Promoting international peace
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Local Veterans For Peace Members Speak Out Against New Obscene Military Spending Level
The Cedar Rapids Gazette, April 7, 2019
Have we become a welfare state for the military-industrial complex? Last August, Congress passed the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with overwhelming bipartisan support. It authorized a whopping $717 billion in military expenditures, a $98 billion increase over the 2017 NDAA.
Only 10 U.S. senators voted against this bill, and neither of Iowa's two senators was among the 10.
Why is this important?
First, and most easily understood, is that the fiscal 2019 military budget translates into about $2,200 per person in the United States. Of course, that is not proportionally reflected in the taxes that we pay. This gargantuan expenditure is funded mostly by new federal debt.
The deficit for fiscal 2018 was $782 billion, and is projected to be $900 billion or more in fiscal 2019. So, we will let our grandchildren carry that burden.
Second, with funding for the military consuming 58 percent of total federal discretionary spending, all other programs are suffocated. For example, military funding is 81.5 times more than the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Funding for transportation, mental health, food safety, education, and many other programs are cut, while the Pentagon goes unaudited and military contractors get rich. Many generals, when they retire, go to work for military contractors or consultants and get richer.
Third, the only possible legal and moral justification for our huge military establishment would be that it is defending our country from enemies outside our borders. However, we have not fought a war of defense since World War II. In the past 18 years we have spent $6 trillion on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and numerous other conflicts. All of those were wars of intervention in the affairs of other countries, where the safety of this country was not under threat. Rather than a defender of freedom, the United States has become the bully of the world. That is immoral and un-American.
All of the above is history. We can't undo unnecessary wars, we can't get the $6 trillion back, and we can't take back the $717 billion military budget for fiscal 2019. So, what shall we do about the Trump administration's proposal for a $750 billion military budget for fiscal 2020?
First of all, we must become informed. As Thomas Jefferson said, "an informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy." Next, we ought to become angry — very angry — and we must focus our anger on change rather than let it fester.
We in Iowa have the unique opportunity to influence whether our country takes the direction of peace or war. Presidential candidates are streaming through Iowa, and each should be confronted with the hard questions we have raised here. With only a couple exceptions, they will avoid the issue, unless pressed.
In addition, each of our two senators in Washington, D.C., has a powerful voice and unique background in military waste. We must tell them that now is the time to rein in military spending and to begin encouraging peaceful solutions.
We have become a welfare state for the military-industrial complex. We must not silently entrust our financial and moral capital to the tools of war, and we must not ignore our better angels' calls for personal and societal investment in peace.
— David Hempel, John Christenson, John Jadryev, Joe Michaud and Ed Flaherty, all of Iowa City, are members of Veterans For Peace, Chapters 161 and 169.
Lend a Hand for Peace!
New hours: 4 to 5:30 pm
at the intersection of
Iowa Avenue and Clinton Street
on the University of Iowa Pentacrest
Are you ready to show up for peace? Join us for an hour, or even just a few minutes, to voice your support for peace. We citizens must stand as a reminder that the military option is an unacceptable option. Maybe if we're serious about peace with North Korea, we could start the new year by declaring an end to the Korean War. Come with your friends, your family, your neighbors, or just yourself — all are welcome.
2018 Year in Review
AREA RESIDENTS MARK 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF TRAGIC, MISGUIDED IRAQ WAR
Iowa City, Iowa — Area residents will mark the 15th anniversary of the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq with a vigil from 5:30 to 6:00 pm on Monday, March 19 at the intersection of Clinton Street and Iowa Avenue on the University of Iowa Pentacrest. Scott Roser, a veteran of the Iraq War and other armed services veterans will speak, and the names of some of the 4497 US soldiers (including 51 Iowans) and 160,000-400,000 Iraqi civilians killed in the war will be read. The vigil is sponsored by Veterans for Peace Chapter #161 and PEACE Iowa.
Hundreds of Iowa Citians lined Clinton Street on March 17, 2003 in a last-ditch effort to prevent the Iraq War. At the same time, a Peace Camp in front of the University of Iowa's Jessup Hall drew hundreds of visitors each day as students, staff, and faculty educated passersby about the disastrous consequences of a potential war.
These efforts were in vain, and on March 19, 2003 the United States invaded Iraq on the false pretense of its supposed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and with the promise of a new order of peace and tranquility in the Middle East.
"Instead," said VFP's Ed Flaherty, "the war killed thousands and left more than 400,000 veterans and countless Iraqi civilians suffering from PTSD. The war that was supposed to bring peace instead left a Middle East in even greater turmoil at a cost of over a trillion dollars."
Writing in the Guardian recently, Middle East expert James Zogby, who will speak in Iowa City on April 11, noted "15 years later we and most especially the people of Iraq and the region are living with the consequences of the disaster they brought down on us all: a shattered Iraq, an emboldened Iran, a weaken, war weary, and wary America, and a Middle East in which multiple regional and international powers are engaged in a number of deadly conflicts."
Although the United States formally withdrew from Iraq in 2011, US troops are still stationed there. "We hope that people will remember that the tragic results of this misguided war at home and abroad are still our responsibility," said PEACE Iowa President Laura Crossett. "Our government's actions destroyed Iraqi infrastructure and Iraqi life in ways that civilians there still deal with today, just as our veterans at home struggle to find treatment for the mental and physical costs they bear from a war that they never should have been sent to fight."
Organizers note that members of both groups have been holding a weekly peace vigil at the site of Monday's event since the Iraq War began. "We hope," said Flaherty, "to bring about a world in which such a war never need happen again."
Contact: Ed Flaherty, Veterans for Peace 319-621-6766
Laura Crossett, PEACE Iowa 319-389-0449