By Michael McConnell, Regional Director, American Friends Service Committee
For OpEdNews: Michael McConnell – Writer â€¢ December 3, 2009
If you were head of the U.S. government how would you spend $1 million of tax money?
You could send one soldier to Afghanistan. But that same million dollars could be spent in many other ways. First, it could pay 30 caregiver stipends to family members of severely disabled veterans who have come back from Afghanistan and Iraq, providing them with first-rate care. It could support 70 unemployed people for a year. It could give tax credits to small business to create 77 new jobs. It could provide 102 full college scholarships for a year. It could pay for health insurance for 690 children for a year. Or it could retrofit 1,330 homes with renewal energy.
That $1 million that the government spends to send one soldier to Afghanistan could â€“ and should – be used here to positively impact so many lives. As a nation we are investing more into the war and occupation of two countries than we are into the economic and educational revitalization of our own.
This hemorrhaging of resources contributes to the economic deterioration of the United States. A study by the Institute for Policy Studies indicates that military spending creates fewer jobs than spending in any other sector including tax breaks, education, healthcare, mass transit and construction.
At home, military spending increases the debt, debilitates hundreds of thousands of our vets returning home and hurts our credibility in the rest of the world. It drains our treasury of needed resources that could be applied to solving such security issues as climate change, unemployment, public health and infrastructure repair.
Whenever health care reform, or extension of jobless benefits, or aid to college students surfaces in congressional debate, critics claim that we cannot afford them. Veterans and their families fight unending battles with Congress to secure funding for the basic services they have earned – mental health, education, housing, job training. Yet when the debate on supplementary funding of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars comes up, proponents are silent about how much it will increase the deficit.
No matter where people stand on the morality or effectiveness of the wars, the simple fact remains: We cannot afford them!
We cannot afford the loss of our own young people either to death or to wounded lifetimes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or physical disability. We cannot afford to lose our sympathetic standing internationally, reawakened by the election of Barack Obama. We cannot afford to drive our nation deeper into debt, ignore the decay of our neighborhood schools or the plight of young people forced to drop out of college because they cannot pay for it. We cannot afford to continue to rely on fossil fuels while alternative sources of energy languish due to lack of funding.
Morally, we cannot afford the weight of innocent civilians killed in these wars, for their deaths will haunt not only our dreams but also our attempts at a new foreign policy based not on militarism, but cooperation.
We imagine the United States as a nation of limitless resources. But the fact is that we can no more afford two wars than a homeless man can afford a Caribbean cruise. We simply have to find another way to live in the world.
The war in Afghanistan is neither good nor necessary. The sooner this nation realizes and acts on that fact, the sooner we can apply that million dollars per soldier to rebuilding our economy and creating jobs; taking care of the educational and health needs of our children and our veterans, and forging a foreign policy on humanitarian aid, not civilian destruction.
Michael McConnell, Regional Director, American Friends Service Committee,
Linda Englund, Military Families Speak Out