Citizens don’t have a stake in running America!

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Military spending not only results in untold death and suffering around the world where the United States applies it, it destroys jobs and incomes here at home for all but weapons manufacturers and lobbyists. 

By Nazarul Islam

It is true that national priorities in the US have reflected much the same logic, as the person who recently had jumped off a 50-story building and observed: ’Well…this isn’t so bad’, as he hurtled past the twentieth floor. But just like that idiot, human state denial keeps working—for only so long, and then comes the shattering Crash!

It wasn’t like there were no warnings, either. These had come in writing — on banners, picket signs, leaflets, newspapers, even a few on TV. The very best came on the wind, like this one from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift, is approaching spiritual doom.’

And, Doom, indeed. Visualizing the entire death machine simply beggars the wildest imagination. For instance, the warplanes ready for action, at a given Air Force base, are just a fraction of the surplus of what America treasures, waiting for another war or the scrap heap.

In terms of the study conducted by the Boston University’s Dr. Heidi Garrett-Peltier, the cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and whichever country you can keep track of comes to $4.93 trillion or $260 billion annually from fiscal years 2001 to 2019. That’s aside from the Pentagon’s ever-expanding annual budget — $738 billion this year — and the cost of veterans’ care.

Garrett-Peltiers also endeavored to explain the crippling ‘opportunity cost’ of such spending. Actually she had re-explained it, since this was not a new idea. In 1983, during the Reagan Administration, consultant firm in Michigan found much the same thing: military spending not only produces far fewer jobs per dollar invested, it siphons off intellectual and scientific expertise needed to advance society.

For example, it has been reported that the $260 billion spent annually on war created about 1.8 million jobs, whereas that same amount invested in clean energy or infrastructure would create 2.5 million jobs. If invested in healthcare it would create 3.7 million and nearly 5 million if put toward primary and secondary education.

Stated another way by the staggering cost of the F-35 planes, America wants built — a number that actually exceeds the Pentagon’s request — would purchase the 30,000 ventilators, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo believes that New York will need very soon.

Military spending not only results in untold death and suffering around the world where the United States applies it, it destroys jobs and incomes here at home for all but weapons manufacturers and lobbyists.  Furthermore, it permeates the US economy and the relentless militarism of pregame flyovers, “hometown hero” events and incessant flag-waving permeates our culture, warping our sense of whose work is of value to society and to one’s fellow human beings.

We are constantly told to thank ‘the troops’, for their service, no matter how problematic their actions. We love doing this, but what about all the people who serve but who don’t put on fatigues and carry guns — such as the nurses, doctors, teachers, bus drivers, postal workers and grocery stockers among others? During this pandemic, they are the ones keeping us alive and helping make sure society functions while the rest of us shelter in place. Readers better believe me.

If we emerge from this pandemic with a very different idea of whom we should be grateful to for their service, we will be the better for it.

‘Why warplanes, and not ventilators?’ My daughter Maheen, who is on her ‘rotation’ at a Florida hospital, asked rhetorically the other day. ‘Is it because we like to kill people better than keep them alive, because you can kill more brown people that way, because the war lobby is stronger, because we suck as a species and especially a country?’

Sometimes I like to agree with her. But mostly I think our fellow citizens are better than that. In fact, I believe a large majority of us feel quite the opposite. Why that doesn’t translate into vastly different policies is because corporations and the elite rule the United States, not our fellow citizens. We don’t need another economic impact study, we need the political power to shape the kind of life we deserve and our planet can live with. That, however, is a whole other story.

If we value what we stockpile, it sure isn’t ventilators. Make your pick, dear readers, irony….or shame?

(The writer is a senior educator living in Miramar, Florida, US. He contributes regularly to the Op-Ed pages of newspapers in the US, India and Bangladesh and now he is regularly writing for Sindh Courier)

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