At this writing, America and the world are midway between the 15th anniversaries of two major historic events.
The first, on February 15, 2003. was the world's largest ever anti-war protest: some 12 to 30 million people took to the streets with signs in various languages proclaiming “Not in Our Name” and “We Say No To War.” Massive demonstrations in American and some 800 cities around the globe called for a halt to the pending American and British led war in Iraq.
On March 19 came our leaders' disdainful reply: “Shock and Awe!” – the blitzkrieg bombing of Baghdad and the invasion of Iraq. Together with the already year old "war on terrorism" in Afghanistan, this was officially called “Operation Enduring Freedom.”
Fifteen years later we might call it Operation Enduring War. For Iraqis and Afghanis it's been Ever Enduring Hell. For them it has meant hundreds of thousands killed, cities reduced to rubble, millions displaced as refugees, and the complete breakdown of society with ancient ethnic, tribal, and religious rivalries erupting in constant conflict with revenge killings, suicide and car bombings, and outright civil war.
For us there have been costs, too. Defense Department figures from 2016 estimate 4,204 Americans killed and 31,000 wounded. The dollar cost is now put at $5.6 trillion - nearly one third of our current astronomical national debt of $18.96 trillion. Many returning vets struggle with unemployment, inadequate medical care for war wounds, PTSD, and related illnesses. Veteran homelessness, substance abuse, and suicide rates are alarmingly high. And our society has also broken down: We are no longer able to elect leaders we can believe in, and we hardly trust government to resolve the country's problems.
So, can we have faith that the $686 billion increase for defense in the proposed 2019 federal budget will be what we need now? In 2016, our defense budget, as it has been for several years, amounted to eight times that of the combined defense spending of all other nations. Meanwhile our failed “war on terrorism” has only resulted in the metastasizing of al-Qaeda into ISIS and more virulent variants of the disease elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa.
Knowing the costs, do we really want to continue blazing our way down that military path?
Veterans For Peace