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

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Crushing COST of WAR!

Dear Friends,

Guess how much the U.S. government spends in a year to send just one soldier to Afghanistan? Thanks to hard working number crunchers at the American Friends Service Committee we have some accurate figures. While you are thinking about it ponder the approximate total number of U.S. soldiers there - 78,430 (AFSC's estimate, although I've seen numbers as high as 100,000). That number doesn't include the number of private contractors (can you say "mercenaries"?) that seem to get a rare mention in the newspaper articles.

O.K. folks. Brace yourselves for this nice, large, round number - $1,000,000! That's right; $1 Million!!! That is the 2010 cost to maintain each soldier in Afghanistan. Now, aside from the moral and ethical implications of our colonial incursion into Afghanistan, if I were the CEO of this company, the shareholders would be at my door like the angry villagers in Mel Brooks movie, Young Frankenstein.

This is insane!

According to the
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) here are just a few positive things our nation could be doing with all that money rather than squandering it on a futile mission (whatever that mission is; can anyone tell me???). Let's do the numbers; $1 Million could provide :
  • Renewable energy for 127,964,602 homes

  • Health care for 588 children

  • Salaries for 17 school teachers

  • Head Start for 132 children

  • School lunch for 1,602 children

  • Health care for 227 adults

  • Four-year Pell grants for 48 college students, or

  • Affordable homes for 9 families

Perhaps you can think of some other peaceful uses for $1 million. And if those statistics don't shake you up a little, don't forget to multiply that $1 million by at least 78,430!!! Of course I wouldn't dream of cutting back on body armour and all the important things our troops need. I'm talking about supporting them in a different way - BRING EM HOME!!!

Despite President Obama's pledge to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011, Pentagon plans are in the works for three $100 million air base expansions in Afghanistan that will ensure that U.S. troops will be entrenched there for years to come.

The House of Representatives has approved the money for these bases, but the Senate still must vote on it. It's time to say STOP!!! No more money for "enduring base" construction. Send your Senators a clear message to reject any such funding.

It is time to stop squandering both our human and financial treasure on senseless wars and start spending it on programs of social uplift, both at home and around the world. Why not start today???



Read Air base expansion plans reflect long-term investment in Afghanistan in the Washington Post.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Peace Fleet Meets War Fleet. Nonviolence IS the (ONLY) Answer!


Yesterday a small flotilla of hearty, seafairing folk gathered to express their displeasure with the arrival in Seattle's Elliott Bay of the U.S. Navy, a yearly ritual at Seattle's Seafair celebration (I personally prefer the arrival of the Seafair pirates over the Navy...Oooh Argh!!!). Longtime peace activist and salty dog Glen Milner calls the gathering a "water-based NONVIOLENT protest against the glorification of weapons of war."

As I gazed at the photos at the Seattle Post Intelligencer's Website I found the juxtaposition of the naval ship bristling with firepower and the two diminuitive protest vessels a powerful metaphor for U.S. projection of power around the globe. The parading of these "men-o-war" in front of the public is essentially a major (and extremely expensive) public relations and recruiting event.

Captioned photos from Seattle PI Website

With approximately "331,682 personnel on active duty and 124,000 in the Navy Reserve", the U.S. Navy has 284 ships in active service and more than 3,700 aircraft (Source: Wikipedia). It was once said that the sun never set on the British Empire, and although that empire has long since waned, the phrase is an apt one for the ever expanding U.S. Empire.

The U.S. has at least 1000 military bases overseas (roughly 700 if one subtracts bases in Iraq and Afghanistan) encircling the globe. Current plans for new (naval) bases include Guam and Jeju Island in South Korea. The globe's military waistline (courtesy of the U.S. military) is ever expanding.

The U.S. Navy brought four vessels to Seafair this year: a newer Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and three older vessels, all three commissioned in 1994 and 1995. Two of the older vessels have likely fired depleted uranium munitions in their 20 mm Phalanx guns, radioactive rounds which the Navy still stocks according to recent inventory reports. Mighty impressive stuff; the kids love it! The folks who live with the aftermath of depleted uranium are not so thrilled.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, one Arleigh Burke destroyer costs approximately $2.2 billion in 2009 dollars. The vessels cost approximately $25 million per year to operate. According to Global Security, there are currently 58 Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers in the U.S. fleet with 4 more ships scheduled for completion. Each Arleigh Burke destroyer is armed with 56 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

But hey - It's only money, right??? Of course it's a whole lot of money. The bottom line is that we are spending far more money on the military than everything else combined. "Military spending's share of discretionary spending was 50.5% in 2003, and has risen steadily ever since." Just think of how this is affecting you, your family, your neighbors and people all over the country of every socio-economic status. Even small shifts in military spending would reap huge benefits to other important domestic needs. Ben Cohen's short Oreo cookie video demonstrates this quite graphically:

President Obama said, during the 2008 presidential race, that, "I don't want to just end the [Iraq] war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place." All rhetoric aside (and his rhetoric is pretty good), the President's actions have essentially reinforced the deeply embedded mindset that there are military solutions to the global problems that we face, and he has continually increased overall military spending, while programs of social uplift have suffered.

Changing the mindset that continues to throw military solutions (which are not really solutions at all, at least from a long term standpoint) at every conflict we face requires huge changes in the way we see the world around us and those with whom we share this small planet. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated this quite well in his concept of a "World House" in which a rather large and dysfunctional family is crowded together into this house that it has inherited. We are "a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace."

So there is our challenge - to learn to live together as brothers and sisters in this house of ours, to unlock the door to a peaceful world for our children. Nonviolence is one of the keys.



Note: Many thanks to Glen Milner for much of the information in this post. Glen has, for many years, put his heart and soul into his work for peace, including the yearly Peace Fleet event at Seafair. Thanks to Karol Milner for the photos in the following slide show.

View all

Read Dr. King's essay, The World House by clicking here.

See photos of the Peace Fleet and U.S. Navy's arrival at Seafair at the Seattle PI.