The war abroad is every day becoming more clearly a war at home against working people, immigrants, and the poor.
While building opposition to the occupation of Iraq and U.S. expansion of the “war on terrorism” to other targets, the antiwar movement must continue to address the costs and consequences of the war at home and explain the connections between these assaults.
The United States is spending $1 billion a week in its occupation of Iraq, excluding the cost of “reconstruction” (the government’s and the media’s euphemism for massive federal subsidies to corporations close to the Bush administration).
In his Sept. 7 address, President Bush has asked for $87 billion more to continue the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, far short of what will likely be needed.
This is in addition to the tens of billions dollars already allocated for the invasion of Iraq, the tens of billions the United States pays to maintain its massive (and growing) military arsenal in the Middle East and Asia, and the tens of billions the government spends to support “allies” such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States.
Yet city after city and state after state are reporting fiscal crises. The states are experiencing their worst fiscal crisis since World War II.
While military spending is growing at 44 percent annualized rate, according to the Financial Times, programs for early childhood education, health care, day care, libraries, and basic social services are being slashed drastically around the country.
Far from economically benefiting from the war, most people here are suffering from it – as are those in the military, many of them serving because of the poverty draft.
Soldiers are now discovering that they were sent to Iraq to secure U.S. power and profit, not to liberate Iraqis or disarm a dangerous country. (Recall that George Bush said it would be “suicidal” not to attack Iraq, so threatening was its proven arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.)
“I have learned from this experience that nobody cares about us over here,” one soldier recently wrote to a family member.
And now rank-and-file soldiers in Iraq are bring told that they face a pay cut.
“The Pentagon wants to cut the pay of its 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, who are already contending with guerrilla-style attacks, homesickness and 120-degree-plus heat,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported August 14.
The pay cut would also affect the 9,000 soldiers still fighting in Afghanistan, where Nato has nominally taken over the operation to “maintain stability” in that shattered country.
Working-class soldiers are suffering, but the Bush cronies moving in to privatize Iraq are already reaping significant benefits.
On July 31, Bloomberg News filed a report headlined “Iraq Work Helps Halliburton Return to a Profit.”
According to Bloomberg News, “Halliburton, the world’s second-largest provider of oil-field services, said Thursday that it swung back to a profit in the second quarter after a loss last year as revenue from government contracts more than doubled because of work in Iraq. Net profit was $26 million in the period, in contrast to a net loss of $498 million a year ago…. Iraq work generated 9 percent of operating profit and revenue in the quarter.”
The corporate looting of Iraq is simply an extension of the looting at home.
A June 26, 2003, New York Times report found that the richest 400 taxpayers more than doubled their share of national income in the period 1992 to 2000.
The average income of these 400 multimillionaires and billionaires more than quadrupled in the same period, reaching $174 million in 2000.
These ultra rich, many of whom pay no taxes at all, will fare even better as a result of tax cuts now taking effect, including those passed in the last years of the Clinton administration.
Yet workers in the United States are facing the highest unemployment rate in nine years, with the number of “discouraged workers” who are unemployed but not counted in the official unemployment rolls also growing.
As the Wall Street Journal put it, rather succinctly, on September 5, “People still are losing their jobs, enabling companies to reap bigger profits.”
In August, the U.S. economy shed 93,000 jobs.
“Something historic and fundamentally different is occurring now” to U.S. manufacturing jobs, the Wall Street Journal notes. Under the headline “Laid-Off Factory Workers Find Jobs Are Drying Up for Good,” it reported on July 21, “[T]his isn’t a cyclical downturn. Most of these basic and low-skill factory jobs [lost in the current recession] aren’t liable to come back when the economy recovers or when excess capacity around the world dissolves.”
On August 13, the Wall Street Journal followed up by noting that the U.S. economy is “increasing the ranks of the downwardly mobile…. While the recession is officially over, this is the first recovery since World War II in which the number of payroll jobs has continued to fall 20 months into the rebound…. Jobs have been lost across a wide spectrum, hitting workers at all levels of education and experience.”
Immigrants, Latino, Black, and Asian workers, and the disabled are being particularly hard hit.
“Across the corporate landscape, disabled workers are becoming an increasingly common casualty of the drive to cut costs,” the Journal reported on July 14. “As health-insurance costs and the number of disabled employees climb, more companies are firing them.”
And a new study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that unemployment among African Americans is growing faster than in any period since the 1970s.
Today, more than 34 million workers in the United States, roughly one in four in the work force, earn less than $8.70 an hour, and real wages and benefits are their lowest in 23 years.
The economic war on poor and working people is also going hand in hand with a major attack on civil liberties, particularly for immigrants, who face greater risk of false arrest, harassment, deportation, and detention, some without access to lawyers.
All of these assaults are taking place in the context of the so-called war on terrorism and are interconnected.
We have to build an opposition movement in the United States that forges concrete ties with the growing global opposition to U.S. imperialism. We need to make it clear that the overwhelming majority of people here have no stake in the imperial aims of the tiny elite who run this country, who are attacking us at home at the same time as they are making a war on the world, and who are threatening the very sustainability of the planet.
We need to involve more and more of the people facing budget cuts, attacks on their jobs and unions, and violations of their civil liberties, as well as more and more family and friends of those in the military calling for “troops out now,” to rally opposition to the wars being fought in our name, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan of today or Iran and Syria tomorrow.
Anthony Arnove is an editor at International Socialist Review and a regular ZNet commentator.