Memorial Day: Praying for Peace While Waging Permanent War?
By Bill Quigley
May 25, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - Memorial Day is, by
federal law, a day of prayer for permanent peace. But is it possible to
honestly pray for peace while our country is far and away number one in the
world in waging war, military presence, military spending and the sale of
weapons around the world?
Since 1980 the U.S. has engaged in aggressive military action
in 14 countries in the Islamic world alone,
according to research published in the Washington Post: Iran (1980,
1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq
(1991-2011, 2014-present), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-present), Bosnia (1995),
Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-present), Sudan (1998),
Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-prsent), Pakistan (2004-present) and now Syria.
In this hemisphere, U.S. military forces
invaded Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989) and landed 20,000 military forces
in Haiti (1994).
U.S. Global War Machine
The U.S. has
1.3 million people in the military, and another 1 million serve in the
military reserves. The U.S. has over 700 military bases in 63 countries across
the world, deploying over 255,000 U.S. military personnel there. The Department
of Defense officially manages
over 555,000 buildings on 4,400 properties inside the U.S., and on over 700
properties across the globe. The U.S. has
over 1,500 strategic nuclear warheads;
over 13,000 military aircraft; dozens of submarines, many of which carry
nuclear weapons; and
88 destroyer warships.
U.S. military people died as a result of the wars waged by the U.S. since 9/11.
Just as important, in Iraq
combatants, most of them civilians, have died since the 2003 invasion.
Some estimates of Iraq casualties are
double that. No one even counted civilian deaths in Afghanistan for the
first five years of our war there. Our drone attacks have murdered
hundreds of children and civilian adults in Pakistan, and dozens more in
World Leader in War Spending
U.S. military spending is
about the same as the total of military spending by the next eight largest
countries combined -- that is, more than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia,
France, the UK, India and Germany combined.
Since 9/11 U.S. spending on our military cost well over $3
trillion. Direct combat and reconstruction costs for wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq since 9/11 have officially cost U.S. taxpayers $1.6 trillion dollars,
to the Congressional Research Service.
Additional trillions have been spent on growing the Pentagon budget, and for
present and future increased health and disability benefits for veterans.
The U.S. military captures
55 percent of our national discretionary spending, and spending on veterans
benefits is another 6 percent. Since 9/11 military spending has increased by 50
percent, while spending on other discretionary domestic spending increased by 13
according to the National Priorities Project.
Corporate War Profiteers
With these trillions being spent on war, there are legions of
The number-one war profiteer is Lockheed Martin,
according to USA Today, with annual arms sales of $36 billion. Not
surprisingly, Lockheed Martin
spends over $14 million a year on lobbying the people who make the decisions
about how much money is spent on weapons and which weapons will be purchased.
Their CEO is paid over $15 million,
according to their 2015 shareholder report, and on their board is James
Ellis, a former admiral and commander in chief of U.S. Strategic Air Command,
who gets paid over $277,000 for the part-time work, and James Loy, former Deputy
Secretary of Homeland Security, who gets over $260,000 for his part-time work.
Lockheed receives substantial government contracts, amounting, by
one calculation, to over $260 from each taxpaying household in the U.S. They
are so entitled that a
2014 special investigation by the U.S. Department of Energy found that
Lockheed used taxpayer funds to lobby for more taxpayer funds.
The number-two war profiteer is
Boeing, with annual arms sales of $31 billion. Boeings
spends over $16 million a year on lobbying.
The rest of the top ten corporations profiting from war include BAE Systems,
General Dynamics, Raytheon, EADS, Finmeccanica, L-3 Communications, and United
Technologies. You can track their corporate contributions to members of
Congress, especially the politicians on the Appropriations Committees of the
House and Senate, on
most of the lobbying money has gone to Republicans, all the arms merchants
hire lobbyists who can influence Democrats and Republicans, according to the
Center for Responsive Politics.
And these war profiteers do not just sell to the U.S.
government. The U.S. sold
more than $26 billion in weapons to foreign nations and has been number one
for a long time, though recently that title has been going back and forth with
What to Do
On April 4, 1967, in his famous Riverside Church address,
Martin Luther King Jr.
said the U.S. government was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.
In response, he called for a true revolution of values. This revolution calls us
to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies,
including war and the contrast of wealth and poverty in our own country and
across the world.
As he left office, former U.S. President and General Dwight
warned citizens of the growing military-industrial complex. He saw the
influence of the war machine and urged all citizens to be alert and force "the
huge industrial and military machinery of defense" to respond to democracy and
the peoples' desires for peace.
What must we do? First, we must learn the facts and face the
truth that the U.S. is the biggest war maker in the world. Second, we must
commit ourselves and organize others to a true revolution of values and confront
the corporations and politicians who continue to push our nation into war and
inflate the military budget with the hot air of permanent fear mongering. Third,
we must admit what our country has been doing wrong, and we must make amends for
the violence that the U.S. has waged on countries all over our world. Fourth, we
must withdraw our military from all other countries, dramatically downsize our
military, disarm our nuclear weapons, and truly stick to defending our own
country. Fifth, we must work for peaceful, just solutions to conflict here at
home and across our world. Only when we work for the day when the U.S. is no
longer the world leader in war will we have the right to pray for peace on
Bill Quigley Law Professor, Loyola University New Orleans,
CCR Associate Legal Director