The Debate: When Does Military Spending ENDANGER America?

Is President Obama going to unilaterally take this country to war in Syria against the wishes of the American people and without the support of our greatest ally, Great Britain?

Before I write about the situation today, I’m going to do a little re-wind and take us back to late October, 2012, and the presidential campaign debates. If you will remember, Governor Romney (the Republican nominee) was all agog about going to war with Iran. It didn’t take much of a seer to know that if he won the election, he was going to lead us into a war with them.

I think that was one reason why he lost that election.

Slowly, and painfully, the American people are beginning to get wise to the fact that these wars aren’t for us and for our protection. The reason why papa’s always gotta have a new war is to feed the demand for profits from those who make money off war.

I wrote this post back then, and I’m going re-post it and one other today to give you something to chew on before we dive into talking about Syria and why we’re being told that young Americans need to die there.

American military cemetery Omaha Beach.

The first presidential election I actually remember in any detail was between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

During that election, then Senator Kennedy complained about a missile gap that America needed to fill with more military spending.

In every presidential election since then, there has been one reliable “issue.” Both candidates say we need to spend more money on the military. It was a little different last night, in that President Obama was talking about not raising the spending so fast while Governor Romney chided him for this. Obama’s defense? Military spending had gone up every year of his presidency. That was the brag.

The reason is always the same. We are told that we need to spend, spend, spend on ships, planes, bombs and guns (never, notice our troops) to “keep America safe.”

We have reached a point where military spending on top the table comes to over 50% of our budget. And that’s just the money we know about. A lot of military spending is under the table and off the record. How much of our treasure are we really putting into the military? No one knows.

Let me repeat that: No one knows.

This nation has been at war economically since Pearl Harbor in 1941. What I mean by that is that we have been maintaining a wartime military capable of defending us in an all-out world war on multiple fronts against massive enemies for 70 years. Not only that, but we have set ourselves up as the guardians of the world. Our many military bases around the world are a critical part of the economies of a large number of countries. We are draining our economy and sustaining their economy to maintain a vast network of military bases and installations all over the globe.

Is it any accident that we have also found reasons to actually be at war for most of the past 70 years?

Look back in history at the effects that decades of war has on the economies of the nations who engage in it. Consider the 100 years war and what it did. So far as economics are concerned, America has been in a 70-year war, so that’s not an outrageous analogy.

My question: What are the dangers to the people of America if we continue to blindly believe that we have to keep on increasing our military budget year after year, election after election, into perpetuity? Where is this kind of thinking leading us?

I would like to offer you a few thoughts on that matter. These are not absolutes. They are just thoughts. But I do think we need to at least start a conversation about these things. We are Americans. This is our government, and since it is a democracy, we have a responsibility engage in the questions government raises. We are tasked with thinking things through rather than just blindly accepting the rhetoric of political candidates and pundits.

1. Would we have invaded Iraq if we had a universal draft? When we went to war in World War II, President Roosevelt had sons in uniform. Wealthy and powerful men like Joseph Kennedy had one son who was killed in combat and another who was permanently disabled as a result of injuries from combat. Who does our fighting now? My kids. Your kids. The people who are making money from these wars are totally disconnected from the cost in terms of human life and suffering that our children pay for their profits.

This began in Viet Nam. I came from a poor school. It seemed for a while that all I did was go to the funerals of my friends who a few months before had been driving their cars down the strip every night and now were soldiers killed in action. I didn’t realize at first that this was not happening at the wealthier schools. No one was dying who went to those schools. No one was even serving in the military at all. And this was a time when we did have a draft. But it had become corrupt. If you had money, you could get out of it.

A few years ago, I was at a meeting about how to help the kids in my district. It was convened by then Father, now Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock. People from many walks of life were there. One of them was a recruiter for one of the military services. He said to the kids who were at the meeting, “Would you rather join the military and go to Iraq and die a death with honor, or die on the streets here with no honor?”

What he said resonated with these kids. They saw it as true.

Is that the America we want? Is the new American dream a dream where the “opportunity” we offer a large segment of our population is a choice between death with dishonor on our streets or a death with “honor” in an unnecessary war that was started under false pretenses?

2. How can we spend so much on “defense” and still not provide adequate care for our troops? Our soldiers tell me they don’t have adequate equipment in the field, such as body armor, that many of the sophisticated weapons they are given malfunction in actual combat conditions with dust, rain, heat and cold. They fight one war over there and come home to fight another war for treatment for their injuries here. How can we spend so much money and not take care of our troops?

3. Does “privatizing” military services amount to graft and corruption; to giving contracts to your pals so they can make even bigger bucks off our wars? I know what my answer to this will be. I believe emphatically that this is what is happening.

4. How can we balance the budget if we won’t even talk about cutting in the area where we’re spending over half of our money? How much are we willing to impoverish the American people to finance our military? When does the money we’re spending on it start doing us more harm than good?

5. Does all this vast expenditure of our capital on war making actually keep us safe, or does it endanger our economic survival while keeping us at war with somebody all the time? The young people I represent are fighting our wars. They are not getting rich. But somebody is making money beyond the dreams of avarice out of their service.

I am not advocating that we disarm. I am not a pacifist. I believe in self-defense, both for individuals and nations. But I do not want to see my sons killed and my country bankrupted for wars of empire that serve to advance the interests of multi-national corporations.

That is not self-defense. It doesn’t keep my country safe. It endangers us all.

I haven’t discussed the moral issues involved in all this. But they are some of the most important and least discussed of any moral issues facing this nation.

Last night’s debate was predictable in that no one talked about or was even asked if being economically in a world war for 70 straight years might be harming our economy. No one suggested that wars which are fought by kids from the poor neighborhoods while everyone else sits home safe, fed and fat are not democratic wars. I didn’t hear a peep about the graft and corruption involved in military contracts.

Not one word.

All I heard was the usual electioneering blather about who was spending the most to “keep America safe.” Maybe it’s time we at least asked other questions that demand different answers.

The Land of Opportunity and Our Three-Tier Public Education System

Public education is a three tier system. 

The top tier of public education provides a top-flight education that feeds its students royal jelly. Kids from these schools are expected to go on to the top tier universities.

Diplomas from top tier universities are tickets to entry into a distant ruling class that sends other Americans’ children to wars it doesn’t fight, passes laws that destroy other people’s lives and creates social mores that undercut the institutions by which their “lessors” create community. 

Board meeting room

How many members of powerful boards went to the same schools?

The middle tier of public education provides a so-so, mid-level state university education to suburban students. They are slotted for workman type jobs that will provide a comfortable life for them, but will not allow them access to the decision-making levers of our society.

Middle tier public education inculcates the social mores of those who inhabit the top tier, encouraging the students to drink a bit of social arsenic along with their education. If they drink too deeply, their children will inevitably end up in the bottom tier.

Occasionally, a student from one of these schools will, by dent of massive work and high intelligence, hit a bell-ringing test score that gives them the option of attending a ticket-punching top tier university. However, since these students don’t usually fit the “profile” of politically-correct desirability, they are often blocked at this juncture by money, including the money for clothes, entertainment, meals and all the rest of what it takes to fit in at a top tier university.

Added to that is the fact that they are from a different social strata with different mores and beliefs, and you have a recipe for misery if they do accept the call to a top tier school. Everything they are, including the people know and love is, lies outside the world they will enter. The choice is painful. Turn down the offer and stay on the lower tiers of society, or accept it and condemn yourself to a chameleon life. 

Prison

How many kids from bottom tier schools end up in prison?

The bottom tier of public education is designed for what people seem to love to call “throw-away kids.” The schools themselves are throw-away schools. They are usually ugly, institutional-looking edifices that make one think of a prison. They are also usually over-crowded, with huge class sizes, as well as dirty and in need of paint and repairs.

Students at these schools usually encounter two kinds of teachers: Incredibly dedicated teachers with a mission, and the failures of the educational system who were parked here to serve out their time until retirement. 

I’ve known teachers from bottom tier public schools who care deeply and passionately about the students they teach. On the other hand, I’ve known teachers in these schools who have contempt for their students, the students’ parents and the whole school. They can’t understand what someone as wonderful as them is doing here in this slum.

A student who gets a series of the missionary teachers has a chance at life. But a child who goes through a long string of the bitter bad ones is pretty much doomed. Unlike in other schools, it’s all in the luck of the draw. 

Supplies 0007

How many families from bottom tier schools can afford to buy school supplies?

Students in bottom tier schools don’t have enough textbooks. They also do not have the money to buy supplies, or lunches or even to dress well for school. 

Every destructive social experiment you can imagine is dumped on these kids. Their families are systematically shut out of the process. Educational professionals will deny this, but I have seen first-hand the dismissive, insulting way that parents are ignored and patronized in these schools. 

Children who attend top tier schools are being groomed to rule. Children who attend middle tier schools are being groomed to work. But those in the bottom tier are being groomed to fall through the cracks and die young. These bottom tier schools are the places where we recruit our soldiers to use as cannon fodder in unnecessary wars that are being fought to enhance the bottom line of those at the top.

0122

How many graduates of top tier schools fight and die in our endless wars?

Those who graduate from top tier universities populate the board rooms, the senate offices, sound stages and courtrooms where decisions are made. Most of them have never had meaningful contact with people from the bottom tier in their entire lives. They create wars, sell them through their media, and then send other people’s children to fight and die in them. 

I have sat in a roomful of a young people and listened while an army recruiter said to them: It would be better for you to go to Iraq and die a death with honor, than to stay here and die on the streets for no reason.

I am here to tell you that this statement resonated with those young people. In its own way, it resonated with me, too. Is this the new recruiting slogan? Is it the new way America fights its wars, by offering up young people from the lower tiers as living sacrifices to the “way of life” of those in the upper tier?

Public education was once an opportunity. But in our brave new world it has become a gatekeeper. 


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X