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The Hip Bone is Connected to the Leg Bone

It appears to this cantankerous contrarian that the American people might just be starting to wake up, courtesy of the five radicals on the Supreme Court who ruled that corporations can spend freely on political campaigns because corporations have First Amendment rights. That got people’s attention, alright, across the political spectrum. This isn’t a right-wing or left-wing issue; it is an issue that threatens the future of this country and people are finally starting to add 2 and 2 and coming up with 4. Public Citizen, Voter Action, Change.org, Change Congress and the Campaign to Legalize Democracy (!!) are ramping up campaigns to introduce an Amendment to the United States Constitution to strip corporations of their “personhood” and thus, their rights of free speech. The name of that last organization is stunning. Imagine that! In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, we have a Campaign to Legalize Democracy?? Wow! All I can say, is, it is about time! I urge you to visit these web pages or any others that are pursuing this issue and contribute your time or money (or both) to getting this Amendment passed by Congress so that the states can vote on it.

As evidence of the unfettered power of corporations in the political process in this country, I present to you an essay by Norman Solomon. It appeared on the website Truthout on February 2, 2010. A memorable line in the essay is this one: “We had to destroy our country in order to save it.” That line is from the Vietnam War era, when claims were made to that effect. This year’s “defense” budget is larger than last year’s and approaches the cost of the bailout at $744 billion dollars. That is $2 billion dollars a day, my friends. Is it any wonder why we can’t have decent health care for our citizens when we are bleeding treasure to kill “terrorists”? Just who is the terrorist, here, anyway? I think our own government, controlled by these same corporations, is the terrorist – for fear mongering us into meekly approving the transfer of our wealth to the multinational “defense” corporations to “defend” our country. In a speech linked to later in this post, Martin Luther King said much the same thing, in his Riverside Church speech on April 4, 1967. In that speech, he said that I “could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”

Don’t Call It a “Defense” Budget

This isn’t “defense.”

The new budget from the White House will push US military spending well above $2 billion a day.

Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it.

“Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors,” The New York Times reported February 2.

It isn’t defense to preclude new domestic initiatives for a country that desperately needs them: for health care, jobs, green technologies, carbon reduction, housing, education, nutrition, mass transit …

“When a nation becomes obsessed with the guns of war, social programs must inevitably suffer,” Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out. “We can talk about guns and butter all we want to, but when the guns are there with all of its emphasis you don’t even get good oleo. These are facts of life.”

At least Lyndon Johnson had a “war on poverty.” For a while, anyway, until his war on Vietnam destroyed it.

Since then, waving the white flag at widespread poverty – usually by leaving it unmentioned – has been a political fact of life in Washington.

Oratory can be nice, but budget numbers tell us where an administration is headed. In 2010, this one is marching up a steep military escalator, under the banner of “defense.”

Legitimate defense would cost a mere fraction of this budget.

By autumn, the Pentagon is scheduled to have a total of 100,000 uniformed US troops – and a comparable number of private contract employees – in Afghanistan, where the main beneficiaries are the recruiters for Afghan insurgent forces and the profiteers growing even richer under the wing of Karzai-government corruption.

After three decades of frequent carnage and extreme poverty in Afghanistan, a new influx of lethal violence is arriving via the Defense Department. That’s the cosmetically named agency in charge of sending US soldiers to endure and inflict unspeakable horrors.

New waves of veterans will return home to struggle with grievous physical and emotional injuries. Without a fundamental change in the nation’s direction, they’ll be trying to resume their lives in a society ravaged by budget priorities that treat huge military spending as sacrosanct.

“At $744 billion, the military budget – including military programs outside the Pentagon, such as the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons management – is a budget of add-ons rather than choices,” said Miriam Pemberton at the Institute for Policy Studies. “And it makes the imbalance between spending on military vs. non-military security tools worse.”

Of course, the corporate profits for military contractors are humongous.

The Executive Director of the National Priorities Project, Jo Comerford, offered this context: “The Obama administration has handed us the largest Pentagon budget since World War II, not including the $160 billion in war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The word “defense” is inherently self-justifying. But it begs the question: Just what is being defended?

For the United States, an epitaph on the horizon says: “We had to destroy our country in order to defend it.”

As new sequences of political horrors unfold, maybe it’s a bit too easy for writers and readers of the progressive blogosphere to remain within the politics of online denunciation. Cogent analysis and articulated outrage are necessary but insufficient. The unmet challenge is to organize widely, consistently and effectively – against the warfare state – on behalf of humanistic priorities.

In the process, let’s be clear. This is not a defense budget. This is a death budget.

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