The internationalist spirit growing in the anti-war movement can be seen in the demands for the U.S. to pay reparations for its crimes worldwide, first of all to Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Korea, Colombia, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico -- wherever U.S. aggression and occupations have harmed the peoples.
Defending Palestine is a key part of many of the actions. People are also alert to the effort by the U.S. to now use "humanitarian aid" in Palestine as a means to strengthen the occupation and deny Palestinians their rights. So people are organizing to deliver aid themselves while demanding that the U.S. government pay for its crimes now, with no strings attached.
Many are also demanding that the U.S. contribute to a sustainable and peaceful economy worldwide. The war budget and war economy are wrecking havoc, in the world and at home, or as one action emphasizes, "It's the war economy, honey." Demanding an end to the war economy and refusing to accept a war budget are part of the peoples' anti-war alternative. The stands being taken show that Americans want an anti-war government that contributes to peace and progress in the world and are fighting to bring it about, through these many actions, running anti-war candidates, and organizing to defend the rights of all. The U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization salutes the many organizations, coalitions, campus groups and families taking their stand and urges all to step up the efforts to bring All U.S. Troops Home Now!
Anti-War Forces Call for National and Local Actions
New York City, March 19, 2009
Anti-war organizations and coalitions on a local and national level are calling for numerous actions on the sixth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Many denounced plans announced by President Barack Obama to keep an occupation force of up to 50,000 troops -- plus countless civilian mercenaries -- in Iraq indefinitely as well as immediately send an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan. Demonstrations, petitions, and demands to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring U.S. Troops Home now have already taken place and many more actions are planned for the period around the anniversary of the invasion, March 19.
San Francisco, March 19, 2009: bottom right, two U.S. Marines and Iraq war veterans
are arrested by police after blocking Market Street.
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out are among the organizations of veterans and their families that are demanding the wars end now. The IVAW called Obama's announcement "a plan for almost three more years of an unjustified military occupation that continues to claim the lives and livelihoods of our troops and innocent Iraqis." It "does not include a timeline for removing the more than 150,000 private defense contractors and mercenaries still in Iraq, nor does [it] address the question of disallowing permanent military bases." IVAW noted that President Barack Obama "says he understands service members have 'the heaviest burden,' but how is he alleviating that burden by removing troops from Iraq only to ask them to fight in an escalating occupation in Afghanistan? We must ensure that U.S. control of Iraq, which today is accomplished primarily through military force, is not maintained over the longer term through the use of more subtle legal, financial, economic or political means." They affirmed that "The Iraqi people deserve the dignity of full sovereignty and control of their own nation" and that this requires "the immediate and complete withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq. This means withdrawing all military personnel, troops and defense contractors, closing all military bases, ceasing air operations, and removing American interests intent on controlling Iraqi oil resources."
Veterans For Peace President Mike Ferner said that "Barack Obama became president in part because millions of voters were sick of these wars and wanted them stopped, period. Saying that only 'non-combat' troops will be left after 19 months is just sleight of hand so we can keep tens of thousands of soldiers in Iraq and send thousands more to Afghanistan." They are among the many anti-war organizations organizing local demonstrations across the country on March 19. Cindy Sheehan, of Gold Star Mothers for Peace and anti-war candidate in the 2008 elections called on people to "Jam Up the War Machine!" She said, "The situation in the Middle East is worsening as is the U.S. economy. The wars and the downward spiral of the economy are inexorably linked." She emphasized "The anti-war movement must not wait a minute longer or waver in our resolve for peace! We must end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan!" She also expressed the spirit of the people for unity in action, calling on all to participate in the various actions called.
Washington, DC, March 19, 2009: Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War maintain tower-guard vigils across from the White House as part of "OPERATION NOT CHANGE," The towers will be manned 24 hours a day until March 21.
The World Can't Wait Coalition called on people to "Leave work and school to protest the sixth anniversary of the Iraq War on March 19. They are rallying people with the demands: U.S. Out of Iraq & Afghanistan! No Wars on Iran, Pakistan, Gaza! The world can't wait!
United for Peace and Justice also called for actions March 19, stating: "On March 19, 2003, the United States launched an illegal and immoral war against the people of Iraq. For six long years, our government lied, all the while human rights and the rule of law have been disregarded, the death toll has mounted, and massive destruction has left Iraq in ruins. The war has drained our national treasury while the profits of oil companies and war profiteers have soared.United For Peace and Justice calls on groups large and small in cities, towns and rural communities all across the country to take public action on the sixth anniversary of the war. We call for the war and occupation to end now and for all the troops and contractors to be brought home!"
Major national demonstrations against both wars have also been called for March 21 in Washington and on April 3-4 at Wall Street in New York City. Regional demonstrations on the West Coast and in the South are also planned for both weekends. Both involve broad coalitions and dozens of participating organizations. International Answer reports that under the banner the "Occupation is a Crime," the March 21 action will march on the Pentagon and then will march to the nearby giant corporate offices of Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin Corporation, General Dynamics and KBR (the former subsidiary of Halliburton). They report "There are 64 departure locations in 20 states bringing thousands of activists to Washington, DC. Large numbers of students from across the country are mobilizing to join the demonstration. We will be carrying hundreds of coffins representing the victims of war from Iraq to Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen, and the U.S. GIs who have been killed."
The demands of the March 21 march on the Pentagon and of the April 3-4 march on Wall Street include:
Bring All U.S. Troops Home Now!
(Voice of Revolution)
Vigorously Oppose U.S. War Hysteria
The war drive of U.S. imperialism is increasingly showing itself in stepped up war hysteria. In just the past few weeks the U.S. has targeted the Democratic People's Republic of Korea with brutal war games with unprecedented numbers of troops, planes and ships in and around the Korean peninsula. Every indication is that a pre-emptive attack is being prepared, with the U.S. saying the games are for "combat readiness." At the same time, the U.S. threatened China with its spy ships. The bombings against Pakistan are increasing as are efforts to destabilize the country. The U.S. is also gathering more troops along the border with Mexico in preparation for a possible invasion there, in the name of the "drug war." Adding to the hysteria, the military claims Mexico and Pakistan are the world's "two most critical states in danger of failing." Like the drug war, this is a justification for open U.S. military intervention.
Everywhere, the stand of the U.S. is for use of force to address any problem, and to use hysteria and "shock and awe" displays of military might to try and intimidate the peoples and force them to submit. We say NO! Oppose this war hysteria!
The war hysteria, which is increasing and broadening in scope, indicates that the U.S. war drive is increasing and drawing dangerously close to triggering a much broader war, whether in the Middle East or Asia. As war preparations and war funding increase, people are seeing the hope of change from the Barack Obama administration coming face to face with the empire -building of the U.S. rulers, and the war required for it. The "peace" candidate is now the war president. His budget has increased funding for the war machine, he has refused to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now, despite widespread popular demand for such actions, and indeed he supports the troop build up on the Korean peninsula and the border with Mexico. According to military officials, Obama is "exploring U.S. military capabilities" to "help Mexican forces." Already, the U.S. provides drones capable of blowing up cars and assassinating their occupants, intelligence sharing and equipment of various kinds. Much like Colombia, the U.S. is instigating and organizing the drug wars, then using this as justification for military intervention.
The demands of the peoples and the requirements of modern society today are the end of use of force in solving problems. It is to enforce the verdict of the defeat of fascism that propaganda for war, including fomenting war hysteria is a crime against the peoples and must not stand.
(Voice of Revolution)
Americans Do Not Want or Need a War Budget
The American people have made clear through many actions, letters, petitions, campaigns and again in the November elections themselves, that they want the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended now and all U.S. troops home now. They want an end to funding war crimes and crimes against humanity on a world scale and they want government to take responsibility for meeting the needs of the people. This stand of the people against war and for rights can readily be seen in signs and banners in demonstrations across the country: Money for Education, Not for Occupation; Money for the Workers and Our Cities, Not for War Profiteers; Reparations Now; Fund Human Needs not War and more. This popular will of the people however does not find its reflection in the budget just introduced by President Barack Obama.
The Obama budget calls for increasing the Pentagon 2009 budget by $20.4 billion, or about 4 percent, to a base rate of $533.7 billion. The increase serves in part to increase the number of U.S. troops in both the Army and Marines, to 547,400 and 202,000 respectively. There is an additional $75.5 billion for funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 2009 and $130 billion more for 2010. In addition the recently passed Recovery Act includes $7.4 billion for the Pentagon. That is $746.6 billion for the Pentagon alone for fiscal year 2009-10. Interest on the national debt from military spending is about $360 billion. The two together are more than $1 trillion. When funding for nuclear weapons and that for the National Intelligence Program for the many spy agencies, including the CIA are also added it is estimated that there is more than $1.4 trillion yearly in war funding alone.
Eliminating one year of the war budget would provide funding for reparations for those countries where the U.S. has committed war crimes and genocide, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Vietnam, Korea, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Colombia and elsewhere. It is estimated that simply closing 200 of the 1,000 U.S. bases worldwide would save about $12 billion. The UN estimates it needs an additional $13 billion a year to provide the basic health and nutrition needs of the world's poorest people, as one example of what these funds could serve.
Closing all U.S. bases would further cut the war budget. It is an action to increase security and set an example for solving problems without use of force. This is the leadership the people are demanding.
Obama emerged as champion of the ruling
circlesveterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in a protest
outside the White House March 19, 2009 in Washington, DC. The veterans
protested against "President Obama's deceptions about his foreign
policy," and to mark the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war.
One way that he attempts to contend with the anti-war stand of the people is making it appear that the economic crisis has nothing to do with the war budget. His presentation on the budget, titled "A New Era of Responsibility," begins with a 15-page section on "Inheriting a Legacy of Misplaced Priorities." It warns that "tough choices lie ahead," and provides numerous facts and charts on the severity of conditions facing workers, in terms of wages stagnating, massive unemployment, and so forth. But the "misplaced priority" of waging war worldwide, keeping 1,000 U.S. military bases worldwide and a steadily increasing war budget, is not mentioned. There are no facts presented on the damage a war budget has on the economy and the fact that it worsens the recession.
The war budget drains $1.4 trillion every year out of the economy, funds that could be invested in the economy. Put another way, the need for providing healthcare is spoken to by Obama -- but the fact that one year of the war budget, $1.4 trillion, would be sufficient to provide at least health insurance to all Americans, is kept hidden.
These matters of war and peace, and a budget reflecting the priority of waging war, or the priority of defending rights are all matters for public discussion. And on this issue, the American public has made clear its view that security does not come from more war and aggression, but from ending wars and bringing all U.S. troops home now. We do not want or need a war president with a war budget.
Obama also attempts to speak to the current lack of trust among the people in government. He states, "We must usher in a new era of responsibility in which we empower citizens with the information they need to hold their elected representatives accountable for the decisions they make." As an example of this "information," he puts forward the fact that his Pentagon budget included the funding for the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than leaving them as separate supplemental funding. And the nearly 50 pages of various facts on conditions and to justify the budget are clearly aimed at this same purpose.
Two things stand out. One is that the social relations fundamental to the economy, and to its current crisis, are left out. This is also why the relationship between the war budget and the economy is left out. The social relations, where the working class produces the social wealth of society, while the handful of monopoly owners privately appropriate that wealth and use it for their own narrow interests, is fundamental to the current situation. It is this contradiction that must be addressed and solved. But it is precisely this contradiction that is kept hidden. So long as it is ignored, there is no hope for the "new foundation of growth," Obama calls for.
Secondly, when it comes to empowerment, the problem that is presented is the need for the people themselves to be empowered to make the decisions. That is the mechanism required for accountability in this modern era. People want and need the political power to decide these urgent matters of war and peace. They want and need to themselves be in power so that they can resolve the conflict between their popular will, which is anti-war, and the existing legal will, as represented in government, which is pro-war and anti-people.
Resolving this conflict between the popular will and legal will by bringing the people themselves to power is the work of the people themselves and it is this fight that is indeed a priority.
No to a War Budget! Yes to Empowerment of the People!
(Voice of Revolution)
Facts on War Budget
Base 2010 budget for the Pentagon increased to $533.7 billion for the 2010 fiscal year, an increase of more than $20.4 billion. Pentagon funding since 2001 has increased by about 80 percent.
War funding includes $75.5 billion in additional funding for wars against Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009 and $130 billion more in 2010. The Iraq war has already taken $600.9 billion out of the economy and continues to do so at a rate of $430 million each day.
Yearly Interest on the national debt created by military spending (80 percent of it) is now about $390 billion.
War Funding More than 50 percent of Budget
The information in the graph below is for fiscal year 2009, which runs from October of 2008-September 2009. President Barack Obama's budget is for fiscal year 2010 and includes even higher levels for the Pentagon than indicated here. The specifics necessary for a new graph will not be available until the spring. For 2009, total budget outlays were $2.650 billion. About 54 percent, or $1.449 billion went to the military and 46 percent or $1.210 billion went for nonmilitary funding.
On the graph, "current military" accounts for $965 billion. It includes Pentagon ($653 billion), the military portion from other departments ($150 billion), and an additional $162 billion to supplement the 2009 budget's misleading underestimate of only $38 billion for the "war on terror." Among the specific items included are:
- Military Personnel $129 billion
2009 Total Outlays (Federal Funds): $2,650 billion;
MILITARY: 54% and $1,449 billion
NON-MILITARY: 46% and $1,210 billion
"Global War on Terror" $200 billion [$162 billion has been added to the last item to supplement the budget's grossly underestimated $38 billion in "allowances" to be spent in 2009 for the "War on Terror," which includes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan]
Past Military, of $484 billion includes:
- Veterans' Benefits $94 billion
These figures are from an analysis of detailed tables in the "Analytical Perspectives" book of the Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2009. The figures are federal funds, which do not include trust funds -- such as Social Security -- that are raised and spent separately from income taxes. What you pay (or do not pay) by April 15, 2009, goes to the federal funds portion of the budget. The government practice of combining trust and federal funds began during the Vietnam War, thus making the human needs portion of the budget seem larger and the military portion smaller.
U.S. Military Spending vs. The World
U.S. military spending -- including Pentagon plus nuclear weapons -- is now equal to the military spending of the rest of the world combined. The graph below, on right, shows military expenditures for the top 15 countries combined, for 2006. Some say that U.S. military spending will naturally be higher because it has the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of any country. The United States accounts for 47 percent of the world's total military spending, however the U.S.'s share of the world's GDP is about 21 percent. Also note that of the top 15 countries shown, at least 12 are considered allies of the U.S. The U.S. outspends Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea by a ratio of 72 to one.
(Sources: White House budget and War Resisters League)
Where the Money Goes
Early this winter, the PBS "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" interviewed the medical director at a community clinic in Northern California. He recalled the sight of military equipment moving along railroad tracks next to his office. "I've joked with my colleagues," Dr. David Katz said, "if we could just get one of those Abrams tanks we could probably fund all the primary care clinics for a year."
The comment did not make it on the air -- it was only included in video on a PBS Web site -- and that was unfortunate. We need more public focus on what our tax dollars are buying.
As medical providers and patients struggle with low funding and high barriers to adequate healthcare, the nation's largesse for war continues to soar. Every day, the U.S. Treasury spends close to $2 billion on the military. Such big numbers are hard to fathom, but it's worth doing the math.
In Yolo County, for instance, where Dr. Katz watches Abrams tanks roll by his beleaguered clinic, taxpayers have already provided the IRS with $449.8 million to fund the Iraq war. That's enough to provide health care to 168,154 children for a full year.
Those figures come from the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan group with a nifty -- and often chilling -- online calculator (www. nationalpriorities.org). Type in the name of your locality, and huge military costs suddenly hit close to home.
More than 40 percent of federal tax dollars go to military spending. The outlays buy a mighty war machine while depleting our own communities.
In San Francisco, taxpayers have already sent the U.S. government $2.2 billion for the Iraq war -- enough to provide healthcare to 828,378 children for a year. In Oakland, the figure is $826.7 million, costing out to a year of health care for 309,036 children. In San Mateo County, taxpayers' tab for the war in Iraq has reached $2.6 billion, enough to cover a year of healthcare for nearly 1 million kids.
To make matters worse, this money wasn't just squandered. It financed warfare that damaged -- often fatally -- the health of Americans and Iraqis.
When the National Priorities Project crunched the numbers for the entire Bay Area, it found that taxpayers have already sent the IRS a total of $22.6 billion for the Iraq war. In retrospect, other options for that money are heartbreaking. For a full year, it could have provided 9,284,504 people with healthcare. Or it could have paid for 67,522 affordable housing units.
In pursuit of green goals, the Bay Area's share of expenditures for the Iraq war could have provided upward of 10 million homes with renewable electricity for four years.
Mostly, the dividing line between foreign policy and domestic economy has narrowed to the vanishing point. As we know from our personal lives, priorities -- whether openly examined or not -- are pivotal. And government budgets tell the tale of social priorities writ large.
Here's a fact worth pondering: If the money that taxpayers in the state have already provided for the Iraq war -- $83.1 billion -- could somehow be magically rerouted to the state government's coffers, the lawmakers in Sacramento would now be faced with the problem of what to do with a massive surplus.
We should not expect that a reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq will do much to slow the rocketing costs of America's global military ventures. The Obama administration plans to double U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan by early 2010, which will set a new deployment baseline in that country for years to come. And a significant boost in the overall size of the U.S. armed forces is on the bipartisan agenda in Washington.
Meanwhile, along the railroad tracks near Katz's clinic in Yolo County, the Abrams tanks are likely to keep rolling. Each one has a price tag of $4.3 million. And we're paying for it.
* Norman Solomon, a national co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, lives in Marin County. He is the author of "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." This item was originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Photos from Demonstrations Around the World
Demonstration marking the 6th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq in the
Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, March 20, 2009.
Anti-war protesters shout slogans during a rally denouncing the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in front of the U.S. embassy in Seoul, March 20, 2009. The banner at left reads, "Six years of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq! But our resistance will continue!" At right, the dove-shaped banner reads, "The sixth anniversary of the Iraq War. Who takes the blame for the wounded Iraq?" The other reads "Stop the U.S.-led war on Iraq!"
Tokyo, March 20, 2009