But we should be especially glad that time and numbers are on the side of the young around the world, to whom I say along with Shelley:

Rise like Lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number,

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you-

Ye are many — they are few.

6 Reasons to Keep the Defense Budget Sequestration Cuts

By Lawrence J. Korb

Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress

April 3, 2012

About Lawrence J. Korb: Lawrence J. Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, served as assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.

Unless Congress acts to repeal sequestration, the core defense budget (exclusive of war costs) for FY 2013 will be “only” $472 billion, about $50 billion less than the Pentagon requested. There are at least six reasons why Congress should not act.

1. First, a budget of $472 billion is more than sufficient to protect our national security. In inflation adjusted or real dollars, this is what we spent in FY 2007, the penultimate year of the Bush administration, when not even defense hawks were complaining about the budget being too low. Additionally, this budget would keep real defense spending above the Cold War average, despite the fact that we then faced an existential threat from Soviet Russia, a real “geopolitical foe.”

2. Second, in real terms, the core defense budget has gone up for an unprecedented 13 straight years. As Dick Armey, the former House leader, has noted, despite their rhetoric, the Pentagon has not yet made any real reductions.

3. Third, if Congress allows sequestration to remain in effect over the next decade, the total reductions in projected levels of defense spending will be $500 billion or 14 percent, much smaller than previous reductions. Dwight Eisenhower reduced defense spending by 27 percent in real terms over eight years, Richard Nixon by 29 percent in six years, and Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton by 35 percent in 11 years.

4. Fourth, reducing defense spending by $500 billion over the next decade will help reduce the federal deficit, which military leaders, like former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, correctly label the greatest threat to our national security.

5. Fifth, sequestration will force the Pentagon’s leaders to make the tough decisions, which even they admit they have not had to make over the past decade. These include: reforming the military retirement, healthcare, and compensation systems, as recommended by their own task forces; canceling or reducing the numbers of unnecessary or underperforming systems like the V-22 and the F-35; and cutting our nuclear arsenal to a realistic level, as recommended by the Air War College’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies.

6. Sixth, and most important, the alarmist claims of those opposed to cuts are bogus. Even with a FY 2007 level budget, the United States will still spend more on defense than the next 17 nations combined, most of whom are our allies, and three times more than the Chinese. We would still have more ships than the next 11 navies in the world combined, more manned and unmanned aircraft than any other nation, and a total ground force (active duty and reserve) of 1.5 million highly-trained people. As Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was forced to admit, even with these cuts the United States will still be a global power.

Shaky Assumptions about Military Spending

 

June 28th 2012

 

Fear can be a great motivator – and a great manipulator. Those who oppose cuts to military funding play on our fears to convince us that any reduction in the defense budget would be a dangerous threat to our national security and to our economy. But is this level of panic justified? An examination of the assumptions that underlie the fears will expose just how shaky those assumptions are.

 

Shaky Assumption 1: The US must control, by force, the air, seas, and land of the entire planet.

Why such overwhelming military power? The US spends more on our military than our next 14 military competitors combined — six times more than China, 13 times more than Russia, and 73 times more than Iran. While we funnel roughly half of our discretionary tax dollars into military programs, China is capturing the market for solar panels. Most countries are fearlessly investing in health care and education for their citizens while the US is pulling funding from those very hallmarks of a great society. The result is that the US now ranks 37th on health indicators and our students rank 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.

 

Shaky Assumption 2: We need high priced weapons systems such as the F-15 and the “advanced multi-role stealth fighter jet” to keep us safe.

Our current “enemies” have no air force and no navy, and it is a stretch to claim that terrorists even have an army. The Rand Corporation, a think-tank allied with U.S. government military and intelligence forces, concluded that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism. Since 1968, only 7% of all terrorist groups were taken down by military force. In contrast, 40% of those groups were defeated through police and intelligence work, and 43% gave up their terrorist tactics as they were integrated into the political process.

 

Shaky Assumption 3: The military is a good jobs program.

According to analysts at the University of MA-Amherst, spending $1 billon on education and mass transit would produce more than twice as many jobs as spending $1 billion on defense. Spending on healthcare and construction for home weatherization and infrastructure would produce about 1-1/2 times as many jobs. The Pentagon spends $1 million/year to field a soldier in Afghanistan. With that same amount, we could hire nearly 30 teachers for a year. Additionally, many jobs learned in the military do not translate to civilian employment so the jobless rate for returning veterans is far higher than for the general population.

 

Shaky Assumption 4: Reducing military industries will hurt our economy. 

Many people are employed by military contractors and in service industries near military bases, but does our economic health depend on this? Military spending has grown by 81% in the last decade, the period of the worst recession since WWII. Clearly, high military spending is not the key to our economic well-being. People employed in weapons industries, making products that kill people and destroy property and ecosystems, could just as well be working in jobs that improve our communities and our quality of life here at home.

 

Shaky Assumption 5: We need the military for innovations such as the microwave oven, the GPS, and the Internet.

The US military has a very large budget to fund research and development, but innovation can, and does, come from anywhere. On June 26, 100 university presidents from across the US sent a letter to President Obama calling for an easier path to permanent resident status for foreign students. Why? Because they found that of the 1,500 patents awarded to the top 10 patent-producing universities in the US, three-quarters had at least one foreign inventor, all-told they represented 88 countries. Rather than triggering that old “fight or flight response “at the mere mention of reducing military spending, let’s develop a new adaptive “stop and think” response. We will survive a reduction in military spending. We could even thrive if we redirected our tax dollars to productive and innovative ways of improving the well-being of our citizens and the world at large.

 

Betsy Crites

Durham, NC

 

War Warnings

Letter to the Editor, by Betsy Crites. Published March 2nd 2012, News & Observer. 

As Afghanistan comes unraveled and U.S. officials scramble to justify 11 years of war, four North Carolina members of Congress signed a letter to President Obama saying it’s time to leave, and sooner is better than later. As The N&O reported, U.S. Reps. Walter Jones, Brad Miller and David Price all spoke to the issue at a Town Hall Meeting on Feb. 20. (The fourth congressman, Howard Coble, was not present.) Jones was especially passionate about questioning the human and economic toll, asking “Where is the outrage?”

At the same meeting Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department official in Afghanistan, who resigned in protest of U.S. policies, said our soldiers are caught in the middle of local feuds that have nothing to do with our security. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the U.S. $1.5 trillion in direct costs and will cost at least that much in ongoing care of wounded vets and war debt, according to Hoh.

Now, some U.S. senators and media are pushing for war in Iran. As Gen. Anthony Zinni said, if you liked Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.

See the original Letter to the Editor here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/03/02/1897373/war-warnings.html#storylink=cpy

 

Bring The War Dollars Home

by Betsy Crites, Herald-Sun guest columnist

24th December 2011

The withdrawal from Iraq is to be celebrated like a migraine that finally subsides. It is what the majority of Americans have long asked for through pollsters and by their election of a president who promised to get us out.

It is what peace advocates have marched and lobbied for since before the invasion began. So, yes, it’s wonderful to have those troops come home.

The sacrifices of our military personnel are to be applauded; they gave their all when asked to serve. Yet, out of respect for them and future vets, we must be honest with ourselves. This was not a “good war.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicolas Burns, who initially supported the invasion of Iraq, writes that “any good from it was far outweighed by the sacrifices of our soldiers and the significant damage to our international credibility.”

We lost 4,484 young American men and women and an estimated 100,000 were wounded. Human rights groups estimate 114,000 Iraqis were killed and several million displaced.

The economic toll, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, was close to $6 trillion not counting the “opportunity costs.”

“If not for the war in Iraq”, he asks, “would oil prices have risen so rapidly? Would the federal debt be so high? Would the economic crisis have been so severe?” His answer is “probably not.”

But at least the war is over now, right? Probably not.

There remain 16,000 “contractors and embassy personnel,” and reinforcements are just across the border in Kuwait. As if to be reassuring, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared: “We still have a robust continuing presence throughout the region.”

Apparently the war has not ended. We’ve just ended a phase, the Iraq war … sort of.

We remain at war in Afghanistan, of course, which also tends to dampen the celebration, especially when one hears officials talk of extending that to 2024.

The war drums are now beating for Iran. And beyond the Middle East, the U.S. is expanding its military presence in the Pacific and Africa.

We are enmeshed in a state of permanent war. Theaters of war open and close, but are not won or lost. They are wars to maintain geopolitical domination and project power. We may not be used to thinking of America in this way, but these are the characteristics of an “empire.”

We all pay for this permanent war, euphemistically called “security.” The complex of “security related programs” consumes 60 percent of the federal discretionary budget. The cost since 2001 to North Carolina taxpayers of the wars alone has been $31.7 billion. Durham City taxpayers share of the wars amount to $794.4 million.

When Congress cuts payments to doctors serving Medicaid and Medicare patients, or raises the age of Social Security, or cuts community block grants, or refuses to fund job generating projects, or declines to invest in clean energy, but protects “security spending,” we are paying for permanent war and, it must be added, tax cuts to the wealthy.

When financially strapped state governments subsequently cut education services, libraries, environmental protection, universities and health services, we are paying the tab for war.

But our nation is not broke; it’s making bad choices. Such decisions to fund wars-without-end cost us our true security, i.e. a sustainable economy, a well-educated citizenry, and energy independence.

In President Eisenhower’s farewell address he issued a warning for us all: “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Fortunately, we have some alert local leaders who are clearly stating that decisions about war spending have local consequences.

The Durham City Council recently passed a resolution calling upon the president and Congress “to bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy and reduce the federal debt.”

Similar resolutions were passed this fall by the Durham County Board of Commissioners and the Durham Board of Education.

Twenty General Assembly officials likewise asked Congress to “redirect tens of billions of dollars from excess military spending and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq toward meeting urgent domestic needs.”

It will take this kind of leadership, plus many citizens challenging the assumptions of empire, if we want to reset our priorities. Bringing the troops home from Iraq gives me hope that in the coming year we may also bring at least some of the war dollars home and restore our communities.
Betsy Crites is director of NC Peace Action.