Yesterday was the first day of spring. After a cold, wet winter, we are beginning to enjoy temperatures in the 70’s. I wore shorts to work Friday for the first time since last year. What we took for granted during our eight years in the tropics – sparse wardrobe, open windows and lettuce – have become a seasonal delight.
Our neighbor’s yards are abloom with daffodils and the mocking birds start yodeling at dawn. Bob is starting tomatoes and peppers under lights in the back bedroom and has planted carrots and peas in the garden, with onions and potatoes going in next week. I’m having a high time pruning back the pampas grass and washing windows. Our CSA boxes are overflowing with arugula, carrots, turnips, spinach, chard and lettuce.
Ironically, yesterday was also the seventh anniversary of the day the United States invaded Iraq.
During the past seven years our country has spent about $700 billion dollars in Iraq destroying infrastructure and killing people. In addition to wounding hundreds of thousands of people, we name among the dead over 4,000 American soldiers, 9,000 Iraqi soldiers and an estimated 100,000 civilians. And that’s just in Iraq.
Nearly 100,000 American troops remain on the ground in Iraq, with another 68,000 in Afghanistan. And President Obama is sending another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan this spring in hopes of winning the war there. A war that has raged for over 8 years, killed over 7,000, wounded more than 11,000 and cost $740, billion. A war that is logistically un-winnable.
At least one person in Congress is actively pushing to put an end to these wars. Congressman Dennis Kucinch believes we need to replace the Department of War with a Department of Peace. Kucinch recently pointed out that according to our Constitution, Congress, not the president, should be deciding when we go to war and when we stop. He is at the front of an effort to encourage Congress to vote on whether to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan. He also points out that squandering tax dollars on the war in Afghanistan is something we cannot afford to do.
Afghanistan Debate Begins in U.S. House Early This Afternoon – March 10, 2010
“And it should also be of interest to people that we can’t afford this war. When you consider the fact that you have 47 million Americans who don’t have any health care, they don’t have it because they can’t afford the premiums. You have 15 million Americans out of work. You have another 10 million Americans, at least, who could be losing their homes this year due to foreclosure. You would think that we have other priorities. You would think that it would be time for us to focus on things here at home.” – Dennis Kucinich
With so many reasons for us to bring our soldiers home, it seems like a no-brainer. That is, until we consider the real reason why we’ve continually been at war since 1945.
After World War II, it was decided that we needed to create an industry dedicated to manufacturing armaments and machines for defense and the Military Industrial Complex was born.
In his farewell speech to the nation, January 17, 1961, president Eisenhower described the transformation and cautioned the American public that abuse of the new system was a possibility. In other words, we might simply keep ourselves at war in order to keep the industry alive.
“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United State corporations.”
“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.” – Dwight D Eisenhower
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
What Eisenhower warned could happen came to pass. The U.S. now has a complex which keeps our defense budget in the hundreds of billions compared to other countries with budgets in the billions or at most, fifty billion. In fact, if you look at the defense budgets of all other countries and sort them by amount, it takes the top twenty countries budgets to add up ours.
The military-industrial complex, on an annual basis, accounts for 47% of the world’s total arms expenditures. We not only fuel our own wars, we provision the rest of the world for wars and conflicts of their own.
It’s been a long winter of destruction indeed, and many of us are itching to see it end. I’d like to see the makers of swords get busy making plowshares. I’m ready for spring and I’m ready for peace.