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Deficit or War: You Can't Do Both

Kinds of Hawks

by MICHAEL TRUE

"If voting made any difference, it would be illegal," according the late Philip Berrigan. This satiric comment seems especially relevant during our present military and economic crisis.

President Obama proposes reasonable remedies, but fails to follow through on them, while Republicans issue counter proposals that are bound to make things worse.

"If it was not clear before, it is obvious now," according to the New York Times editorial (April 19), that the Republican party "is fully engaged in a project to dismantle the foundations of the New Deal and the Great Society, and to liberate business and the rich from the inconveniences of oversight and taxes."

Why do we refuse to recognize the economic consequences of our failed policies, or to halt the Bush/Obama war on Afghanistan? According to a U.S. Army lieutenant, "no one benefits from this war… Only the CEOs and executive officers of war-profiteering corporations find satisfactory returns on their investments."

Some Americans, including politicians, profit from wasteful military expenditures and corporate greed, while 17% of the population remains permanently impoverished. Millions support laying waste to Kandahar, while New Orleans and Detroit deteriorate.

"The remains of villages destroyed by our bombs, the dead killed from our munitions, leave us, too, with bloody hands," as Chris Hedges has said. "We can build a new ethic only when we face our complicity in the cycle of violence and terror."

Flaunting our military power around the globe, we resort to brute force and economic domination,

Must we, as a people, squander our wealth and our young people in wars of conquest and intervention, financing 1,000 military bases around the world, funding corrupt dictatorships, and imposing "democracy" on countries whether they want it or not?

Going along to get along, Democrats and Republicans support policies that justify torture, undermine the right of habeas corpus, destabilize unions, abandon our once-admired educational system, and neglect our own people.

Dismantling a war culture that has undermined democratic governance and cultivating a peace culture mean promoting cooperative rather than domination models, locally, nationally, and internationally. Why not?

Initial steps in this direction require our (1) reducing the military budget, larger than all military budgets in the world combined; (2) abolishing tax breaks for the filthy rich and the multinational corporations; (3) reviving community self-reliance to reduce our dependence on agribusiness and foreign fuel.

Over the past fifty years, creeping militarism and unchallenged corporate greed have undermined our institutions one by one. Preferring comfort and complacency to confrontation, people who should know better, including academics and intellectuals, are silent, while members of the media frequently serve as a public relations agents for the Pentagon and legislators pretending to be "war hawks and deficit hawks" at the same time.

Voting for the right, as Henry David Thoreau said, is not doing anything for the right. Since the founding of the U.S., an active citizenry has succeeded in eradicating slavery, liberating women, upholding human rights, and organizing workers by taking risks essential to cultivating a peace culture.

Nonviolent people power helped to remedy previous crises, to uphold justice and to de-escalate violence. Congress may eventually get around to voting on these issues, but by that time the hard work will have been accomplished by all of us joining to force them to do so.

In commenting on public issues, one wants to be balanced and useful, as well as to retain integrity and to be honest about the present state of affairs. Our present crisis, as in the 1920s or 30s or 60s, appears to require ordinary people resorting to demonstrations, sit-ins, and strikes, to sustain democratic governance and values that are dear to informed citizens.

MICHAEL TRUE, Emeritus Professor, Assumption College, is Vice-president, Center for Nonviolent Solutions, Worcester, MA.