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August 14, 2011

War - What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing! Part 1

War, What is it good for?Sam Levenson, the humorist, recounts a story about his parents immigrating to America. Like most immigrants, they were mesmerized about tales of America's magical spell and streets lined with gold. After Mr. Levenson's parents and other immigrants arrived in America they learned three truths; 1) The streets were not paved with gold 2) Many streets weren't paved at all. 3) They had to do the paving themselves. Mr. Levenson's memories touched something in me about an unpaved street that I have neglected to help pave, a street called peace. I live in the United States, a country that thrives on war. We have the strongest military in history and it has made a very few rich at the expense of the rest of humanity. Why war when diplomacy would save lives and build bridges? It is my intent for this posting and the next to discuss why we as a country believe war generates peace, and why we believe it protects us from our enemies, which just happen to be other human beings? After Part 1 and 2 of my discussion of war it is my hope that you too will help me and others change the world by helping to pave a universal road of peace.

My initial awareness of war, other then the fight for Civil Rights, was while growing up in Anchorage Alaska. Every Friday, blaring alarms would go off at noon throughout town and we would hide under our desk. The enemy? Russians. In my nine year old mind I wondered if Russian children were also hiding beneath their desk thinking like me, that if I looked up my eyes would melt from my eye sockets down my face from the light emanating from the atomic blast. I also wondered how hiding under a desk would help much if the nuclear bombs we were being so indoctrinated about exploded. I didn't understand war then, just as I question its relevance now. Innocent civilians are being murdered and mutilated, just as our U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are, while the politicians that wage the war fill up their bank accounts.

The Viet Nam War was also pivotal in me questioning the purpose and reasons for war. I remember the anger surrounding Hugh Thompson, Jr., a United States helicopter pilot who tried to rescue Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai Massacre. Hundreds of unarmed women, children and old men were murdered by U.S. Soldiers. Thompson ordered his machine-gunner to open fire on the Americans if they shot at the people he was attempting to save. It took close to 30 years for Thompson to be given the Soldiers's Medal for doing the right thing. Before that he was an outcast and his life threatened. Imagine a solider who personified some of West Point doctrines such as, "A soldier should always be thinking, a soldier should question orders that they are given to determine whether they conform to the Geneva Convention and laws of war. West Point teaches that war is so dangerous that it should be waged only as a final resort and that if you want to understand war, you have to understand its limitations and unpredictability."

Thompson like myself and peace activist across the planet know that war is like a natural disaster. You can't control it.

Recently during the debt ceiling debacle between Congress and the President of the U.S. I reminisced why the streets of war must be repaved with peace. War is destroying our country, rallying terrorists to engage our thirst for hatred, and spreading propaganda about the need for war to our own children. We are told to hate people that want what we all want. Love of freedom and family. The right to worship the God they believe in, to prosper and have a life where food and health care are not a privilege, but instead, compassion and kindness for a fellow human being. As I listened and watched with the rest of the world as U.S. Congress debated feeding our hungry, taking care of our Veterans, finding provisions for our homeless and mentally ill or continue waging war and giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people and corporations.

I felt only shame.

How could so many of us not stand up for the truth? How could so many of us not realize that the enemy we were supposedly fighting are our own leaders?

While at a writing group I attend on Tuesday mornings, a man of a different political persuasion gave the diverse group some chilling statistics. I want to share some of them with you for two reasons 1) you will recognize that truth has no party and 2) you will recognize why our leaders want us to believe that their is a deficit.

Secretary Panetta called on Congress to cut mandatory spending programs including Medicare and Social Security. He mislead the nation by stating mandatory spending was two-thirds of the budget. Wrong. The military budget for 2012 is 48% of our budget in dollars that is about $1,377 billion. In contrast our human resource budget which includes Social Security is 38% or $1,093 billion. (www.warresisters.org)

Chris Hedges, a winning Pulitzer Prize journalist, estimates we are spending approximately a trillion dollars a year to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you know much of that money is from borrowing money that increases our national debt? Did you know that the profits of weapons manufacturers and private contractors have increased four fold since the invasion of Afghanistan? As Americans blame each other for the deficit, we are paying for a deficit financed war as more than 30 million unemployed people and 40 million more have been driven into poverty (Truthdig.com). We are spending fifty-three cents of every tax dollar on our military budget. This is insanity!

The United States has more than 700 military around the world. Just think if we closed just a third of them down the money needed for our poor, schools and infrastructure, and health care would be possible. Major General Smedley Butler, USMC wrote a book War Is a Racket. He explains that we could cut our national debt by ending the war racket. He suggest we take the profit out of war and encourage and allow the youth of America and the world to decide who would have to fight a war by national referendum or vote; whether we should go to war and close down our overseas bases. One man's opinion, but he is a highly decorated soldier unlike the idiots in Congress and leaders across our country who are profiting from death and destruction. And the majority of them haven't served one day in the military, much less in combat.

As I close Part one of War - What is it Good For? Absolutely nothing! I challenge you to change your beliefs about war - or at least question them. Our economy is unstable because of war; the jobless rate is high because of war; there is no money for cities, education, and states because of war. In short the cost of war is immediate and evident and apparent to all people. War doesn't make us safe but, but instead, it feeds our fears. We must be willing to challenge the cloaked myths that maintain war. War is birthed from the human mind, from how we think. That is why I am writing this post. I want you to think and then act to help pave our streets across the world with peace. If we are not courageous or intelligent enough to stop this war mongering now, we will perish together. If we don't want better for ourselves, don't we want better for future generations?

In summation we must admit that war is a choice. General Omar Bradley a World War ll veteran said" "Wars can be prevented just as surely as they can be provoked, and we who fail to prevent them must share in the guilt for the dead."



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