By David Swanson
Is it that you don’t know what war costs, or that you don’t know that it makes us less safe?
We’ve spent $268 billion on making war on Afghanistan, and using Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz’ analysis of Iraq we need to multiply that by four or five to get a realistic cost including debt, veterans care, energy prices, and lost opportunities. Public investment in most other industries or in tax cuts produces more jobs than investment in military. In fact, military spending is economically, as well as morally, the worst thing Congress can do. And this is economically the worst time in many decades to be doing the worst thing you can do.
Including the war on Iraq, the military bases we’re maintaining all over the world, and the general funding of the Pentagon, we spend more on the military and wars than we spend on everything else combined, more than all other nations on earth spend on their militaries combined, and many times what all conceivable enemies spend on their militaries combined. And we call this “defense”. Are you sure that’s what it is? Why do other nations stay safer than ours without building military bases all over the world and without impoverishing themselves?
During the global war of terror we have seen a global increase in terrorism. The supposed tools for fighting terrorism may fight it, but their net impact is almost certainly to increase it. We are funding a government in Afghanistan that wants to join the Taliban, the same Taliban that apparently just tried to set off a bomb in New York, the same Taliban that most Afghans see as their brothers, while viewing us as foreigners. Shockingly, we actually are the foreigners and will never be welcome there no matter what we do. Is it worth it to you to keep trying?
We could have 20 jobs paying $50,000 per year here in the United States for every soldier sent to Afghanistan: a job for that former soldier and 19 more. We’re spending as much as $100 per gallon to bring gas into Afghanistan where the U.S. military used 27 million gallons of the stuff last month. We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars to bribe nations to be part of what we pretend is a coalition effort. We’re spending at least that much to bribe Afghans to join the right side, an effort that has recruited 646 of the Taliban’s 36,000 soldiers, but then lost many of them who took the money and ran back to the other side. We probably paid for that bomb in New York.
Do you think you’ll feel safer if we don’t “retreat”? Vietnam just celebrated the 35th anniversary of the United States leaving. Leaving that place didn’t make anyone less safe. And every time we dug in deeper, it didn’t get us out. The only thing that got us out was leaving — and Congress ceasing to spend our money there.
We did not exit Iraq by escalating it. We have not exited at all, and the escalation does not explain the decrease in violence. And if it did, we would still need hundreds of thousands of troops and millions of civilians to do it in Afghanistan. We have 198,000 troops and mercenaries in Iraq. And violence is down there because so many people are dead and displaced, because a complete withdrawal date has been announced, and primarily because the troops have pulled back from urban areas. When they stopped patrolling for violence, the violence went down, because the violence was being driven by the occupation.
Violence will go down in Afghanistan too if the US troops pull back, even if they launch a murderous and counterproductive assault first. And perhaps that is President Obama’s cynical plan, to pull back and reduce (but not end) the occupation after a pointless battle fought for U.S. political purposes or to please the military industrial congressional complex. We know that last year President Obama sent 21,000 more troops and 5,000 more mercenaries to Afghanistan, and that violence increased as a result. What’s staggering is that the president said he was going to send those troops first and then figure out a plan for Afghanistan later. Sending the troops was an end in itself. Some of them are dead now.
We know that a pipeline and major military bases are part of the desired plan, but so is winning elections back home. Will you vote for a president or congress members who behave this way? They think you will. They think you want to keep pouring your money into this hole. They think you have no interest in your children’s safety or in having a good job. They know that their own experts think they’d need hundreds of thousands of troops to get anything done in Afghanistan. They’re either moving in that direction or pointlessly engaging in a hopelessly small escalation. In either case, do you approve?
If you do not approve, you should know that Congress is about to vote on another $33 billion to escalate the war in Afghanistan. This is not money to keep it going, but to escalate it. You can tell your congress member that you would prefer jobs at home by calling (202) 224-3121 and telling them that unless they vote No you will vote against them in November.