Militarism and COVID-19

After six months of enduring this tragic but preventable COVID-19 pandemic, there is still no national leadership. More than 200,000 Americans will die, and hundreds of thousands will suffer through the disease process, and then continue to have debilitating symptoms long after. Compare the response to how quickly our nation mobilized for war after less than 3000 died on 9/11; war that we continue to fight in the Middle East and Africa.

The inadequacies of our healthcare and public health systems and the persistent shortages of equipment, supplies, hospital beds and timely testing underscore the fact that military-related activities are the highest priority of the U.S. government. Its 2020 military budget is $738 billion. That’s over $84 million an hour for war. That’s where our tax dollars go and that’s where the resources are—spread around the world to intimidate and do harm, rather than good.

The President’s recent extravagant patriotic speeches and ceremonies ignore the pandemic and instead, extol the virtues of “law and order” and the largest military budget ever. Flyovers of fighter jets, used as a way of showing appreciation to healthcare workers treating COVID-19, demonstrates an effort to tie all aspects of our life, even this most desperate public health situation, into the U.S. war culture. Obviously, the cost of these nationwide military tributes and ceremonies, which is significant, could have provided medicine, testing, facemasks, and other items that are still desperately needed to help stem the spread of this disease. Perhaps these expensive public relations stunts were an effort to distract us from the government’s continuing failed leadership in handling the COVID-19 crisis.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if war was deemed a non-essential activity, and our country focused instead on eliminating healthcare disparities, systemic racism, aggressive policing, poverty, and this heartbreaking pandemic. These are the things that are terrorizing Americans.

Michael D. Knox, PhD is the founder and chair of the US Peace Memorial Foundation and Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida. @DrMichaelDKnox