Exorbitant Military Spending Sacrifices Public Well-Being

President Dwight Eisenhower gave his first major presidential speech, The Cross of Iron, on April 16, 1953. He laid out several important precepts guiding US conduct in world affairs as well pointing out the cost of military spending in very concrete terms. Eisenhower stated:

“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. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.”

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Cooperation, Not Competition, To Avoid Disaster

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US was unrivaled as a superpower. During the 1990s and, until about 2012, the US was relatively unconstrained in its use of military power in an attempt to get its way. However, often the use of military power was counterproductive. More importantly, the US frequently violated international law through its military interventions and unilateral sanctions, thus weakening support for the idea of a rules-based order.

One of the worst US war crimes since the fall of the Soviet Union was the unprovoked US-led attack on Iraq in 2003. This war crime led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents as well as to the devastation of Iraq. Unfortunately, the US media did not call for any type of punishment for its leaders who committed these crimes. In addition, the US has not paid any substantial reparations nor tried any of its leaders for their war crimes. As a result of its criminal actions, US standing around the world suffered as other nations took note of US crimes and hypocrisy.

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War Is Still Hell

Around 2000 years ago Seneca the Younger said: “We are mad not only individually but nationally. We check manslaughter and isolated murders, but what of war and the much vaunted crime of slaughtering whole peoples?”

In 1880, General William Tecumseh Sherman said: “There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but boys, it is all hell.”

In 1970, Edwin Starr sang the powerful antiwar song “War.” The song begins with:

War, h’uh, Yeah!
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin, uh-huh, uh-huh

War, h’uh, Yeah!
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin, say it again, y’all

War, h’uh, good god
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin, listen to me.

Here we are in 2022, and we have apparently learned very little. Why is that? Part of the reason is the selective enforcement of international law since WWII. For example, no US leader was sanctioned or even tried for the blatantly criminal and unwarranted US-led attack on Iraq. The message seemed to be that international law doesn’t apply to nuclear powers.

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Media Coverage of Russia’s Criminal Invasion of Ukraine

The recent appalling Russian invasion of Ukraine must be condemned. It’s yet another atrocious aggression in a long series of violations of international law by several countries including the US, Britain, Russia and Israel. It is terribly disappointing that humanity has failed to advance beyond the use of warfare (military, economic and cyber) to settle problems. Lobbying by the merchants of death, that is, the military-industrial complex, certainly plays a role in this disastrous failure.

US hypocrisy on international law

Many nations and their media, particularly Western nations, have rightly emphasized this horrific violation of the rule of law by Russia. Ironically, it is the US – arguably the nation that has done the most to undermine international law through its widespread military aggressions, support for coups, illegal use of economic warfare (unilateral sanctions), protection of Israel from sanctions, and non-participation with the International Criminal Court (ICC) – that now proclaims most loudly the sanctity of international law.

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The US Enables Criminal Israeli Behavior

Given all the attention focused on the covid-19 pandemic, the Build Back Better bill, the January 6th attack on the Capitol and the media-hyped crises over Ukraine and Taiwan this past year, many other important issues have not received much attention. One example is the Palestinian/Israeli situation.

Views of Israel

There have been some major breakthroughs in the perception of Israel in 2021 with two major human rights organizations, B’Tselem in Israel and Human Rights Watch, concluding that Israel is an apartheid state. In addition, this past May, 93 US rabbinical students wrote a letter challenging the Zionist perception of Israel. They wrote: “As American Jews, our institutions tell stories of Israel rooted in hope for what could be, but oblivious to what is. Our tzedakah money funds a story we wish were true, but perpetuates a reality that is untenable and dangerous. Our political advocacy too often puts forth a narrative of victimization, but supports violent suppression of human rights and enables apartheid in the Palestinian territories, and the threat of annexation.”

Israel violates international law with impunity

There was also a particularly strong statement to the UN General Assembly this past October by Michael Lynk, the “Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967”. Ian Williams wrote about Lynk’s statement in the Jan-Feb 2022 issue of the Washington Report on the Middle East Affairs.

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The Sad Saga Continues: Occupation and Oppression of Palestinians

Here we go again with yet another deadly and devastating Israeli military attack on Gaza that has captured the world’s attention. However, this current crisis is notably different in scope from the numerous previous major Israeli war crimes against Gaza. This time there was already ongoing Palestinian resistance to Israeli provocations and violence in occupied East Jerusalem including the egregious Israeli attack in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in all of Islam. There was also more Palestinian resistance to the Israeli provocations and violence in other parts of the occupied West Bank and in Israel itself with its apartheid regime. Thus this time, when Hamas fired rockets into Israel, it was responding to attacks on Palestinians and demonstrating the unity of the Palestinian cause of resisting Israeli occupation and oppression.

In addition, people worldwide now recognize that the Israeli conquest and theft of Palestinian lands is just another brutal and illegal colonial racist venture. The ongoing Israeli treatment of Palestinians is similar to the barbaric treatment of indigenous and minorities by other colonial powers. There is now much more connection between Palestinians and other oppressed people around the world, including in the US.

The US and Western European nations wring their hands and plead for an end to the violence while the US simultaneously prevents any sanctions against Israel. Of course, these nations lamely insist that Israel, an occupying military power attacking an occupied people, has a ‘right to defend itself’. Wait, what did they say?! Don’t they mean to say that the Palestinians, those without an army and living under apartheid and those living under a brutal military occupation, have a right to defend themselves?

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