Rethinking the Costs of Peace

In pledging to trim ineffective spending, President Obama declared that “there will be no sacred cows and no pet projects. All across America, families are making hard choices, and it’s time their government did the same.”

By asking earlier this month for $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel in his FY2010 budget request, it would seem that on this important policy issue President Obama’s commitment is more rhetorical than substantive. Since 1949, according to the Congressional Research Service, the United States has provided to Israel more than $100 billion in military and economic assistance. In 2007, the United States and Israel signed an agreement for $30 billion in additional military aid through FY2018.

Yet the provision of U.S. weapons to Israel at taxpayer expense has done nothing to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to achieving a just and lasting peace. Rather, these weapons have had the exact opposite effect, as documented recently by Amnesty International, which pointed to U.S. weapons as a prime factor “fueling” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, during the Bush Administration, Israel killed more than 3,000 innocent Palestinian civilians, including more than 1,000 children. During its December 2008-January 2009 war on the occupied Gaza Strip alone, Israel killed nearly 1,200 non-combatants.

On average, for each day that President Bush sat in the Oval Office, Israel killed one Palestinian civilian, often with U.S. weapons. Before Congress appropriates any additional military aid to Israel, it should insist upon President Obama providing a comprehensive and transparent review of the effects U.S. weapons transfers to Israel have on Palestinian civilians. The Arms Export Control Act limits the use of U.S. weapons given to a foreign country to “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense.”

If, after reviewing the impact of Israel’s misuse of U.S. weapons, the President and Congress cannot find the political will to sanction Israel for its violations of the Arms Export Control Act and prohibit future arms transfers as is required by law, then there are still steps that the U.S. government should take to ensure that any future transfers are not used to commit human rights abuses but instead to promote U.S. policy goals. For example, previous U.S. loan guarantees to Israel have stipulated that funds cannot be used to support Israeli activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Conditioning U.S. military aid to Israel in the same way would prevent these weapons from being used to kill innocent Palestinian civilians.

As President Obama has stated, “We can’t sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars, on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of politicians, lobbyists or interest groups. We simply can’t afford it.” In regard to U.S. aid to Israel, this is true as much from a budgetary standpoint as it is from a moral one.

Josh Ruebner is the Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Read other articles by Josh, or visit Josh's website.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Max Shields said on May 25th, 2009 at 10:45am #

    Obama pledged a lot, most of it was bull shit to get elected, and he probably doesn’t remember half of it because it contracted the other stuff he “pledged” to get elected.

    All and all he’s pretty much doing what I thought he’d do which is why I didn’t vote for him. So, my expectations lie with how we get rid of the system that keeps putting these ass-holes in office.

  2. bozh said on May 25th, 2009 at 12:19pm #

    i do not like personalizing events. It’s the gang which makes up the order and which executes it.
    gang in US, as i have said several times before, behaves like any other gang.
    US gang appears worse than any other gang only because it is much, much stronger than any gang had been in past 8-10 milennia.
    in US, the ruling gangsters may comprise as few as 0001% of US pop and at most 5%.
    and in order to commit so much crime, one can only do it by lying!
    it is well known that two or three individuals can control a thousand people.
    all that is required is that the few individuals lie and have ability to sleep well.
    sorry to say, we do have such individuals. What is impossible for me to do, can be done with ease by a % of pop. How much %? Maybe just 1%?!
    these people are aslo known as psychopatic; i.e., bbeing unable to feel any pangs at suffering of others. tnx bozhidar balkas vancouver, b.c.

  3. Mitchell said on May 25th, 2009 at 3:42pm #

    I agree with Max, which is why I didn’t vote for War Criminal messiah Obushma either.

    To get rid of the system? Well for starters…

    1. the corporate media must be changed to give all political candidates the same opportunities/exposure without a corporate, pro-war media bias for any candidate (yeah that’s likely to happen!)

    2. the people must change and deprogramme their D and R party-line programming which causes them to vote for these parasite D and R war criminals in the first place. The people must change and start voting for people who do NOT have a D or R behind their name. (That’s likely to happen too). For most people, this would require professional help with a credible, good psychotherapist. While the therapist is at it, deprogramme that “team” mentality that most people seem to need whether it be to (blindly) rally for a sports team or a political team. Deprogramme it. Get rid of it. Have the therapist work on people to think for themselves rather than as mindless people who follow the herd.

    As for the party-line indoctrinate, it is very real. During the 2008 campaign for example, most people I talked with said they liked Nader and McKinney’s platform but they were not going to vote for either because as people told me, “I’ve always voted for Democrats. My family is a very Democratic family. ” So I asked, “So since Nader and McKinney are not Democrats, you won’t vote for either?” Response: “That’s right, I’m sorry, I like what they both stand for more than my Democrats, I hate to say, and Nader and McKinney are both true progressives, but I have to vote for my Democrats. I’ve never not voted for a Democrat. My Democrats may not be perfect but I have to vote for them.”

    Sigh. UGH. Pathetic.

    And thirdly,

    3. Take the $$$$$$$$$$$$ out of the system.
    (Yeah, that’s likely to happen too).

  4. Max Shields said on May 25th, 2009 at 4:24pm #

    First I don’t think there is anything to salvage with the system as it is. The power structure makes change impossible; and so it would have to be eliminated. I think the only way that can happen and end up with a just society is through the up-ending of power through its own demise.

    It would seem if there is anything to salvage with this system the biggest impact is removal of all private funding, and do it through limited payroll deduction or tax deduction to handle basic costs.

    All costs must come from public subsidization. All advertising should have a limit and be free. All candidates need to be in the debate with ground rules that are determined by achieving ballot access through petitions AND where there is no financial determination of support (today a non-major party candidate – in some states – must show monetary support in order to qualify even if they have petitioned and met all other criteria…it’s WRONG.)

    Then, we’d need instant run-off voting so all candidates have a shot, issues are the basis of debate and not negative advertising. When you open the field the dynamics change radically. IRV has been shown to increase voter turnout (particularly among minorities) and reduces negative, meaningless mudslinging.

    If you treat people like adults with real choices, they surprise you. Granted if Nader was now President he’d be up against entire Empire. As I said in the beginning, that is beyond the capacity of any mere mortal. So, it would take something more than change the political dynamics and getting the right thinking in the executive branch. It would take a complete unraveling of the power structure.

    And that’s a lot more than Gladys voting Dem because her daddy and grand-daddy before did.

  5. Mitchell said on May 25th, 2009 at 4:53pm #

    Max wrote:

    “And that’s a lot more than Gladys voting Dem because her daddy and grand-daddy before did.”


    I agree. However, party-line indoctrination is a major factor in all this and should not be minimized or dismissed. Damn-near every forum I go on and talk shows I hear, I hear and read comments from Dem kool-aid drinkers/Obamabots grasping, struggling to make excuses and apologies and defenses for their Bush-accomplice messiah Obushma. Why do people feel the need to make excuses and apologies for this man and their D politicians in this case? Because of party-line indoctrination and this “team” mentality (the “Dem Team” in this case) that has been programmed into people. Why do people feel the need to make excuses and apologies and justifications for millionaires who charade as a politician in congress? Because the politician is from their indoctrinated “Dem Team.” (Repugs do the exact same thing). And they feel they must defend their “Team” and serve as an unconditional cheerleader for their indefensible “Dem Team.”

  6. Deadbeat said on May 26th, 2009 at 3:27am #

    Max writes …
    It would take a complete unraveling of the power structure.

    But how is this “unraveling” going to come about. It certainly won’t happen at the ballot box. Thus the focus on electorial poltics is misplaced but even if there is some engagement in electorial politics, failing to analyze the Left’s misteps is a huge error and hole in analysis. Once again Nader and McKinney SPLIT the representation of the Left in 2008 and the Left was in an extemely weak position after their utter collapse in 2004. Ordinary citizens are not going to “throw their votes away” on an unorganized and weak and duplicious Left. Until the Left can show solidarity within its own ranks and empathy with ordinary citizen perhaps then can the Left have some real credibility.

    Oh and let’s here it for those “Leftist” who supported Ron Paul. He is now the biggest pro-Capitalist voice since the financial collapse began. In light of that can ordinary citizens really trust the “Left”? I think not.

  7. Max Shields said on May 26th, 2009 at 6:14am #

    An unraveling, as I said would be a combination of implosion (I used the word “demise”) and continued collapse of the global economy.

    While there may have been a “split” (McKinney/Nader) that is hardly the problem. I don’t think a vote is “thrown away” by voting for a Nader or McKinney. Voting is in and of itself problematic, but contributing to the voter count for Obama doesn’t get you anywhere.

    Look at the system we have DB, rather than projecting a “leftist” take over. “Take over” will happen in imperceptible ways, not by voting someone like McKinney or Nader in as POTUS. The last election offered choices that you could at least symbolically support. No thoughtful person really thinks that the POTUS election process in 2008 could possibly change anything.

    Btw, DB, if you consider McKinney a “leftist” or Nade one, than show where they lack empathy with ordinary citizens…

  8. bozh said on May 26th, 2009 at 6:34am #

    for millennia we’ve had educators; however, their voices and lessons imparted were heard by very few people.
    now we have internet. We have now more, many more educators.
    so, for the first time in recorded history, we have a fair chance for enlightening people.
    right now we are just begining to educate. Miseducators had millennia. We had just a few yrs. Can internet suffice without doing other things like talking to people; passing leaflets, etc?
    reeducating uncle sam is a mission impossible. He does not, i believe, read enlightening pieces or posts. His adddiction to power is probably incurable.
    so, let’s talk mostly to young people and get young people to talk to other youngsters and not gangsters. tnx

  9. Garrett said on May 26th, 2009 at 10:50am #


    “However, party-line indoctrination is a major factor in all this and should not be minimized or dismissed.”

    I agree. I would love it if people would abandon party mentality (likewise, I would love it if people would abandon religious beliefs). But how do we get people to that point? For me, a former Democratic Party believer, it took a lot of reading. That’s not a path that will work for every single person.

  10. Max Shields said on May 26th, 2009 at 12:28pm #


    It is hard to know precisely. Understanding change and how it happens is important. There are many theories, but paramount is trauma which shakes belief systems.

    Individuals such as yourself have found ways which are built more on empathy. Empathy is a wonderful and critical trait for building a new world, but it is in short supply.

    Another thing that happens, and can occur for individuals for a variety of reasons is a radicalization. This can be on a large scale, like when a bullying nation-state such as Israel or the US attacks and kills out of pure desire to impose one’s power over the sovereignty of others. Or it can occur on a smaller scale when one realizes, perhaps as a soldier of the imperial US army, or some other “awakening” moment, such as “Damn, I voted for the Democrats in 2006 to get us out of Iraq and instead they continued to fund the killing and occupation! NO MORE!!”

    Conversations rarely do anything to create real change, but conversation can build solidarity where there is common ground.