Fifty years ago next month Martin Luther King, Jr. warned us in his first public antiwar speech Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence that any nation that continues year after year "to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." Arguably that led to his assassination exactly one year later. Since the height of the American War in Vietnam, conditions have worsened exponentially, with military spending escalating unchecked. Each new bloated Pentagon appropriation has become the new normal.
Barely a week after his inauguration, President Trump’s executive order, as promised, obliterated the limits on Pentagon spending, setting in motion a military buildup to end all military buildups. As if on cue the House of Representatives voted this month to boost funding for more bullets and bombs, as well as some of the most deadly airborne killing machines in the US arsenal. Some weren’t even on the Pentagon’s wish list, 11 and 12 more F-35 and F/A-18 fighters, respectively. The new $578 billion stopgap bill keeps the U.S. military operating through September and sets the stage for even more increases to the Pentagon black hole of expenditures, as if budget caps were merely inconvenient workarounds.
Predictably, the House of Representatives minority saw fit to ignore Dr. King’s "fierce urgency of now" plea delivered from the pulpit of New York’s Riverside Church in April 1967, lining up instead with Congressional hawks and defense industry contractors. Come this fall there will be even more at stake. If the GOP majority has its way housing, transportation, environmental protection, biomedical research, education and health care would take huge hits to pay for a fiscal 2018 defense measure approaching $640 billion. We will need Capitol Hill representation that exceeds our expectations. Forestalling nay votes in opposition to the unfettered destructive agenda of the Pentagon would only benefit war profiteers and further derail the full potential of domestic achievements for another generation.
MLK, never one to pull punches at the expense of peace and social justice, concluded his controversial, certainly prescient speech, now more a half a century ago, with this forethought: "In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time."
Call your Congressional representatives and keep calling. Remind them once more that in 2017, as it was in 1967, time is still at a premium. Insist, moreover demand, that they oppose any increases at all to military spending.
Gene Marx is a Vietnam Veteran and Past National Board of Directors Secretary of Veterans for Peace. He is currently the Communications Coordinator for Bellingham’s VFP Chapter 111. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.