What If The Pentagon And Peace Corps Switched Budgets?

When somebody, anybody, tells you “the only way” to do a thing is their way, and it happens to be the military way, this usually means they are going to take you for a ride down the fiery road to war.

      It means they have foresworn diplomatic solutions. It means they don’t want to talk, they want to fight. And they’ll use your sons and your daughters and your fathers and mothers and your sisters and brothers to do it.

     It means they’ll confiscate the tax dollars you hoped might be spent for peaceful use, for fighting disease, for relief of the poor, for urban rehab, for social justice, for small business, for education, you name it, and divert them into the purse of every no-bid defense contractor chum they can find.

    This was the clear meaning of President Bush’s June 1, 2002 speech to the cadets at West Point where, as Chalmers Johnson put it in “The Sorrows of Empire,”(Owl Books)  “we had a unilateral right to overthrow any government in the world we deemed a threat to our security” — diplomacy, world courts and world organizations be damned!

   “In the world we have entered,” Bush said, “the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act.” Got that? The only path to safety is the military road.

   When will Americans wake up that this is madness? Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., saw right through it: “The president has adopted a policy of ‘anticipatory self-defense’ that is alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl Harbor…”

   It is commonplace for those who want to make a war to say “force” is the only thing those people will understand. When the Japanese army fell on Nanking in 1937 and raped it they said it was to “teach the Chinese a lesson.” Some lesson!-one that proves some generals don’t know the difference between the schoolyard and the graveyard.

   Is force the only thing our “enemies” can understand? Why do the former “Axis” governments today prefer talking to fighting? And how is the isolationist-minded America of 1940 has turned into an interventionist ogre that would rather fight than talk?

   Maybe the only thing we understand is force. You don’t think so? Well, in 2003, the Bush Administration spent 7 percent of its international affairs budget on the State Department and 93% on the Defense Department. It spends about $350-million a year on the Peace Corps and lavishes $500-billion on the military. Defense, hell!

  Whenever has there been so notorious an abandonment of diplomacy and so great a ramp-up in military power? “Even before 9/11,” Johnson writes, “the Bush administration had unveiled its unilateral approach to the world. It withdrew from important international treaties, including those seeking to ban antiballistic missile weapons, control the emission of greenhouse gases, and create a court to try perpetrators of the most heinous war crimes.” Among the points he makes:

   # In 2003, America had “a military presence in 153 of the 189 member countries of the United Nations, including large-scale deployments in 25 of them.”

   # In 2002, the U.S. was offering military instruction to 133 of the 189 countries of the world through the State Department, now a sad appendage of the War Machine. “The Pentagon finds it convenient to train foreign military forces and police to carry out secret programs of state terrorism, including the assassination of foreign leaders, without being charged with war crimes and violations of the Geneva Conventions,” Johnson noted.

   # In 2001, the Pentagon acknowledged operating at least 725 military bases abroad, (that’s in addition to 970 at home) valued at $118-billion, plus a dozen “floating bases” — carrier task forces each with enough firepower to waste a continent.

   # Ask yourself, why does the U.S. need 38 bases on choice real estate in Okinawa when its people are howling for us to get out? Where is the European enemy that causes the Pentagon to lavish billions of dollars for bases in Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Iceland, Italy, Macedonia, The Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, and Britain?

   “Since the end of World War II, American governments have offered many rationales for the bases they were collecting around the world, including containing Communism, warding off the ‘domino theory,’ fighting ‘ethnic cleansing’ and preventing the spread of ‘weapons of mass destruction,’” Johnson writes. He notes as soon as one enemy disappears another pops up to replace it, always justifying the Pentagon’s budget greed.

   And did you know your tax dollars are supporting 234 military golf courses around the world? Did you know the armed forces’ operate a ski and vacation center at Garmisch in the Bavarian Alps, a resort hotel in downtown Tokyo, 71 Learjets, 13 GulfstreamIIIs, and 17 Cessna Citation luxury jets to fly our admirals and generals about in style?

   Is this costly, military approach the only way? Why don’t we try another road? Let’s bring our troops home from Iraq, since most say they don’t want to be there anyway. And Afghanistan. And Colombia. Let’s thank them and a million other soldiers for their service and give them that free college education the recruiters promised them.

    Let’s expand the Peace Corps from a few thousand to 1-million volunteers and exchange its paltry budget with the Pentagon’s and see what they can do. (The Pentagon, like the Brooklyn Navy Yard, will make a fine address for entrepreneurs.)

    Let’s scrap those forward operating bases where the Pentagon clusters its soldiers and instead let the Peace Corps volunteers fan out over the world, living and working in communities to provide personal service, teaching, educating, building, creating, and understanding and learning from the world’s peoples.

    And let’s write finish to America as the world’s Number One arms salesman. Let’s sell instead our humanitarian technologies to protect people from disease, wipe out hunger, and build a thousand Habitats for Humanity. 

   Finally, let’s send this message from the revolutionary James Madison to the Pentagon:

   “Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments of bringing the many under the domination of the few.”
(Sherwood Ross is an American reporter. Reach him at [email protected])


Leave a comment