Ten years ago today, in response to the enormous tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan. So began the long road of endless war, endless suffering, endless spending and endless death.
Since then, 1.2 trillion of U.S. tax dollars have gone to wars. This doesn't include the Pentagon's budget, which has increased by 81 percent. Nearly 6,500 U.S. service members have died, along with more than 1,000 of our allies. At least 100,000 Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani civilians have also died in the conflict. Millions more were left homeless. Around the globe, people ask whether America stands for freedom or domination.
As a result of unscrupulous finance industry practices, here in the U.S. we have an intractable economic crisis with the real possibility of a double-dip recession, and at best a very slow recovery.
With millions out of work, revenues at all levels of government dropped. The federal government borrowed money, accelerating the growth of the national debt, already large from war spending.
Local and state governments cut budgets: laying off teachers, police, firemen and other personnel, as well as closing schools, libraries and cutting services. Millions of Americans have lost their homes to foreclosure.
After ten years of war and in face of economic collapse we must ask: what now?
Perhaps the answer is right in front of us. In nine days, we will dedicate a national monument in Washington, D.C. to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King was a fearless leader whose words taught, motivated and challenged us to be better individuals and a better nation. We still have much to learn from him. His 1967 speech at Riverside Church denouncing the war in Vietnam is a good place to start. Change only the names of leaders and countries, and you would think he was speaking about our nation’s current foreign policy and domestic woes.
King challenged us to face the triple evils of racism, militarism and poverty. He called on us to “undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a 'person-oriented' society.”
He chastised those who refused “…to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits," and warned us that, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Dr. King’s vision of the beloved community, in which we abhor war, value all people and eradicate poverty, is the basis for a stable, prosperous society. It's time to bring to a close a doctrine of endless war and violence and instead pursue a doctrine based on justice and life. If we want to live in a stable and peaceful world, people — not profits — must come first. If our nation wants to honor Dr. King we should honor his advice about war and peace. It begins with bringing our troops home.
Michael T. McPhearson is the National Coordinator for United For Peace and Justiceand current a board member as well as the former Executive Director of Veterans For Peace. He resides with his wife in Newark, NJ. He was a field artillery officer in the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during Desert Shield /Desert Storm, also known as Gulf War I. Michael is an active member of Military Families Speak Out, because his son joined the Army in January 2004 and served one tour in Iraq in 2005-2006. His son separated from the military in 2007. In December of 2003 Michael returned to Iraq as part of a peace delegation to examine the state of the occupation firsthand. He has spoken all over the U.S. to small gatherings and large crowds. He has also traveled to Istanbul, Turkey and Bologna, Italy as a speaker on the U.S. peace movement and world peace.