The high cost of war

July 28, 2011

I received the following email from former Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson about a week ago, and think it important enough to share with you. Our news media keep us distracted with non-news; smoke and mirrors. The bogeyman which confronts us isn’t taxes, the high price of gasoline, or child murderers, etc., as horrific as these are, but rather the high cost of constant war. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya consume nearly 50% of the United States budget, and enrich the few at the expense of the many. These wars are directly responsible for millions of Americans being out of work, and for the middle-class erosion that continues. Following is the text of Alan Grayson’s letter:

There are 23 million Americans who can’t find full-time work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are 50 million Americans who can’t see a doctor when they are sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

There are more than 15 million American families who owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth, according to Zillow.  That’s almost a third of all the families who own homes.

If I were in Congress right now, these are the problems that I would be trying to solve.

But instead, we see a bizarre preoccupation—no, really, an obsession—with cutting federal benefits.  Some kind of weird contest to see who can inflict the most pain on the American people.  With the proponent of each new sadistic plan announcing proudly, “mine is bigger than yours.”

I’ll be honest—the federal deficit for the year 2021 is not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about, these days.  But let’s assume—arguendo, as they used to say back in Ancient Rome – that for some reason, there were some compelling, emergency need to work out how to cut $2 trillion from projected federal budget deficits over the next ten years.

I have an idea about how to do that.  It’s a very simple idea.  In fact, I can sum it up in one word, with five letters:

PEACE.

 

Now, I know that peace may not be as popular as it used to be.  The polling is very iffy.  The focus groups are mixed.  But let’s look at the facts.

Last year, we spent $154 billion in appropriated funds on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That is in addition to the $549 billion in appropriated funds for the Pentagon – you know, just to keep the lights on.  And the non-appropriated cost of war was even higher – especially when you include the cost of care for the 15% of all the American troops in Iraq who come home with permanent brain abnormalities.  According to Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, the war in Iraq alone is costing us $4 trillion and counting. That’s more than $13,000 for every one of us, and roughly 8% of our entire net worth as a nation.

The cost of war is enormous.  So enormous that, as I pointed out in H.R. 5353, The War is Making You Poor Act, if we simply funded that cost through the Pentagon’s own budget, rather than through supplemental appropriations, we could eliminate taxes on everyone’s first $35,000 of income ($70,000 for married couples), and still reduce the deficit by more than $10 billion a year.

And that was last year.  Since then, the number of wars has gone up by 50%.

This is what Pat Buchanan—of all people, Pat Buchanan—said two weeks ago:

“The United States is strategically over-extended, worldwide. What are we doing borrowing money from Japan to defend Japan. Borrow money from Europe to defend Europe. Borrow money from the Persian Gulf to defend the Persian Gulf. This country is over-extended. It is an empire and the empire is coming down.”

You say that you want to save $2 trillion in ten years?  It’s simple:  end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and end whatever it is that they are calling it now in Libya.  I’d rather do that than throw Granny from the train.

But that’s just me. 

Guns or butter.  It’s not a new choice.

I prefer butter.

What about you?

Courage,

Alan Grayson


Vernal Equinox (Spring is here!)

March 21, 2010

The ecliptic path at vernal equinox

Yesterday, at 1:32 p.m., spring arrived in the northern hemisphere, and fall began in the southern. The vernal (spring) equinox marks the time each year when daylight and darkness are exactly equal (in the northern hemisphere; this date marks the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere.

I was privileged to attend the United Nations Earth Day ceremony and the ringing of the peace bell in the rose garden, where I heard the wonderful Tarumi Violinists, directed by Yukako Tarumi, and many interesting speakers on the environment. Among the speakers were Helen Garland, chairperson of the Earth Society Foundation, co-founded with John McConnell and supported by noted anthropologist Margaret Mead; Simon Reeves from New Zealand; Vahan Galoumian, Project Coordinator of UNESCO‘s liason office in New York, and Andres Gomez of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation of Natural History at the American Museum of Natural History.

John McConnell's Earth Flag

We are losing habitat and biodiversity at an alarming rate; 40% of the Amazon rainforest will be lost by 2030 if deforestation continues at present rates; soil and fisheries depletion are accelerating, and 30,000 people per day are dying from lack of access to clean water. These are severe problems that need solutions, and I thank all of yesterday’s speakers for their dedication to these issues.

Yet too often, the multinational corporations and the men and women who run them are portrayed as arch-villains; I find this disturbing for many reasons, chief among them that these men and women are people just like you and me, and no man or woman is my enemy. For better or for worse, these corporations are here to stay, and we need to enlist them as partners to move forward; the way to peace can only be through peace. As Jurrian Kamp, editor-in-chief of Ode magazine states in his article We need to end climate anger: “…environmentalists… need to embrace all the people they fear stand in the way of the progress the planet needs: the politicians and industrial leaders.”

To be sure, corporations must practice corporate responsibility and become good planetary citizens, and their track record on this has been dismal, yet demonizing these corporations and the men and women who run them is the most ineffective means at our disposal of enlisting their cooperation—and we need their cooperation and access to their vast resources if we are to find solutions to the problems we face. We are all in this together.

The above views are my own, and do not necessarily represent the Woodstock Council for World Peace.


Establishing a Department of Peace

March 16, 2010

Change.org announced today the top ten ideas for change in America, and I’m pleased to see that “Establish a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding” is number five, though I’d be more pleased if it were number one (that honor was dubiously given to legalizing the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana; I’d say that peace and love are more important).

Please read my earlier post on a Department of Peace, and write your senators and congresspeople asking that this be made a reality. The world can no longer afford wars; they have become economically unsustainable—our energies are better focused on ensuring access to clean water, and on providing food, housing, health care, and education for all of humanity. Let’s make it happen!


Vote for Peace

February 21, 2010

Click here to register your vote to establish a U.S. Department of Peace, and send your message to Congress here. The bill to establish a Department of Peace is now before the House of Representatives, and, among other things, would provide funding to establish a U.S. Peace Academy which would act as a counterpart to the U.S. Military Academy, teach violence prevention and mediation to America’s school children, and provide complimentary support to our military by engaging in parallel peace-building activities.

The Woodstock Council for World Peace has already sent a letter of support for the Department of Peace to Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who first introduced this bill in July 2001, shortly before the attacks of 9/11. Unfortunately, our country’s reaction to those attacks, and George W. Bush’s mistaken policy of GWOT (Global War on Terror) has allowed this bill to languish. Make your voices heard, and tell Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and your representatives that you want the United States Department of Peace to become a reality.

We are living in a world that is witnessing the threats of habitat and biodiversity loss, fisheries depletion, global economic stress and world hunger; in such a world, war is unsustainable.

The above views are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of The Woodstock Council for World Peace.


Pictures from Haiti

February 21, 2010

Here are pictures from Jacques Josue Logiste Julie who is working with Pierre Leroy of the Haitian People’s Support Project. The pictures are apparently from Santo Domingo, of supplies being sent to Port-au-Prince to aid the earthquake victims (my Spanish and French are poor, but that’s what my meager translation skills tell me).



The invisible war

January 31, 2010

Photo from Stop Conflict: DR Congo—stopconflict.wordpress.com

Nicholas D. Kristof’s column today concerns the continuing war in the Congo, which, he points out, has claimed 30 times more lives than the Haitian disaster, and is the most devastating conflict the world has seen since World War II. The war has claimed more than 5.4 million lives to date, with no end in sight.

Mr. Kristof notes the pathetic international response to this tragedy, and I thank him for his continuing dedication to the causes of peace and justice. The unspeakable atrocities being committed in the Congo must be stopped; please write your representatives asking that they devote resources to putting an end to this.

You might also write to media outlets, expressing outrage at the lack of media coverage.

Disclaimer: The above views are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Woodstock Council for World Peace.


State of the Union address at Harmony

January 27, 2010

Tomorrow night, Wednesday, January, 27, 2009, which is normally open mic night at Harmony, will be devoted to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, hosted by Father Jack Nelson, and posted on Organizing for America by Elaine Maggiore, who is working hard for the Woodstock Council for World Peace, and whose daughter, Christina Valentine, has represented the Council in Conversano, Italy (Woodstock and Conversano are now sister cities, largely due to the Council’s, and Christina’s efforts), and who is now in Buenos Aires, Argentina, spreading our message of love and peace.

President Barack Obama

So please come out to Harmony, 52 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock, NY, and participate in our American democracy; help us rebuild our community spirit, which is so desperately needed, especially in these troubled times. There’s sure to be much lively discussion after our president’s speech, so this is an event you won’t want to miss. Thanks again to Elaine Maggiore, and to Father Jack Nelson for making this event possible. We’ll post the events at Harmony for Thursday, Friday and Saturday tomorrow; and don’t forget, the Woodstock Council for World Peace meets at Harmony every Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

Disclaimer: The above views do not necessarily represent the views of the Woodstock Council for World Peace.