"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bake Sales for Bombers


Here in King County, Washington, people have been wringing their hands over the county's consideration of a plan to eliminate ALL County general funds for human services in 2010 in order to balance their budget? Hey, you have to cut somewhere, right???

While we hold bake sales and phoneathons, and plead with our elected officials to fund everything from education to critical, keep-individuals-and-families-from-falling-off-the-edge, social programs, the floodgates are wide open as our tax dollars stream out in a torrent to those responsible for making war.

War is BIG business. In fact, if the budget of the United States is any indicator, war is the BIGGEST business (see earlier blog posts on Military Spending) of all! As the nation sinks deeper into what President Obama recently called "a war of necessity," the Pentagon is calling for more troops, more drones (and just about every other kind of hardware and software), and lest I forget - CONTRACTORS!!! Do you remember when private contractors outnumbered (and probably still do) U.S. Military personnel in Iraq? According to a new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, "As of March 2009, there were 68,197 DOD contractors in Afghanistan,compared to 52,300 uniformed personnel. Contractors made up 57% of DOD’s workforce in Afghanistan. This apparently represented the highest recorded percentage of contractors used by DOD in any conflict in the history of the United States."

Besides allowing the Pentagon to massage its numbers relating to how many personnel they are sending to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the CRS report also said that, "abuses and crimes committed by armed private security contractors and interrogators against local nationals may have undermined U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan." In a broader context, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace also stated that, "The mere presence of foreign soldiers fighting a war in Afghanistan is probably the single most important factor in the resurgence of the Taliban." There just isn't the same oversight on the scores of private contractors engaged in everything from intelligence to security. It's a veritable three ring circus, and it's also a potential gold mine for private contractors.

We are NOT going to change the fundamental rules of the game any time soon, but we can speak out loudly to end the occupation of Afghanistan that is only killing U.S. troops and Afghans, but also creating more and more animosity towards the U.S. through the endless violence and death.

We can start by urging our Representatives to support an exit strategy for Afghanistan. Send an email through Friends Committee on National Legislation supporting H.R. 2404.

Get engaged with the issue through one of the many organizations doing something to stop the madness, from CodePink to Just Foreign Policy. But don't delay; NOW is the time for ACTION for PEACE.

It's time for the government to fork over the money for essential programs of social uplift, and hold bake sales if it wants to fund war.



Congressional Research Service, "Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis," August 13, 2009: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R40764.pdf. Thanks to Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy for making this report public.

Read Focus and Exit: An Alternative Strategy for the Afghan War, a policy brief published January 2009, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Additional Reading:

Note: Image found at http://mamajustice.blogspot.com/.

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