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Money that could have been used to create infrastructure, jobs and a better educated and healthier America went, instead, to the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us against. Hundreds of billions of dollars that should have gone to meet the needs of the American people disappeared in Afghanistan and Iraq.  In 2016, 57% of the federal budget was spent on the Department of Defense, wars and weapons programs, according to the American Friends Service Committee; 6% was spent on education.

A federal report from 2011 shows $60 billion lost to war zone contractor waste and fraud alone. Disabled and traumatized veterans return home and don’t get the support or treatment they need. Homelessness and opioid addiction is the result. “About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans. Roughly 45% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively,” – National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

The prison-industrial complex, where corporations run prisons for profit and poor people and people of color are the main “clients” makes it even harder for those on the margins to maintain homes and get jobs. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. The self-serving actions of bankers and government officials during the housing crisis complete the picture of the looting of America’s tax revenues and the eviction of people from their homes.

According to Forbes magazine “The Special Inspector General for the Toxic Assets Recovery Program (TARP) summary of the bailout says that the total commitment of government is $16.8 trillion dollars with $4.6 trillion already paid out.” That was in 2016. The banks got the money and have grown even larger but the regular wage earner can’t get financing for a home purchase. With easier credit after 2008, people would be in houses now, not out on the street. The taxpayer’s money bailed out the big banks. Nobody could get a home loan while the banks bought back their stock, bought other banks, and bought the houses they foreclosed on. Does anyone think that might have something to do with the current housing crisis?

The federal minimum wage is $7.50 an hour. California’s minimum wage is $10.50 an hour. “Experts estimate that still buys only about half of what a minimum wage did in 1980,” – San Francisco Chronicle.

The leading cause of bankruptcy is medical expenses. Single payer universal health care would cost less and provide better care than a system that is drowning in paperwork and regulation. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq marked the beginning of the privatization of military services and supplies. The contract to build Guantanamo went to Halliburton (Dick Cheney’s old company.) An unintended irony of the so-called war on terror: the inmates of Guantanamo get better medical services than most Americans, as Michael Moore shows in his film, “Sicko.”

“U.S. spending on the Afghanistan nation-building project over the last dozen years now exceeds $104 billion, surpassing the $103.4 billion current-dollar value of Marshall Plan expenditures, which helped rebuild European nations after World War II”(“U.S. aid to Afghanistan exceeds Marshall Plan in costs” San Francisco Chronicle, August 2014). Imagine if $104 billion had been invested in preschools, education, job training, and social services in the US?  Helping individual homeless people is important, but if you really want to change people’s lives for the better, take a look at where our tax dollars are going and imagine where they could be going.

Culture of Violence

The media pundits puzzle over why there are increasing numbers of mass shootings. Who is immune to the culture of violence? The glorification of killing that has been trumpeted by politicians and the Main Stream Media (MSM) makes heroes of Navy Seals who are ordered to assassinate suspects in their homes and then dump the bodies at sea. No trial, no judge, no jury and justice was not served.

There is little question as to who created this climate of violence in the 21st Century. It began with the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan by Bush and Cheney & Co. The enormous sums diverted to the war machine, and the complicity of the MSM in every act of state sponsored terrorism committed by the west, complete the picture. There was no ISIS before the invasion of Iraq. We created ISIS. The bellicosity continued under Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace prize. If he had a shred of honor he would give it back. Does anyone remember the “peace dividend” that was supposed to come with the end of the cold war? The war machine made short work of that. The so-called “war on terrorism is endless.” And now we have a President who makes it a priority to increase military spending and sell arms to everyone he can. This will not improve the prospects for peace.

The media won’t give peace a chance. The relentless violence of TV and movies continues unabated. It is acceptable to punch, kick, stab and shoot a woman in the chest but not to see a woman’s breast being kissed; that’s x-rated. When you foster a culture of violence it’s small wonder that people will respond to it in ways you might have been able to predict.

The battle for Mosul

Dear New Yorker:
It is sad, inexcusable really, that in all his long article, one of the longest I’ve read in the New Yorker, Luke Mogelson makes no mention of the vibrant and vital Mosul that existed not very long ago, before the US invasion of Iraq.  By focusing on one small heroic band of battered, dispossessed Iraqis, “The Avengers of Mosul” (Feb. 6, 2017) misses the big picture of the tragic consequences of our invasion.  No mention is made of the (even at that time) readily available satellite pictures showing the before and after, the ruined, bombed out, devastated city that Mosul had become. That is the context in which we need to view the battle for Mosul. The loss of Mosul is the direct result of the inept and misguided wartime administration of Paul Bremer.  If there had been no US invasion, there would have been no ISIS.

Pulling down statues

Pulling down statues doesn’t feed the hungry or house the homeless. In fact, cleaning up the mess made by the black-clad mob at the Concourse in Golden Gate Park will cost the City money that could have been spent helping people. What is the significance of defacing the monument to Cervantes? What is accomplished by pulling down and defacing statues? The City voluntarily took down the statue of Columbus at Coit Tower. The black-shirts could have asked the City to take down the statues they didn’t like. Who are these guys anyway? And where were the police while this was going on? Golden Gate Park is a haven for families and children, a peaceful refuge, especially at this time. It is not the place for a disruptive, destructive political action. Are the black-shirts willing to pay to have the statues removed? Just how deep is their commitment to social justice?

Defund the CIA

According to the Federation of American Scientists the US “fiscal Year 2020 budget request included $62.8 billion for the National Intelligence Program, and $22.95 billion for the Military Intelligence Program.”  What, exactly, does this almost $90 billion buy us?  “Details of the overall United States intelligence budget are classified,” (Wikipedia), so we can never really know what the money is spent on. “Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses the money or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.” (The Washington Post.)

What we do know is the CIA has it’s own air force, secret air bases and landing strips all over the world and predator drones that have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen and Pakistan, to name just a few of the nations that have been subject to these attacks.  Extra-judicial renditions (kidnapping) and black sites where suspects are tortured are the hall-marks of the CIA. The CIA and American democracy are simply incompatible; you can’t have an unaccountable, secret organization at the heart of government. Democracy requires transparency and public accountability.

The CIA engages in clandestine activities to subvert democratically elected governments all over the world. The American people would not countenance this as public policy if it was brought into the light of day. The worst part is the CIA is a colossal failure.  Despite the hundreds of billions spent on what amounts to a covert foreign policy, the CIA has not made us, or the world, safer.  The list of failures is staggering and the costs of our invading Iraq and Afghanistan incalculable.  Where was the CIA when these truly ignorant and foolish decisions to invade were being made?  Decisions to engage in actions that only created more terrorists and destroyed innocent lives?  Iraq was never a threat to the United States. The disastrous results are with us to this day.  And the greatest failure of all, 9/11.  A small group of young men from Saudi Arabia is able to come to this country, go to flight school and utterly defeat the greatest military and intelligence apparatus the world has ever seen. The main finding of the 9/11 Commission: “a failure of communication,”  was responsible for the success of the attacks. No one lost their job, no one was even demoted.  And the CIA is still with us.