Freedom, strength, perpetual war

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

Twelve years ago today, the United States was attacked in a horrific act of terrorism. In response, we invaded Afghanistan in October 2001. We have been at war ever since. By the end of 2014, U.S. combat troops should be out of Afghanistan, ending 13 years of war. To fill this possible “peace void”, the right-wing has been looking for another war to get us into. It doesn’t seem to matter where; Egypt, Iran, Syria — any of those will do.

Remember Sen. John McCain, R, Ariz., singing “Bomb, bomb Iran” in 2008? Now he is pushing for regime change in Syria. On March 19, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R, S.C., said about Syria, “Absolutely, you’ve got to get on the ground. There is no substitute for securing these (chemical) weapons. I don’t care what it takes.”

These are the same people who say we don’t have any money for education, infrastructure, health care, food stamps, Head Start, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or anything else that benefits regular people. According to them, our country is broke. But, apparently, we have billions of dollars to fight countries that never attacked us.

For those who think that war equals strength, remember Vietnam and Iraq and the lives lost and the trillions spent, all for nothing. If you think those wars were worth it, then please do the following.

Write down an acceptable number of American dead and wounded as a result of intervening in an internal Middle Eastern conflict. Write down how many trillions of dollars we can afford to spend on such an intervention. Now decide if it’s worth that cost to intervene in Syria or Egypt or Iran.

Just financially, the original estimate for the cost of the Iraq war was about $50 billion. We are now at $1.6 trillion. The cost by 2053 is estimated at $6 trillion, including long-term care of our veterans and $4 trillion in interest on money borrowed to pay for the war. (Business Insider, March 14, 2013) Is that good value for what we achieved?

The use of chemical weapons is very serious; however, bombing Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles would just disperse the chemicals and cause more suffering. We have to bomb airstrips and fuel depots, so the government can’t get planes off the ground. These are definite acts of war. There would be repercussions. The estimated cost of intervention in Syria is $1 billion a month. Can we afford that?

President Obama wants a limited strike in Syria. He is consulting Congress about the best plan to do this. The irony is that many Republican leaders who called Obama weak because he wouldn’t intervene in Syria, such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R, Fla., and former senator Rick Santorum, R, Pa., are now opposed to intervention, because it would mean agreeing with Obama. If Obama was opposing military action, they would be all for it, as they have been historically.

What do actual soldiers say about this? Andrew Becevich, a retired Army colonel whose son was killed in Iraq in 2007, says, “The American people and the governing class have accepted that war has become a permanent condition. Protracted war has become a widely accepted part of our politics.”

Another famous soldier said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” President Dwight Eisenhower believed taking care of our people should be our top priority, not war.

The opening quote is from James Madison, Father of the Constitution. The founders were so concerned about a standing army that they required funding for the army to be renewed every two years. “The Congress shall have Power To ...raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years....” (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8)

How would they feel about our current bloated defense budget, while Republicans cry that we are broke? If America decides it’s necessary to intervene in another country’s problems, we need to think this through carefully and decide just how much we are willing to spend in blood and treasure. It may be necessary, but we had better be sure.

Jeanette Strong’s column appears every other Wednesday.


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