A Poor People’s Campaign Against War
By David Swanson
Movements that are serious about human survival, economic justice, environmental protection, the creation of a good society, or all of the above, address the problem of militarism. Movements that claim to be comprehensive yet run screaming from any mention of the problem of war are not serious.
Toward the not-serious end of the spectrum sit most activist efforts devoted to political parties in a corrupt political system. The Women’s March, the Climate March (which we had to work very hard to squeeze the slightest mention of peace out of), and the March for Our Lives are not especially serious. While the March for Our Lives is a single-issue “march,” its issue is gun violence, and its leaders promote military and police violence while shunning any recognition of the fact that the U.S. Army trained their classmate to kill.
It’s certainly encouraging that some “Indivisible” groups have been opposing Trump’s latest disastrous nominations in part on anti-militarist grounds. But one should hesitate to look to partisan groups for a revaluation of moral values.
Toward the more serious end of the spectrum are Black Lives Matter, which includes a serious analysis of militarism and the relationships among supposedly separate “issues” throughout its platform, and the Poor People’s Campaign, which on Tuesday published a report by the Institute for Policy Studies that takes on the interlocking evils of militarism, racism, extreme materialism, and environmental destruction.
“Few recall,” the report says, “that the war in Vietnam drained away many of the resources for the War on Poverty, which did much but could have done much more. ‘Bombs dropped in Vietnam explode at home,’ Dr. King said. Fewer still recall the prophetic voice of the Poor People’s Campaign and that Dr. King died organizing a nonviolent revolution to push America toward a social ethos grounded in love. . . . [T]he new Poor People’s Campaign will bring together people from all walks of life to the National Mall in Washington and to state capitols across the nation from, just over forty days to demand that our country see the poor in our streets, confront the damage to our natural environment, and ponder the ailments of a nation that year after year spends more money on endless war than on human need.”
The new Poor People’s Campaign knows where the money is.
“The current annual military budget, at $668 billion, dwarfs the $190 billion allocated for education, jobs, housing, and other basic services and infrastructure. Out of every dollar in federal discretionary spending, 53 cents goes towards the military, with just 15 cents on anti-poverty programs.”
And it doesn’t fall for the lie that the money needs to be there.
“Washington’s wars of the last 50 years have had little to do with protecting Americans, while the profit motive has increased significantly. With private contractors now performing many traditional military roles, there have been almost 10 times as many military contractors per soldier in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars as there were during the Vietnam War. . . “
The new Poor People’s Campaign recognizes the other 96% of people as being people too.
“U.S. military interventions have caused staggering numbers of civilian deaths in poor countries. According to the United Nations, almost one-third more civilians died in Afghanistan during the first nine months of 2017 than during that same period in 2009 when the counting began. . . . Perpetual war has also taken a toll on U.S. troops and personnel. In 2012, suicide claimed more military deaths than military action.”
This campaign recognizes the connections.
“Militarism abroad has gone hand in hand with the militarization of U.S. borders and of poor communities across this country. Local police are now equipped with war machinery such as the armored military vehicle deployed in Ferguson, Missouri, in response to protests over the police killing of a Black teenager, Michael Brown, in 2014. Young Black males have been hardest hit by this escalation in force. They are nine times more likely to be killed by police officers than other Americans.”
This campaign also recognizes things that any organization devoted to one of the two big political parties is strictly incapable of recognizing, such as when something necessary is completely lacking:
“Unlike President Dwight Eisenhower, who warned against the ‘military-industrial complex,’ no contemporary political leader is putting the dangers of militarism and the war economy at the center of public debate.”
I recommend reading the whole report, the militarism section of which discusses:
the war economy and military expansion:
“The expansion of the U.S. military around the world causes serious problems, from assaults on local women to environmental destruction to distorting local economies.”
who’s benefitting from war and privatizing the military:
” Washington’s wars of the last 50 years have little to do with protecting Americans. Rather, their goals are to consolidate U.S. corporations’ control over oil, gas, other resources and pipelines; to supply the Pentagon with military bases and strategic territory to wage more wars; to maintain military dominance over any challenger(s); and to continue to provide justification for Washington’s multi-billion dollar military industry. . . . A 2005 report by the Institute for Policy Studies showed that between 2001 and 2004, CEOs of large corporations averaged a 7 percent raise on their already lucrative salaries. Defense contractor CEOs, however, averaged a 200 percent increase. . . .”
the poverty draft:
“As reported in a 2008 study on race, class, immigration status, and military service, ‘an important predictor to military service in the general population is family income. Those with lower family income are more likely to join the military than those with higher family income. . . .”
women in the military:
“[A]s women’s participation in the military increased, so did the number of women victimized by their fellow soldiers. According to recent Veterans Administration (VA) data, one in every five women veterans has told their VA healthcare provider that they have experienced military sexual trauma, defined as sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment. . . . Just four years before 2001, when the extremist anti-women Taliban ruled Afghanistan, UNOCAL oil adviser Zalmay Khalilzad had welcomed the Taliban to the United States to discuss potential deals. Little or no concern was expressed about women’s rights or women’s lives. In December 2001 President George W. Bush appointed Khalilzad special representative, and later U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. After theattacks, there was a sudden onslaught of expressed concern about the Taliban’s treatment of Afghan women. . . . But the U.S.-installed government that replaced the Taliban included many warlords and others whose extreme antagonism to women’s rights was hardly distinguishable from that of the Taliban.”
the militarization of society:
“Much of the federal funding comes through things like the ‘1033 program,’ which authorizes the Pentagon to transfer military equipment and resources to local police departments — from grenade launchers to armored personnel carriers — all at virtually no cost. . . . While guns have always played a major role in U.S. history and culture, dating back to the genocide of Native people inherent in the European conquest of the continent and the enslavement of Black Africans, guns are now more prevalent than ever before.”
the human and moral costs:
“The streams of desperate people seeking refuge across the sea or around the world have become a flood. In the United States more than anywhere else, those people have been met with racist attack, xenophobic rejection, and three Muslim bans. . . . Meanwhile, poor people around the world continue to pay a huge price for U.S. wars. During U.S. military actions abroad cities, countries and whole populations suffer, while stoking greater anger and encouraging the recruitment of new generations of anti-U.S. fighters. Even in the earliest years of the Global War on Terror, U.S. military officials recognized that military invasion and occupation created more terrorism than it ended.”
Imagine a multi-issue comprehensive worldview nonviolent activism movement with this sort of understanding of the topic that usually shall not be named.
This is what we’ll need come Armistice Day.to replace Trump Weapons Day with
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.