COLUMN: Support the Soldiers; End the Wars

This Veterans Day, I think it is important we remember the horrific reality that 20 veterans commit suicide every day in the United States of America. Millions of Americans are being sent to fight in wars they do not believe in or even know about, only to return home to struggle to pay for housing, food and healthcare, suffering from mental illnesses and trauma developed in senseless battles fought over lies and false pretenses.

Over 50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. said, referring to the United States of America: “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.”

Today, people in every country in the world except the U.S. understand King’s statement still holds true: America is far and away the greatest threat to world peace.

The U.S. military has more than 900 bases in over 150 countries around the world, costing American taxpayers around $100 billion each year to maintain.

The U.S. is currently fighting in seven or eight different wars. Who really knows? What is more stunning is the absurd expense of continuing these endless wars coupled with the mainstream political and media scene’s obsession with the question: How are we going to pay for that? Anyone who advocates for any policy to help working and poor people like Medicare for all and tuition free college will inevitably be bombarded with the question, dismissed as a pie-in-the-sky dreamer. No one ever asks how we are going to pay for our endless wars the American people do not support, and the victims are innocent people who die on our behalf, including our own veterans.

American politicians’ bi-partisan support for endless wars based on false pretenses at the behest of working and poor people will be a defining characteristic of this era of American and human history.

Earlier this year, every Democrat in the Senate voted yes on a $674 billion military spending bill, with only six Republicans: Rand Paul, Benjamin Sasse, Mike Lee, Jeff Flake and David Perdue along with independent Bernie Sanders voting no. The bill that eventually passed handed the Trump Administration $716 billion, our largest military budget since the height of the Iraq War and significantly more than was originally requested.

Stunningly, American taxpayers have spent over $1.4 trillion on wars overseas since Sept. 11, 2001. The Afghanistan war alone, which has now been going on for nearly 20 years, cost over $1 trillion. American kids are dying in wars started before they were born, and there is no end of fighting in sight.

By around 2050, the war in Iraq alone will have cost $7 trillion. What could this money have been better spent on?

Years ago, philosopher Noam Chomsky said the best way to end terrorism is to stop participating in it. Today, the U.S. supports nearly 75% of the world’s dictatorships, notably including one of our top allies, Saudi Arabia, and there are more terrorists now than when the war on terror began. Costing around $250 million every day for the last 16 years, the war on terror is now being used unconstitutionally to authorize America’s endless wars across the world. Constitutionally, only Congress can declare war, but for over a decade this has been regularly ignored by democrats and republicans alike.

The Democrats are not the party of peace. In the U.S., there is no party of peace. Pacifists across the country and the world have known this for a long time. There is only one true party in America: The War Party. If Americans voted on each individual war, they would all be ended within a decade; there is simply no representation for pacifists in American politics.

In a heart-dropping culmination of the war on terror’s objective failures, currently in Yemen, the U.S. military is aligned with Al Qaeda, who were responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, fighting Shia Muslim rebels.

American imperialism and rampant bombing and deployment of troops and overthrowing of democratic governments have led to death and destruction to people in countries across the world, including our own.

Most Americans, including politicians, have only a vague idea of the terror and destruction caused by our government through the military, including damage done to our own people.

“The wars,” George Orwell wrote, “are not meant to be won. They are meant to be continuous.”

Douglas Harding can be contacted at [email protected]