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What Kind of Country do We Want?

By Peter G. Cohen  Posted by Amanda Lang (about the submitter)     Permalink
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What kind of country do we want? Since 9-11 our nation has been on a roller coaster, riding on the rails of fear. We have been swept along by an administration, which was no longer ³kinder and gentler, ² but ruthlessly determined to pursue an aggressive agenda.

Five years later President Bush has proposed a budget in which military spending is 48 percent greater than when he took office. His $2.77 trillion spending plan for FY 2007 includes $439 billion devoted to the military with an additional 9.3 billion for nuclear weapons and a new supplement for Iraq and Afghanistan of $ 72 billion more. These huge expenditures have not made us safer from terrorist attacks, and, so far, they have not improved the everyday lives of Iraqis, who are still living without safe water or reliable electricity.

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The major defense contractors have become the hot stocks of the new millennium and they and their subcontractors support an army of working people and Washington lobbyists. Mitchell Wade, founder of MZM, has pleaded guilty to making over $1 million in bribes to former Congressman Duke Cunningham for his help in securing DOD contracts for MZM, doing favors for DOD officials and making illegal campaign contributions to two members of Congress.

The effects are not only economic: our sixteen year old kids in high school are the subjects of a detailed data-bank for military recruiters. The military assumes that though they are not old enough to drink, smoke or make other decisions about their lives, they are old enough to decide on a kill-or-be-killed military enlistment.

From the environmental perspective more than 15 million acres of military land is estimated by the GAO to be polluted with used or dumped munitions. The cost of cleaning up these 1,300 sites is estimated to be some $8 billion.

To avoid public awareness and Congressional oversight, policy and intelligence are increasingly handled by the Pentagon rather than the State Department or the usual intelligence agencies. In the name of War Powers the Executive Branch is acting with extreme secrecy and assuming new powers, while weakening the jurisdiction of the Congress and the Judiciary.

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Military funding is also corrupting our institutions of higher learning. The Pentagon is providing $22 million to 25 colleges and universities for science studies related to defense. Other military science research programs funded by the DOD have become the bread and butter of many universities with the result is that the historic independence of our schools has been compromised.

What Kind of America Do We want?

It is essential that we support our troops in the field as long as they are there. However, the huge military machine that we are building is not designed to fight terrorism, but to intimidate or dominate as much of the world as we can. Are we willing to pay the continuing price in people, money and lost opportunities to achieve this neo-empire? Does it solve the real problems that the world is facing?

The Earth is threatened by global warming. After spending years denying the reality of global warming, the administration is now encouraging volunteer efforts to control it. It is not an excuse to say that reducing our greenhouse gas emissions would be expensive. This is a vital, worldwide issue and, as the producer of 25% of these gasses, the U.S. should be leading the world in solving the problem. The factories that are turning out missiles and bombers could be producing solar panels and wind generators for ourselves and an energy-hungry world.

The Earth is threatened by the possibility of a nuclear exchange. The U.S. promised to work for nuclear disarmament in the original Non- Proliferation Treaty and restated that obligation in the Thirteen Practical Steps to Disarmament agreed to at the 2000 treaty review. In an abrupt reversal of policy this administration has refused to even discuss our disarmament obligations, while preparing to develop new weapons and improve the reliability of older ones. We are breaking down the barriers between conventional and nuclear weapons by studying smaller, ³more usable ² ones.

These actions validate nuclear weapons and encourage other nations to join the nuclear club in spite of our verbal opposition to nuclear proliferation..
We are missing the opportunity to lead the world toward nuclear disarmament so that our children could have a chance for a more secure future in a nuclear-weapons-free world.

This huge military establishment is corrupting our nation and its people. We must reject the corrosive action of fear and boldly imagine a new America that deals with the real problems of our nation and the Earth. Then we must elect representatives who have demonstrated their devotion to the ideals and needs of the American people and have the ability to put them into action.

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Peter G. Cohen, artist and mural painter, is a veteran of WWII and a Vietnam peace activist. He is now living and writing in Santa Barbara.
He may be reached at


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