The Memorial Day weekend is almost over as people take down the flags and television broadcasts old war movies. War mongers are happy after Congress budgeted at least $400 billion to ensure that there will be more dead veterans to commemorate. No longer a republic or a cultural democracy, the United States is a militarized economy with 55 percent of its discretionary spending allocated to the military spending and another 6 percent for veterans benefits. That sum doesn’t include the Department of Energy money spent on its nuclear arsenal, the Department of Homeland Security budget, or the costs of recent wars, calculated at $3 trillion for Iraq and $1 trillion for Afghanistan.
Conservatives rule the United States by invoking the vision of Muslim monsters hiding in every corner, and GOP presidential candidates concentrate on re-fighting the war that accelerated the downfall of the United States during the entire 21st century. [Photo by Jennie Haskamp]
Although most people think that the sole purpose of Memorial Day is to remember the fallen in war, the National Moment of Remembrance Act, passed in 2000, declares that people are to pray for peace at 3:00 on that day, an addition to the commemoration largely unknown in the United States. In another commemoration, Bill Quigley has written a description of the United States’ pursuit of permanent war instead of permanent peace.
Conservatives want to think of the United States as “exceptional,” and this country is truly #1 in wars, military presence, military spending, and weapons sales throughout the world–exceptional in avoiding peace.
Permanent War: Since 1980 the U.S. has engaged in aggressive military action in 14 countries in the Islamic world alone: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. In this hemisphere, U.S. military forces invaded Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989) as well as landed 20,000 military forces in Haiti (1994).
U.S. Global War Machine: The U.S. has 1.3 million people in the military and 1 million in the military reserves. The U.S. has more than 700 military bases housing over 255,000 U.S. military personnel in 63 countries across the world. The Department of Defense officially manages over 555,000 buildings on 4,400 properties inside the U.S. The U.S. owns than 1,500 strategic nuclear warheads, over 13,000 military aircraft, dozens of submarines–many of which carry nuclear weapons–and 88 huge destroyer warships.
Global Harm: The U.S. has waged wars killing almost 7,000 U.S. military people since 9/11. Since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, over 216,000 combatants, mostly civilians, and an untold number of civilians in Afghanistan were killed. U.S. drone attacks have murdered hundreds of children and civilian adults in Pakistan and dozens more in Yemen.
World Leader in War Spending: U.S. military spending is the equivalent of the combined spending of the next eight largest countries: China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, India, and Germany. The U.S. have officially paid $1.6 trillion for direct combat and reconstruction costs for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and additional trillions of dollars have gone into growing the Pentagon budget and for present and future increased health and disability benefits for veterans. Since 9/11, the U.S. has increased military spending by 50 percent while it has increased other discretionary domestic spending by only 13 percent—less than one percent a year.
Corporate War Profiteers: The top war profiteer is Lockheed Martin with annual arms sales of $36 billion. Of the $57.8 million that the military industry spent in 2013, Lockheed Martin spent $15 million to lobby people who decide how much money is spent on weapons and which weapons will be purchased. Lockheed Martin’s CEO is paid over $15 million. Part time workers are James Ellis, a former Admiral and Commander in Chief of US Strategic Air Command who gets paid over $277,000, and James Loy, former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security who gets over $260,000. Each taxpaying household in the U.S. pays Lockheed $260 for its government contracts amounting. A 2014 investigation found that Lockheed uses taxpayer funds to lobby for more taxpayer funds.
Number two war profiteer is Boeing with annual arms sales of $31 billion. Boeing spends over $16 million a year lobbying. The remainder of the top ten war profiteer corporations include BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Raytheon, EADS, Finmeccanica, L-3 Communications, and United Technologies. You can track their corporate contributions to members of Congress, especially the politicians on the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate on Open Secrets.
U.S. war profiteers are also top in the world with their $26 billion weapon sales each year to foreign nations.
In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said the U.S. government was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world and called for a revolution of values in questioning past and present war policies and the disparity of wealth in the U.S. When he left office, former U.S. President and General Dwight Eisenhower warned citizens of the growing military industrial complex. He called on people to force “the huge industrial and military machinery of defense” to respond to democracy and the peoples’ desires for peace. The steps for this revolution:
- Know that the U.S. is the biggest war maker in the world.
- Organize for a true revolution of values and confront corporations and politicians who push the U.S. into war and inflate the military budget through permanent fear mongering.
- Admit that the U.S. is wrong and must make amends for the violence the U.S. has waged on countries all over the world.
- Dramatically downsize the U.S. military by withdrawing U.S. military from all other countries, disarming nuclear weapons, and focusing on defending just the U.S.
- Work for peaceful, just solutions for conflict here in the U.S. and around the world.
- Pray for peace on Memorial Day and all other times.
The people of the U.S. are engaged in a war among themselves within this nation. Ten percent of the U.S. population take antidepressants, 45 million adults are functionally illiterate, and the top one percent has 50 percent of the country’s wealth as they buy politicians. The GOP is trying to take away health care and other benefits from the poor and deny LGBT people the right to have legal marriages. Members of law enforcement kill black people, seemingly with impunity, and legislators only loosen gun laws after disasters involving firearms.
While the media tell people to focus on the departed members of the military, the NFL makes over $10 million to “honor America’s heroes” before football games and at halftime shows, $5.4 million from the Department of Defense and another $5.3 million from the National Guard. The Pentagon refuses to deal with the sexual assault epidemic in the military where one-third of women in the service are raped. Most of them cannot report the crimes because of the retaliation of and revenge from commanders and fellow service members. Combat veterans inflict 21 percent of domestic violence, and not one senator will sponsor a bill to help military spouses to escape the perpetrators.
The United States needs to decide that permanent peace both within and without the nation is more important than funding war profiteers and bankrolling legislators who use fear to wage preemptive war in the U.S. and around the world.