Sunday, December 6, 2015

Arming Ourselves to Death

Such a fixation our culture has on guns and violence as a response to fear. From Dwight Eisenhower's famous farewell speech warning against the Military Industrial Complex to the NRA's no holds barred to make sure everyone has a gun on them at all times, our culture is sick, probably cancerous, and possibly stage 4.

A report last week from a Credit Suisse conference in West Palm Beach, noted

       "major defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors that they stand to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner told the conference his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria, citing the Turkish military’s recent decision to shoot down a Russian warplane.
        The incident, Tanner said, heightens the risk for U.S. military operations in the region, providing “an intangible lift because of the dynamics of that environment and our products in theater.” He also stressed that the Russian intervention would highlight the need for Lockheed Martin-made F-22s and the new F-35 jets. [The Intercept, Dec.4, 2015).

OpenSecrets.org - Center for Responsive Politics
Who says war doesn't pay.Why else would the Center for Responsive Politics be able to show that in 2015 alone, as of data reported by October 23, the defense industry had spent more than $95 million lobbying our government to insure their profitability.

Researchers William Hartung and Stephen Miles reported last summer what that looks like by looking at campaign contributions to House Armed Services Committee Chair, Mac Thornberyy (R-TX). I'll spare you the details here, save he has collected a mere $250,000 so far this election cycle. Put simply more evidence that Eisenhower was right.

With that kind of money floating around, and it's only the money that isn't hidden or dark, we can see an increasing part of the corruption that is our electoral and political system.

The US discretionary budget is now mostly military spending. When you add veteran's benefits it exceeds 60% of discretionary spending!!!!


Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates used to joke that he had more band members than the State Department had foreign service officers. We have 800 or more military bases on foreign soil and constantly flirting for more. The more bases, the more we need arms to equip those we station there -- an arms merchant's fantasy.

But it is not simply our military that's loaded for bear, it's increasingly our domestic culture. Even since the tragedy of San Bernadino last week, guns are flying off the shelves; the same shelves that supplied the deranged killers with their tools for tragedy. Here in Michigan, our medieval legislators are trying to lift any restrictions on concealed weapons being in our schools, libraries, or other public places. Do we really live in a Gunsmoke world where we need to deputize and arm everyone to shoot when someone looks threatening?

By this picture our priorities, both national and individual, are responsible for accelerating the violence our fear mongering culture readily glorifies in television and motion picture crime and terror, that seems to get bloodier and bloodier with each passing season. There seems to be few willing to stand up and oppose this runaway madness. Congressional candidates are largely afraid they will be labeled soft, or will unleash large funds against their re-election campaigns, if they stand up to the military, gun toting mindset that so holds our nation's conscience hostage. 

Enough! It is time to challenge the constant feeding of endless war in our name through the upcoming budget process. Our elected officials need to hear from us that it is time to shrink the military budget and the number of bases and weapons that arm the world. Especially because the Defense Department has never been audited!!!  Legislation that would require an audit of the Pentagon has been languishing in a Republican controlled legislature for years. Why wouldn't self-described fiscal CONSERVATIVES want to insure that the funds we collect are spent well?? Who could possibly be against this?????? Perhaps we need only look back up to origin of the $95 million figure at the beginning of this blog.

H.R. 942 "Audit the Pentagon Act" should be on everyone's agenda. Check it out yourself and then contact your representative and senators to co-sponsor and support it's passage.

The countervailing pro-active response would be two actions:

1) Fulfilling our commitments to the UN Peacekeeping missions in which we are currently in arrears ($337 million in 2014)

2) Support the Department of Peacebuilding Act, H.R. 1111 which would establish an agency which's first job is peace through non-military efforts while building a culture of peace globally and domestically.

And speaking of domestically, the clear first choice in my mind is to outlaw the reproduction, sale and use of assault weapons. They were designed to kill people. they are by design a WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION.  They have no use beyond that, unless making people afraid is a legitimate use. While I have no problem with people owning rifles or handguns on their property, their carry into public places is an anathema to me. 

These are much more sustainable choices than feeding the growing trends that promise to arm us all to death.Don't let the fear mongers win.