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War Deaths, and Taxes

Photo by DVIDSHUB | CC BY 2.0

Are the federal taxes coming out of your wages and due this week killing you? Sadly what’s rhetorical for US tax payers is gravely literal for people of eight countries currently on the shooting end of the US budget.

This year at least 47% of federal income taxes goes to the military (27%, or $857 billion, for today’s bombings and occupations, weapons, procurement, personnel, retiree pay & healthcare, Energy Dept. nuclear weapons, Homeland Security, etc.); and 20%, or $644 billion, for past military bills (veterans’ benefits — $197 billion; and 80% of the interest on the national debt — $447 billion).

A ceasefire, drawdown and retreat from the country’s unwinnable wars would reduce this tax burden, and didn’t the president promise to end the foreign “nation-building” that’s breaking the bank? Of course, that was a Trump promise, so:

Seven US airmen were killed on March 15 when a US Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in western Iraq, with 5,200 soldiers and as many contract mercenaries fighting there.

When VP Mike Pence visited Afghanistan last December he said with perfect meaninglessness: “we are here to see this through.” About 11,000 US soldiers are currently seeing it, and the Pentagon will be sending thousands more this spring. US bombing runs have almost tripled since the Obama/Trump handover, and Pence claimed “we’ve put the Taliban on the defensive” — but during Pentagon chief Jim Mattis’s visit the Taliban shot dozens of rockets at the Kabul airport where the general’s plane was parked.

The 16-year-old war in Afghanistan is now broadly understood to be militarily unwinnable, so a ceasefire and withdrawal would be a quick way to save billions of tax dollars. But US B-52s bombers flying from Minot Air Base in North Dakota are still creating new terrorists every day; the 3,900 US bombs and missiles exploded on the country in 2017 caused countless of civilian casualties.

In Syria, dozens of Russian soldiers were killed Feb. 7 and 8 by US-led forces fighting near Al Tabiyeh. Master Sgt. Jonathan J. Dunbar was killed by an IED blast March 29 in Manbij. The US now has about 2,000 soldiers at war in Syria, and in January then Sec. of State Rex Tillerson promised they will be there long after the war with the Islamic State is over. Although Trump said March 29, “we’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon,” Pentagon officials leaked news April 2 that dozens of additional troops will be sent in the coming weeks, CNN reported. The United States’ World War could hardly be more confounding or self-defeating as US ally Turkey has begun bombing US-supported Kurdish fighters inside Syria.

In Pakistan January 25, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs charged that remote-controlled US bombing had targeted an Afghan refugee camp, worsening relations with that government even beyond Trump’s cutoff of “security aid.”

Saudi Arabian aircraft, refueled en route by US tanker aircraft, have killed 4,000 civilians in Yemen, according to UN estimates. Suspending arms sales to the Saudis would end its war and begin to alleviate the Saudi-made humanitarian disaster in Yemen, and a cease-fire and stand-down would allow for the urgent relief required to prevent famine.

An end to today’s US bombing and/or military occupation of eight countries — Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq (all ongoing), Somalia (bombed Apr. 1), Libya (8 airstrikes since Jan. 2017), Niger (Oct. 4 battle, four dead; 500 US soldiers in country, now with armed drones), and Yemen (127 bomber & drone strikes in 2017) — would save billions, save lives, slow the wartime creation of terrorists, and reduce anti-US sentiment everywhere. In January, an extensive Gallup survey found 70% of the people interviewed in 134 countries disapprove of US foreign policy — 80% in Canada, 82% in Mexico.

To paraphrase Dr. King, who was assassinated by the FBI 50 years ago this month (“Orders to Kill: The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King,” by William F. Pepper), “The great initiative in these wars is ours. The initiative to stop them must be ours.”

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John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

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