Saddened and angry though we may be by the deaths of over 2,000 U.S. military personnel, we need to look at this milestone in context. As much as the Pentagon would just as soon not own up to losing 2,000 of its boots on the ground, it beats the heck out of having to own up to the real loses.
Because what that number does not include is the more than 15,000 who have been wounded. It doesn't count the many more who are coming home with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and health problems due to exposure to our own chemical weaponry. And it certainly doesn't include the tens if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been killed. Nonetheless, the antiwar movement chose to make this milestone a focus of nationwide vigils and the notion that this was a media moment to run with in and of itself bears some serious examination.
Not only is 2,000 a gross under-representation of the damage done, it also pales in comparison to other recent death tolls. Hundreds of thousands of people have died due to earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides and hurricanes during the last year. Hundreds of thousands have died from hunger and lack of health care.
What is astounding is how little it would take to prevent so many of these non-military deaths. It has been estimated that the expenditure of only $50 billion dollars a year (approximately 5% of global military spending) would reduce hunger, and poverty, provide of universal primary education, reduce child mortality by three-quarters, and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
And yes, $50 billion is a small number. Global military spending in 2004 reached $1.035 trillion dollars, nearly half of which was spent by the U.S. alone. Our military expenditures are more than the next seventeen nations combined. Perversely, there seems little evidence that the expenditure of such eye-popping amounts of money for military purposes makes the world any safer.
Indeed, it is precisely the poverty, hunger, lack of health care, education and employment that that create the terror that breeds terrorism. The mere expenditure of 5% of our current military budget to productively address these issues is the most constructive step we can take to end the deaths of many, not just a selective few.
A recent Knight Ridder investigation uncovered the fact that the Pentagon is a lousy comparison shopper. The report found that the Department of Defense was paying $20 for plastic ice trays, $81 for coffee makers, $575 for popcorn makers and $887 for microwave ovens. And here in the great state of Kentucky, we just received a Homeland Security grant in the amount of $36,300 to protect us from terrorists who might play bingo in the bluegrass state in order to raise money for nefarious purposes. Yes folks, this is true.
And why do I tell you all this? Simply to point out that it probably wouldn't take much to trim 5% from military expenditures. And in doing so, we would be able to start providing food and health security, education and jobs. In short, we could reduce the root causes of terror. Perhaps this is where our focus ought to be before we find ourselves holding vigils for "3,000".
Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network, www.feministpeacenetwork.org. Her work has been published in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad including, Awakened Woman, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Off Our Backs, The Progressive, Rain and Thunder, Z Magazine, Common Dreams and Information Clearinghouse.
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