When Benjamin Netanyahu courted, received, and responded to an invitation to address a far rightwing Republican Congress in order to publicly, internationally diss President Obama, he scolded our President, saying the proposed deal to keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb was a “bad deal.”
I’d like to channel Bibi. Militarism is a bad deal.
When the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems start to look like nails. The only tool America has, in the minds of a warmongering Congress, is our military. Oh — excuuuuse me — our sacred military.
How has that military been doing at solving our nation’s problems? A very small but representative sampling:
• The military budget is massive, dwarfing all other discretionary budgets, burning through approximately $1.5 billion each day and costing American taxpayers months of their paychecks every year.
• The military and its corporate manufacturers have more Superfund sites than any other sector. Groundwater under and around military bases from Camp Lejuene in North Carolina, to Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, to Red Hill on Oahu, Hawaii, to Pensacola, Florida, to Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio, is polluted by wastes from the bases.
• Unexploded US military ordnance litters the Earth from Afghanistan to Camp Minden, Louisiana to Makua in Hawaii to Fort Sheridan north of Chicago.
• Radioactive military waste that will be poisonous for geological time spans is leaking into the soil, water and air from New York to South Carolina to Richland, Washington to Madison, Indiana. (If the Chinese or North Koreans had done all these things to us we would launch on them, no doubt.)
• The military budget creates fewer jobs per $billion spent than if Congress appropriated to any other sector — infrastructure, education, medical care, environmental protection, etc.
• Lead dust that the EPA says is unsafe contaminates at least four armories in Oregon — but the National Guard still allows training and they allow the public to use the facilities for events.
• Live anthrax from the hellish base at Fort Detrick, Maryland is shipped, by accident, all around the US and overseas, with no clear accounting of where else it was then transshipped.
• In violation of many international and US environmental laws, the US military conducts massive open-pit burns of toxic waste in Afghanistan, sickening US service members and Afghans.
• At least 600 US soldiers have suffered health problems from exposure to Iraqi poison weapons that the US designed.
• Locals have convinced the US government to postpose a burn of more than 700 acres of what the EPA called the most contaminated square mile on Earth at Rocky Flats, Colorado, where the Pentagon’s corporations manufactured the deadly radioactive triggers to some 70,000 nuclear bombs.
• When the US military achieves “Mission Accomplished” the results are predictable; the “vanquished” enemy steps up, digs deeper, and comes roaring back more virulent than ever. Since our ill advised Gulf War in 1991 — after which we saw the creation of al Qaida as an enemy — to Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 — after which we see a caliphate (!), our violence has been spectacular in two results: short term victory and long term losses at exorbitant expense in blood and treasure.
• The US military consumes more fossil fuel, contributing more to climate chaos, than any other entity on Earth.
Time to look elsewhere for solutions. If Congress is ever interested, there are thousands of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and professionals who know pieces of this puzzle. Few are in the military. Many are at work, in the US and all around the world, solving problems sustainably, helping instead of threatening, developing instead of bombing, and doing it all at a tiny, tiny fraction of the cost of the most expensive war machine the world has ever seen. Either Congress should investigate and inquire or the people should elect some Members who would.
Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.