Editor’s note: Justin’s column will return Wednesday.
Complain, complain, complain – that, it seems, is what anti-interventionists often seem content – or, rather, condemned – to do. The world is in a bad state, and getting rapidly worse, this guy is evil, that one is a tool – all right already, my critics answer, but what are we gonna do about it? We know what you’re against, but what, pray tell, are you for?
I hear this a lot, and it makes my eyes roll back in my head. After all, why, ‘fer cryin’ out loud, do I have to be for anything, aside from being left alone? On the other hand, these critics do have a point: an entirely negative program, while it can be emotionally satisfying – as well as entirely justified — has the great disadvantage of being inherently demoralizing. If there’s no solution to the problem, then it seems futile to rail against it: a positive agenda can be energizing. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about a bill Rep. Alan Grayson – yes, that Alan Grayson – has offered in the House, H.R. 5353, known as the "War is Making You Poor Act," which would
- Limit funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,
- Eliminate the federal income tax on the first $35,000 of every American’s income ($70,000 for married couples), and
- Cut the Federal deficit by $159 billion.
During the Bush years, war funding was "off budget" – a bit of fiscal trickery that masks the real costs of these conflicts – and the Obama crowd promised to put an end to that practice. However, so far the Obama-ites are going the Bush route of submitting "emergency" supplementals to our misnamed "defense" budget in order to cover the costs of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. This time around the "emergency" funding comes to$159 billion: H.R. 5353 would eliminate that entirely and make our solons fund their war out of the remaining $549 billion earmarked for the Department of Defense.
Simple, clean, and clearly illustrating how our elected representatives fool us — and themselves — into believing the costs of their wars are less than they really are, the four-page bill already has bipartisan support. As Grayson points out on his web site, "the original cosponsors, who joined to support the bill even before it was filed, are Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Walter B. Jones (R-NC), as well as two committee chairs (Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Bob Filner and Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers), plus peace proponents Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA)." Grayson is no Don Quixote on a one man crusade: there is plenty of disaffection with the war in Congress, especially among Democrats and increasingly from Republicans, and his bill could easily galvanize it – given support from the voting public.
Let’s be clear: the $549 billion figure is, by itself, more than all the other nations of the world combined spend on defense. The $159 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan is over and above that exorbitant sum. We spend five times more than China, ten times more than Russia, and the first runners-up in this spending extravaganza are our NATO allies, who aren’t likely to be attacking us any time soon.
So what’s the purpose of all this spending? What is it buying us?
Well, it’s buying a lot of value for the shareholders of the companies that make up what Dwight Eisenhower called the "military industrial complex." It’s garnering lots of hefty campaign contributions for their congressional amen corner – remember that Eisenhower’s original phraseology was the "military-industrial-congressional complex." It is also buying us an overseas empire that is more trouble than it’s worth, but you don’t have to buy intothe complete anti-interventionist shtick in order to support this bill: all it asks is that that US government stay within its budget and make the kinds of cuts and bows to fiscal austerity that we all have to make in these hard times.
The energy and resources it takes to produce weapons of war constitute a net drain on the civilian economy: our attention and capital are diverted away from productive work and into a project that can only end in the destruction or quick obsolescence of the end product. Missiles are launched, and self-destruct. Helicopter gunships crash, and burn. Rifles jam, and are discarded. Warships, fighter planes, flak jackets, counterinsurgency strategies – all become obsolete with dizzying rapidity, in part because that’s the nature of human warfare, and also because it’s planned that way.
In short, war, quite aside from its dubious moral justification, is a losing proposition economically – and a policy of perpetual war, such as we are now committed to, is economic suicide. A nation cannot drain the lifeblood from its veins indefinitely. As the world economy teeters on the brink, and our once matchless productive forces are having a collective fainting fit, what we need is a major transfusion. H.R. 5353 will revive the economy, and send the Obama regime a very strong message: enough is enough!
I know I’ve been pretty hard on my progressive and liberal readers lately, in part because, after all, it’s your guy who’s in power, and your guys (and gals) who have a congressional majority. So I’m glad to proffer a change of pace and say: Alan Grayson is one progressive who definitely "gets it."
He’s not only good on foreign policy, for the most part, he also understands the key role played by the Federal Reserve in redistributing the wealth from the people to the elites, and its crucial part in maintaining the empire. That’s why he was one of the first co-sponsors of Rep. Ron Paul’s historic bill to audit the Fed, and raise the curtain on this mysterious instrument of organized thievery: he’s no libertarian, to be sure, but at least he understands how power works in this country, and how the powerful use the instrument of government to keep their privileges, pelf, and perks.
As the Obama cult drains the energy from the Left, and renders it impotent, it’s good to see there are still signs of life in that seemingly infertile terrain. This is something to be cultivated. As the tendrils of dissent rise up and blossom into active opposition to the status quo, perhaps we’ll see a new "Prague Spring" which will free us from the rigid left-right, progressive-libertarian, red state/blue state paradigm that freezes thought, divides the antiwar community, and gives the War Party free rein to rampage over half the earth.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
Monday’s column, entitled "Our Enemies, the Israelis," may have caused some confusion: the title doesn’t really communicate (to non-libertarians, at least) my exact meaning. What I meant to say is that the Israeli government, as opposed to the Israeli people, is increasingly at odds with the US, and might even be classed as an enemy – in the sense that their actions have thwarted American interests in the Middle East. This has been objectively true ever since the end of the cold war, but it’s clear, to me at least, that the current Israeli leadership is increasingly conscious of this adversarial relationship, and is acting like the enemies they have become. The Biden ambush is the best example, so far, although one could make an argument that the attack on the Gaza flotilla was an indirect way of pursuing this same anti-American agenda. Via their self-isolating violence and intransigence, the Israelis are demanding that we choose between them and the rest of the civilized world — and if we make the "wrong" choice, who’s to say what their reaction might be?
My last column, covering the arrest of SPC Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst who leaked the "Collateral Murder" video posted by Wikileaks, called on my readers to organize an effort to free him, and, although I can’t take credit (or responsibility) for it, there are already some indications that a "Free Bradley" movement is taking off. I count at least three Facebook pages devoted to the cause. In addition, I have personally received a number of inquiries asking what concrete actions people can take.
I would urge all those concerned about this important – and potentially earth-shattering – case to 1) Write your representatives in Congress, briefly giving the facts and asking them to look into the matter, 2) Once a legal defense fund is established, contribute to it (and, no, I don’t know if or when such a fund is going to be set up, but I refer you to the Facebook pages above, where such information is bound to be posted), and 3) Continue to support Antiwar.com, which is, as far as I know, the only web site with a substantial readership taking up Manning’s cause.
Furthermore, and most importantly, you should follow this story: there is a veritable army of online "operators," including some so-called journalists, who are busy conducting what looks to me like an organized effort to smear Manning: he’s "confused," "violent," "despondent," etc. ad nauseam. Manning, locked up in Kuwait without even being charged (as yet), can’t answer the smear brigade as they carry out their Cass Sunstein-likecampaign. But you can counter them in the comments section of the "hi tech" media, which is covering this story with a pronounced pro-government bias (especially over at Wired, which seems more and more like an arm of the Department of Defense). I don’t know if these "journalists" and "ex-hackers" are on the government’s payroll, but they need to be countered, i.e. told off in no uncertain terms. So go to it – and I’ll see you online!