At our recent Peacemaker Dinner on May 16th 2013, Matt Hoh explained how the U.S. alliance with the Karzai government has in effect undermined its own mission in Afghanistan. Listen to the video and learn the meaning of the military’s acronym VICE and why the Taliban is stronger than ever.
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.
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
The Town Hall Meeting in Raleigh, February 20th, brought together 150 peace advocates to send the message for a need to reorder our priorities. We need to “Bring Our War Dollars Home and Restore Our Communities.“
The keynote speaker was Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Dept. official who resigned his post in Afghanistan in protest of US policies. He encouraged people to advocate for hearings for Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, the recent whistle blower on Afghanistan. See theNY Times brief and a link to the full report. Also view the video interview with PBS Newshour.
Mr. Hoh also quoted the World Economic Forum, which ranks the US 52nd in the world for math and science education. Even if you believe we need a strong military, he said, “you can’t have kids steering air craft carriers who don’t know math and science”. Read more about this in The Independent articleabout the event.
Hear more from Matthew Hoh on Frank Stacio’s “The State of Things”, airing on WUNC radio Thursday Feb 23rd, 9:00 and 12:00.
Three North Carolina Congressmen were present, Walter Jones (Dist 3), Brad Miller (Dist 13), and David Price (Dist 4). Each presented their views on the theme to “Bring Our War Dollars Home, Restore Our Communities.”
The three US Representatives were applauded for uniting around the message to move up the timetable for withdrawal of combat troops form Afghanistan to the end of 2013. See N&O article on the event and this issue.
Along with 84 others, including NC Rep. Howard Coble, they all signed a letter to the President, stating in part:
“The United States intervened in Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda’s safe haven, remove the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursue those who planned the September 11th attacks on the United States; those objectives have largely been met and no longer require a large presence of combat troops in Afghanistan.”
State Representative Paul Luebke introduced the event. He spoke about how the Triangle cannot afford a regional mass transportation system. We finally had to pass a ½ cent sales tax increase to try to develop a fund for the system. Meanwhile we send away billions of dollars a year to be used for war making. Also participating as moderator of the press conference was State Senator, Ellie Kinnaird.
Several speakers from the audience talked about the hardships they face or the people they work with are facing. In an economic downturn, with so many people without work, how can we afford to continue funding a military bigger than the next 14 countries combined? (Even if we could afford it, is it wise?)
Rev. Nancy Petty, Senior Pastor of Pullen Baptist Church, closed the event encouraging the audience to make peace not war and be foolish enough to think that we can make a difference.
We extend our gratitude to the Congressmen, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, Rep. Paul Luebke, and Matthew Hoh for their presentations and leadership and to all who attended, participated, and helped with organizing.
Please continue to be involved through our “Cost of War” groups. We need people to write letters to the editor, call Congress, plan educational events, fund-raise, and strategize. The next step of the campaign will be called “Peace Voter”. We will send a questionnaire to all candidates about these issues. Contact Betsy Crites at (919) 381-5969.
Bring The War Dollars Home: Restore Our Communities
Town Hall Meeting
Raleigh, Legislative Buidling
February 20th, 2012
As much as I would like to believe our officials’ statements about progress in our 10 year war in Afghanistan, there are three issues I find troubling.
The first has to do with reports that 25% of Afghan soldier and police trainees desert their forces after they have received their enrollment bonus, training and weapons. According to this desertion rate, we are guaranteed an ever growing number of insurgents against whom our soldiers are deployed.
The second issue is the bribes we pay to the Taliban for safe passage for our supply convoys through territory under Taliban control. These bribes are reported to be the largest source of income to the Taliban, and again, would seem to guarantee continued financial support for our supposed enemies.
Finally, the very idea of the USA transplanting democracy in Afghanistan ignores the obvious fact reported by journalists across the political spectrum that our own democracy is broken. If Washington DC is a mess of corruption unresponsive to the wishes of citizens, how could we possibly achieve effective democracy in Kabul?
It seems to me that ten years of this sort of “progress” is quite enough. Let’s bring our soldiers home from Afghanistan. Bring the war dollars home to fund our communities, for real security. It is time to end this lunacy.