ACCORDING TO LIZ - On this, the International Day of Peace, Americans need to assess where we and our government have gone so wrong.
Upon Stalin’s death in 1953, President Eisenhower famously said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed...This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron…”
Since then, tens of thousands of Americans have died fighting where they were not wanted. In Korea and Vietnam, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in places little known, or unmentioned due to Black Ops security protocols.
Today’s military-industrial complex is in the driver’s seat of the American economy, and every attempt to contain its cancerous spread is countered by millions in lobbyist payouts and met by accusations of un-Americanism.
Is it un-American to spend more on peace and prosperity than on war and destruction? Is it un-American to build up our country and its people rather than tear families apart at home?
Is it un-American to murder unseen millions in countries where Americans are not wanted and our presence just escalates terrorism when our million-dollar drones devastate peasant communities halfway around the world?
Are dictators worldwide really conniving to attack the US based on whether the Pentagon’s budget is $750 billion or $858 billion or $1.1 trillion? This is beyond comprehension.
Safety for our citizens depends on developing friendships and building alliances everywhere. With a clear strategy and a commitment to carry it out, not on how many dollars one can waste on a bloated and dystopian military bureaucracy.
For 2023, out of a $1.8 trillion federal discretionary budget, $1.1 trillion — or 62 percent— was allocated for militarized programs, including war and weapons, law enforcement and mass incarceration, and detention and deportation.
Far more than what is spent on substance abuse and mental health programs despite deaths due to the opioid crisis.
Far more than what is spent for child care and early childhood education programs.
What was left has to cover everything else: education, health and human safety, housing, child care, disaster relief, environmental programs, scientific research, oversight of corporate excesses and much, much more.
Of the militarized spending, $920 billion went to weapons, war and the Pentagon bureaucracy, while billions more was showered on ICE and the Border Patrol for deportations, family separations, violent apprehension and murder along the southern border in the name of Homeland (in)Security.
For the past 22 years, for every tax dollar invested in our communities and services for people in our communities, twice that has gone to feed the military machine.
And over half of those Pentagon payouts go to private weapons firms with very mixed results in quality of equipment and timeliness of delivery. And never at a reasonable price.
Military contracts for 2023 enrich the top five arms contractors to the tune of $200 billion, sucking up almost 25% of the Pentagon allocated budget. Does this money go to defend our country? Or to alienating large swathes of the world?
And on paying weapons-makers’ CEOs tens of millions in salaries and benefits, and billions on stock buybacks to boost their companies’ share prices.
A measly $56 billion was allocated to international affairs, diplomacy, and humanitarian foreign aid.
But through the latter, the United States has its last best opportunity to reverse its failing foreign policies, its last best hope to win over the hearts and minds of people around the world and put humanity on a path to peace.
This approach would also resolve the immigration crisis: if the United States helps improve the lives they live in their home countries, there will be no incentive to crash our party.
In 2021, the Congressional Budget Office outlined three limited options that would save over $1 trillion in Pentagon spending over the next ten years without damaging our defense capabilities. Money that could and should be redirected toward pressing domestic needs, from healthcare to housing, from improving education to reducing global warming.
All three options involved cutting back on American aggression simply by putting the size of the armed forces on a strict diet, avoiding more Iraqs and Afghanistans, and working together with our allies.
We must scrap the existing National Defense Strategy and its architects which serves solely to escalate American aggression and enrich the armament industry. The United States does NOT need to be able to win an offensive war against Russia or China AND defeat Iran or North Korea in a regional conflict AND sustain a losing war on terrorism with military operations in over 85 countries.
As the Biden administration reportedly moves to send longer-range missiles armed with internationally banned cluster-bombs to Ukraine, there are renewed calls for the U.S. to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions and destroy its stockpiles of these civilian-maiming weapons.
We need to roll back the testosterone excesses of President, Pentagon and Congress.
At this month’s biennial Defense and Security Equipment International (DSEI) conference in London, everything from long-range missiles to gold-plated pistols were for sale to anyone including known human rights violators and murdering mercenary leaders allowing American purveyors of death to reap record profits.
As a defense executive said, “War is good for business.”
To change, to move towards peace, countries, especially the United States, must take the profit motive out of waging war.
The People’s House must demand oversight, accountability and transparency of all military spending, end price gouging, sweetheart deals, evict all of the endless consultants and lobbyists flitting between the Pentagon, military contractors and Congress. Spend smart and change the bloat of the DC swamp into the lean, mean fighting machine of legend.
Starting with the U.S. leaving other countries affairs to their people and stop being the world’s bully, always willing to wade in, guns-a-blazin’ when the backroom price is right.
In the words of Leonard Peltier, we want our government to “exchange their policy of injustice to a policy of justice.” To make the world well. To allow all those inhabiting it to live well.
Beat the Pentagon sword into plowshares, put its skills to work by spreading the largesse across the country on agricultural and educational improvements, on health and technology. Let the jobs doled out to every state and district be to fight the war on poverty, to overthrow climate change.
Congress failed to fully do its constitutional due diligence before loosing the dogs of war after 9/11. May it seize the opportunity in the weeks ahead to pursue a lasting peace in Ukraine.
And may our government show its support for World Peace Day by forever ending endless wars. With both House and Senate repealing the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq during the same legislative session, and by the President signing it into law.
And for the United States to become a world leader on the path to permanent peace.
(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)