Yesterday the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act which allocates roughly $700 billion in military spending for the year. This accounts for roughly 54% of the annual discretionary spending for the US.
That same day I attended a community discussion concerning the military budget, which was frankly pretty depressing. We wrote postcards to senators and even spoke to representatives for Senators who were in the room with us, but the culture of violence in America- propped up by the culture of fear of others- felt like an insurmountable problem that needs immediate change. It’s going to take a lot more than postcards to change Senators minds who are almost all propped up with funding by weapons contractors.
In 2015 the U.S. accounted for 37 percent of the total military spending in the world. This means that the U.S. military expenditures are about the size of the next seven largest military budgets in the world, combined.
A man from the refugee community sitting next to me at the discussion shook his head in exasperation:
“You bomb other countries and create more refugees, and then tell them they can’t come to the US. When really, if you would just spend all that money to help other countries rebuild, you would not have refugees.”
Weapons manufacturers depend on constant threat of war to be able to continue providing jobs for all of their workers. It is not in these corporations interests to end wars. Additionally, war is being waged outside of America. Police force and Immigration and Border Patrol also request military grade equipment to “keep America safe” on its own land.
When you take into account that it is not just that military manufacturers make weapons for the American war economy, but they also provide weapons for much of the world’s war economy as well (see School of the Americas)- you realize that this is big money, and it is not changing with a few peace and love signs. We need a complete cultural shift, because the current culture is constantly being influenced by hawkish propaganda in our everyday lives. The media has a huge role in this, with basically all mainstream media outlets normalizing war, and helping to propagate the culture of fear and hatred of the “other.”
In addition to profiting from other countries’ resources, war itself turns a huge profit for those who make a business of it. Recently Erik Prince (founder of the now-defunct mercenary corporation Blackwater) and Stephen Feinberg (owner of DynCorp military contractor) have developed proposals for Trump to use more private military contractors in Afghanistan rather than US troops. Corporate military contractors make 300–500 billion a year from the Department of Defense. Prince explains the “benefits” of corporate mercenaries, by using an immediate comparison to literal colonialism:
“If you look back in history, the way the English operated India for 250 years, they had an army that was largely run by companies — and no English soldiers. So cheap, very low cost.”
Western nations used to be open about wanting to exploit the world for their own gain. In recent years though this old form of colonialism has been covered up with ideas of “humanitarian interventionism.” Now, with the Trump administration in office, we are back to a much more blatant colonialism as Trump expresses desire to take Afghanistan’s minerals and Iraq’s oil- instead of just wanting to “help” the countries as previous administrations have claimed.
Additionally, with exploitation of other people and the land they live on comes environmental pollution, an important intersection to realize. Not only are we killing people with immediate attacks, we’re killing people slowly with pollution. Also, nuclear weapons stockpiling (see Nuclear Disarmament) and drone warfare are issues for another article, but I wanted to set the stage for future anti-war articles today.
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