Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Folly of Afghanistan

Taking A Stand Against War

No nation ever profited from a long war.” – Sun Tzu

Today's commentary is about the ongoing and undeclared war in Afghanistan and the fact that no good is apparently coming from it. As far as I am concerned, no Christian can be a true follower of Christ unless they are willing to take a stand against war in all its forms. In order to worship the Prince of Peace you must first and foremost be a peaceful person yourself. You cannot be warlike and then worship Christ in the same breath, the two are incompatible with one another. War is about killing and being killed. It is bloody and gory beyond description. It is so bad that even those who survive the conflict are often left with mental scars that never heal. Thousands of veterans are homeless today partly because they suffer from mental illnesses of one kind or another. In fact, one out of five veterans of the Iraq war #1, Iraq war #2, and Afghanistan campaigns return home with psychiatric disabilities so severe that they will never work again. That's what war does to people.

Here's a statistic about the illegal occupation of Afghanistan that most people are barely aware of: $57,000.00 per minute. That's how much money the United States is spending on the illegal occupation of Afghanistan. That works out to a million dollars a year for each man we have in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan War has been going on for eleven years and counting. Nearly 100,000 American troops are currently deployed there. More than 2,000 American service members have lost their lives there. The United States has wasted billions on the effort so far. Yet polling suggests that the war in Afghanistan is barely a blip on the public's radar.

In a nationwide New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last year, 60 percent of Americans said that the economy or jobs were the most important problems facing the country. A mere 3 percent mentioned Afghanistan or the war. The war is all but forgotten while death and destruction grinds on. For example, in September, at the NATO hospital doctors amputated a major limb – a leg or arm – an average of once every other day according to Navy Capt. Michael Mullins, a hospital spokesman. The number of civilian dead and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan stands in the hundreds of thousands. The cost of the Iraq war alone is likely to be more than three trillion dollars.

The National Security Advisor says there are less than 100 Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and we have over 100,000 troops and probably as many mercenaries chasing them. Maintaining one American soldier in Afghanistan for one year costs one million dollars. This expenditure could be for twenty jobs at home with a salary of $50,000 each. There are now over 90,000 battlefield casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Over 500,000 veterans patients from the two wars (not counting Iraq #1) have flooded into VA hospitals and clinics. That's one new war casualty walking into a VA medical facility every five minutes of every day – about 9,000 new patients every month with no end in sight.

The Iraqis still don't have a real government and Christians are being ethnically cleansed. 190,000 AK-47s handed out by the US Army to Iraqi security force recruits vanished and wound up in the hands of militants. Afghani soldiers may be shooting our own troops! The total D.O.D. budget for the current fiscal year is over $700 billion. It is an amount just under what the entire rest of the world spends for defense and most of them are allies. America's defense budget is about three times the combined budgets of China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran. The Defense Department spends in a few hours more than al Qaeda spends in an entire year. For this post-World War II high in spending, we get the smallest Army, Navy, and Air Force we have had since 1946. And, our tanks, ships, and aircraft are, on average, older than they have ever been before.

The Pentagon budget does not include what we pay for foreign aid, arms sales and arms control, Veterans, Homeland Security, the Pentagon's share of interest on the national debt, and other defense expenditures like nuclear weapons that are hidden in the energy department. To tally up our entire national security budget, we are cozy with $1 trillion. How many jobs could this wasteful spending that is bankrupting America generate?

How many indeed! What a beautiful world it would be if there were no more wars, and all the money that was formerly spent on them was redirected towards peaceful pursuits for the advancement of science and medicine, and for the exploration, commercialization and eventual colonization of the moon and planets. Meanwhile back on earth, everybody would get a free college education, national health care and senior care and there would be gleaming new infrastructure everywhere. There would be a vigorous space program that will put the first city on the moon and the first man on Mars. There would be no more disease in the third world because everybody would have access to fresh water. Untold millions could be fed, and all with the money that used to be spent on wars. Just think of the limitless possibilities!

Let's look at this another way. If the US military took all the money spent in one single day on its wartime expenditures and put it into a savings account, there would be enough funds to pay for the college education of every school kid in America from pre-K through high school – tuition, books, dorms, food, transportation and a new portable PC. Let me give you another example. The money in our hypothetical bank account from one day's military expenditures would be sufficient to take every homeless person in America off the street and put them into a 2,500 square foot house – fully furnished, stocked with groceries, and with all utilities included. And yes, I meant they would own the home free and clear. Hopefully that puts into focus the obscene amount of money our country is spending on wars overseas.

So what could America do with all that money currently being squandered on illegal military occupations and endless wars that serve only the top one tenth of one percent of the American corporate establishment? First and most obvious is the dire need to rebuild America's infrastructure, such as widening and repaving roads, rebuilding or replacing worn out bridges, and ditto for sewage and drainage systems across the country. Then there is the problem with America's ramshackle power grid. The US electrical power grid is based on technology that is over 125 years old. Certain people have been too busy resting on their laurels and depositing their paychecks instead of doing their jobs, otherwise this critically necessary rebuild would already be well under way. In point of fact, America needs to convert to a digital low-voltage direct-current power grid that can be run far more cheaply than the existing 110 volt grid. Remember, the higher the voltage required, the more current is necessary to generate it. So, if electricity in your area comes from a coal-fired power plant, your utilities company will only need to generate about 20% of the power needed for the existing high-voltage AC system to run the new one. Also, let's not forget the fact that any one of the above public works projects would create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

So now you can see that being a Christian is not about being a nice person or going to church. Being a good Christian means being anti-war to the point of refusing to serve in the military. It means being in favor of free college education, free health care, plus free day care and senior care for everybody without qualification. Make all of the above fundamental human rights for everyone, not just for those who have large sums of cash or stellar credit scores. War does irreparable harm, but being Christian – or at least being a decidedly peaceful person – does everybody tremendous good. Make a commitment to yourself and to God today to stand against war and to be in favor of world peace. Our only other choice is annihilation.

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