Saturday, July 30, 2011

Surveying the Full Cost of Militarism

Living on the Edge

Washington's Wars and Occupations:

Month in Review #75 July 29, 2011

By Nathan Paulsen
Beaver County Peace Links via War Times/Tiempo de Guerras

To supply an army at great distance is to impoverish one’s people… All your strength is spent on the battlefield and the families on the home front are left destitute. -Sun Tzu, The Art of Warfare

During some lively conversation on another sweltering evening in Minneapolis, I was introduced to the concept of the “edge” as a place of unusual creativity in the ecological world. The edge of bioregions, climate zones, and landscapes is the site of the most productive ecological action and a focus for sustainable agriculturalists. Whether it is where a forest meets a prairie, or sloping hills meet the plain, borders are where life in all its splendid diversity tends to congregate, exchange energy, and surprise us with new forms and relationships.

Turn now to the social realm where masses of humanity live on the margins of the dominant order. In the shadow of K Street, corporate fiefdoms and an ascendant Right we suffer intimately the full cost of militarism, empire and all their related pathologies. On the edge of survival - emotional as well as physical - we are just removed enough from the everyday trappings of the colonizing culture(s) that we might develop a critical consciousness capable of imagining alternative worlds. In other words, borders in the political economic landscape are no less a place of uncertainty and creativity than they are in the biological.

The margins making headlines today can be found in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Western invaders cross borders with an endless stream of soldiers and drones; or in Egypt, where a surging popular movement has toppled a dictatorship. They also are right here on our own doorsteps.

I am thinking of the tens of millions of economically vulnerable citizens who are being cut loose from now-slashed social safety nets; and the millions of poor people and people of color who are afflicted by drug wars and racial profiling.

I refuse to ignore the latest case of domestic violence in the local news. I want to examine the conscience of a country that has sent some of our best men and women to fight overseas but will not lift a finger to care for those who return wounded in body and mind. I insist on attention to tipping points where climate change hurls tornadoes down on trailer parks, prized possessions wash away in relentless floods, droughts consume our food before it goes to harvest, and heat waves kill poor elders isolated in dilapidated apartments.

I feel a need to learn from justice-makers on all continents. Humanity-filled public squares in Africa, Asia and the Middle East where people resist despots and their imperial backers. Social movement/electoral party combinations in South America where left leaning governments search for new paths. Strikes and rebellions in Europe where hundreds of thousands fight for dignity and against austerity.

Below are a few of the multitude of stories that could be told this month. They illustrate the slow unraveling of the dominant order on the edge where policy meets ordinary people, war plans are upended and novel social structures arise from the struggle for life. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

War Is Making Us Poor

Cost of War at Least $3.7 Trillion and Counting

By Daniel Trotta
Beaver County Peace Links via Reuters

NEW YORK, June 29, 2011 - When President Barack Obama cited cost as a reason to bring troops home from Afghanistan, he referred to a $1 trillion price tag for America's wars.

Staggering as it is, that figure grossly underestimates the total cost of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the U.S. Treasury and ignores more imposing costs yet to come, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The final bill will run at least $3.7 trillion and could reach as high as $4.4 trillion, according to the research project "Costs of War" by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. (

In the 10 years since U.S. troops went into Afghanistan to root out the al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11, 2001, attacks, spending on the conflicts totaled $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion.

Those numbers will continue to soar when considering often overlooked costs such as long-term obligations to wounded veterans and projected war spending from 2012 through 2020. The estimates do not include at least $1 trillion more in interest payments coming due and many billions more in expenses that cannot be counted, according to the study.