Our Money Is Off to War


AVAILABLE FOR REPRINT. Copy and use freely. Please help PeaceVoice by notifying us when you use this piece: PeaceVoiceDirector@gmail.com

“Massive federal deficits, not enough money for social programs. Where have all our tax dollars gone?
In FY2007, $549 billion or 52.7% of discretionary federal funds went to the military. Discretionary funds exclude expenditures for Social Security, Medicare, and federal highways since these programs are paid from dedicated taxes maintained in separate trust funds, as well as interest paid on the national debt which is not “discretionary.” Discretionary funds are derived from our income taxes, corporation taxes, excise taxes, and estate taxes….”

Author: Randy Schutt, Vice-President of Cleveland Peace Action
Published in: Oregon Herald in Portland, Oregon
Date: April 19, 2008

For the full article:
Our Money is Off to War
(784 words)
by Randy Schutt
Massive federal deficits, not enough money for social programs. Where have all our tax dollars gone?
In FY2007, $549 billion or 52.7% of discretionary federal funds went to the military. Discretionary funds exclude expenditures for Social Security, Medicare, and federal highways since these programs are paid from dedicated taxes maintained in separate trust funds, as well as interest paid on the national debt which is not “discretionary.” Discretionary funds are derived from our income taxes, corporation taxes, excise taxes, and estate taxes.
In the current year (FY2008), military spending is estimated to be $604 billion — an unprecedented expenditure. This represents an average of about $5,300 from each household. Military spending in inflation-adjusted dollars is now 58% greater than in FY2000, greater than at any time during the Cold War, and even greater than during the peak spending years of the Vietnam War and the Korean War.
Despite this massive spending on the military, many people in the US still feel our military is inadequate. But the United State now has the most powerful military that has ever existed in the history of the world. US nuclear weapons could destroy the planet. US conventional military force is mighty enough to wage two wars simultaneously far from our shores. The US has over 800 military bases around the world and 11 aircraft carrier battle groups circling the planet (and no hostile country has more than 1). The US spends almost as much on the military as all the rest of the world combined. In 2009, the US plans to spend vastly more on its military than any possible enemies: 6 times as much as China, 10 times as much as Russia, 99 times as much as Iran, and almost 55 times as much as the combined spending of the six “rogue” states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria).
We should have learned that huge expenditures on military personnel and weapons (especially on weapons designed for use in the Cold War) are ineffective in protecting us. We should have learned from the 9/11 terrorist attacks that 19 guys (mostly from Saudi Arabia, an ally) armed with box cutters can attack the United States more effectively than massive armies. We should have learned — as all the US intelligence agencies have warned us — that the Iraq war has made us less safe.
The best security is provided by not having enemies — and this is best achieved by treating other countries and their people well. But in the past 110 years, the United States has used military force in dozens of places around the world to gain access to natural resources and stifle dissent. For example, the United States has staged covert actions to overthrow democratically-elected governments in Iran, Guatemala, and Chile. It has invaded the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Panama. Moreover, the US has supported and helped to arm dozens of dictators including the Shah of Iran, P.W. Botha in apartheid South Africa, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, General Suharto in Indonesia, Francois “Doc” Duvalier and Jean Claude Duvalier (“Baby Doc”) in Haiti, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, King Fahd bin Abdul of Saudi Arabia, and General Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan.
The second best way to provide security is to have large numbers of strong allies. Repudiating treaties like the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, ignoring important initiatives like the Kyoto Treaty, and launching unilateral military adventures based on lies are great ways to lose friends and allies.
Don’t we need a strong military to save people from oppressive regimes? Actually, the most effective and ethical means to overthrow dictators and undermine repressive regimes is nonviolent action carried out by civic groups within those countries. For example, in the last three decades, nonviolent action has toppled the apartheid regime in South Africa, deposed the dictatorships of Slobodan Milosevich in Yugoslavia, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, and Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and brought down the former Soviet Union and its communist satellite states. Overthrowing those regimes incurred relatively few casualties and wrought relatively little destruction. The nonviolent overthrow of these regimes has mostly left these countries stronger, more civilized, and much more free and democratic.
We could drastically reduce our military budget by focusing strictly on defense of our territory, which would probably only cost $50-100 billion/year. Then we could devote more resources to efforts that would actually make us safer: collaborate with our allies, negotiate with our opponents, provide support to international bodies like the United Nations and the World Court, build up our own economy, protect the environment, provide aid to impoverished countries, provide support to civic movements that use nonviolent action to challenge and undermine repressive regimes, and support human rights throughout the world.

Randy Schutt is Vice-President of Cleveland Peace Action and author of Inciting Democracy: A Practical Proposal for Creating a Good Society.