Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

David Swanson

David Swanson is a longtime peace and justice activist and author of 'War Is a Lie'

March 18th, 2012 12:26 PM

No Justice Without Peace

Remarks at Left Forum

Last night in New York City, by my unscientific estimate, two-thirds of the people on the streets had alcohol in them.  A young man celebrating his wedding engagement was stabbed to death.  A party a third floor apartment to collapse into the second floor.  And the NYPD was busy beating the only sober people in town, the nonviolent activists at Occupy Wall Street.  When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the Louisiana National Guard was busy killing people in Iraq.  We've done something worse than get our priorities wrong when we've moved resources to harming people rather than helping people.

The Military Industrial Complex is a banker bailout every year.  It's over a trillion dollars a year through various departments and as much as all other nations' militaries combined.  It's over half of federal discretionary spending every year.  And that's not counting the sales to foreign democracies and dictatorships that make the United States the top weapons supplier to the globe and allow our military the odd distinction of fighting most of its wars against weapons produced in the Homeland formerly known as our own country.  But it IS counting the weapons we give to other countries. Yesterday even the Washington Post said we should stop arming Egypt.  It made no mention of Israel.  And it IS counting the transformation of our local police forces into mini-militaries.  With due respect to Mayor Bloomberg the NYPD is not the seventh largest military in the world, but it thinks it is.  And we don't get the trillion dollars a year back.  In fact, we borrow it and pay interest on it, hollowing out our economy, creating a giant trade deficit with China, keeping interest rates super low, and periodically crashing Wall Street and bailing it out.  And when we have big wars we borrow and spend more money on top of the standard budget.  The trillion dollars is to make us ready in case we have a war, but then the war costs are extra. 

And the money, for the war preparation and for the wars, goes in large part to a department free from effective oversight, a department that routinely misplaces, loses, or otherwise cannot explain the location of piles of cash larger than what we spend on most other functions of government.  Whatever you think of the recent bombing of Libya, the key fact is not that the President never got Congressional approval but that he didn't need to, financially speaking.  The cost of bombing Libya was covered by spare change lying around in a drawer at the Pentagon.  And when the Pentagon spends money, it spends a growing share of it on so-called private corporations through contracts that are increasingly awarded without any pretense of competition whatsoever.  And the war profiteers, the 1% of the 1% rake in that loot, but turn around and feed a little pinch of it (it doesn't take much) to congress members and presidents by funding their campaigns (this is, in large part, who paid for all the TV ads that Marcy Kaptur could afford and Dennis Kucinich could not).  And then the profiteers do something else; they build their weapons in little pieces in as many separate congressional districts as possible before assembling them in yet another district.  And our misrepresentatives in Washington defend those weapons, even the ones that won't kill anybody, even the ones designed for 19th century wars, as jobs programs.  A Bloomberg News columnist named Amity Shlaes goes so far as to claim that U.S. troops based in over 150 other countries are there as economic aid, and withdrawing them would hurt foreign economies because soldiers buy stuff. 

But of course they also kill stuff.  Their job is murder, and whether they give the corpses proper Muslim sea burials or urinate on them, the problem is that they're producing corpses.  Other forms of economic aid don't do that.  Other forms of government spending, in fact every other form of government spending, on green energy, on infrastructure, on education, even tax cuts for non-billionaires, produces more jobs than military spending.  Military spending is worse than nothing economically.  It ought to be the chief target of anyone opposed to poverty, wealth concentration, or economic instability.  Yet how many labor unions or child-advocacy groups are taking on the war machine? Military spending also takes money that could have been spent on schools, health, transportation, housing, environmental catastrophe avoidance, and a social safety net and blows it on bombs, drones, aircraft carriers, and billionaires.  It is not a series of coincidences that other wealthy nations lacking our level of military spending have a fairer distribution of wealth and have better schools, more sustainable energy systems, and longer life expectancies.  Even if you believe the Pentagon is saving your life, it is indisputably shortening it.  Military spending should be the top target of anyone who thinks free college would be an improvement over college at the cost of debt slavery. 

And, as Eisenhower warned 51 years ago, investment in planning for war does not prevent war, but rather builds momentum in war's favor.  And with the wars, we lose our civil liberties.  The ACLU is upset that Obama believes he can legally murder anyone anywhere.  But the ACLU is not prepared to address military spending.  Military spending should be the top target of anyone who'd like to see habeas corpus or the Bill of Rights restored or expanded.  And unlike government spending on mass transit or windmills, military spending destroys our natural environment.  The U.S. military is our top consumer of petroleum and itself consumes a large share of the oil it fights its wars over.  Our country is pockmarked with military superfund sites.  The first question every mother giving birth in Fallujah asks the doctor is "Is it normal?"  And if those pushing for a crisis with Iran manage to get the Straight of Hormuz mined, the Pentagon has plans to send through dolphins.  Military spending ought to be the top target of those who want to maintain a habitable ecosystem.  But it isn't, is it?  Have you ever heard of the Sierra Club opposing a war?  While fewer U.S. citizens die in war, huge numbers of Iraqis, Afghans, and others lose their lives or see their lives and homes ruined.  Refugee crises are a result of war.  Military spending ought to be the top target of those opposed to murder.  We haven't eliminated slavery or rape from the world, but we don't invest our children's unearned pay in promoting them on a massive scale.  Why should war be different?  Our own government's experts know that our wars make us less safe, that if they do not destroy our natural environment they will produce deadly blowback of another form.  And as nuclear weapons proliferate, the possibilities for accidental or deliberate Armageddon increase exponentially. 

But here's the good news.  If everybody whose dreams and goals are being derailed by out of control military spending were to join together to nonviolently oppose it, it wouldn't have a chance.  And that mobilization has begun as part of the Occupy movement.  The defunding of the military has not, however, yet begun in any serious way.  Cuts made thus far have been either cuts to future dream budgets or cuts to one department that shuffle money to another.  The cuts mandated by the failure of the Super Committee would be actual if minimal cuts, but there is a push coming from both Congress and the White House to undo them for the military and increase them for everything else. 

What keeps this madness humming along and makes wars so hard to end once begun is a pack of twisted logic, fantasies about humanitarian war, and perverse partisanship that opposes wars selectively depending on who is president.  In a spirit of sociopathic illness I've drafted a list of 10 reasons why the United States keeps troops in Afghanistan, and I'll close with these 10 reasons.  And here's a warning: If you don't like sarcasm, I'm really really sorry about that.

1. When you're setting a record for the longest modern war, cutting it short just increases the chances of somebody breaking your record some day.

2. When Newt Gingrich and Cal Thomas and Donald Trump turn against a war, keeping it going will really confuse Republicans.

3. If we pull U.S. troops out after they have shot children from helicopters, kicked in doors at night, waved Nazi flags, urinated on corpses, massacred villages, and burned Korans it will look like we're sorry they did those things.

4. U.S. tax dollars have been funding our troops, and through payments for safe passage on roads have also been the top source of income for the Taliban.  Unilaterally withdrawing that funding from both sides of a war at the same time would be unprecedented and could devastate the booming Afghan economy.

5. The government we've installed in Afghanistan is making progress on its torture program and drug running and now supports wife beating.  But it has not yet mandated invasive ultrasounds.  We cannot leave with a job half-finished.

6. We have an enormous prison full of prisoners in Afghanistan, and closing it down would distract us from our essential concentration on pretending to close Guantanamo.

7. Unless we keep "winning" in Afghanistan it will be very hard to generate enthusiasm for our wars in Syria and Iran.  And with suicide the top killer of our troops, we cannot allow our men and women to be killing themselves in vain.

8. If we ended the war that created the 2001 authorization to use military force, how would we justify our special forces operations in over 100 other countries, the elimination of habeas corpus, or the legalization of murdering U.S. citizens?  Besides, if we stay a few more years we might find an al Qaeda member.

9. A few hundred billion dollars a year is a small price to pay for weapons bases, a gas pipeline, huge profits for generous campaign funders, and a perfect testing ground for weapons that will be absolutely essential in our next pointless war.

10. Terror hasn't conceded defeat yet.

Creative Commons License This content is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

If you have a moment today, I hope you can read the obituary for my father Francis (Frank) Moore, who died this past Saturday at the age of 92: Francis...

Apr 22nd
6:33 PM
Read More

My father, Francis (Frank) Moore, passed away this morning a few months shy if his 93rd birthday. He was a great dad I am blessed to have had him in my life. I...

Apr 20th
2:58 AM
Read More

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law Donna Smith Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? Donna Smith We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa Nick Turse Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch Donna Smith The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles