This article was originally published by Truthout.
The Occupy Movement is demonstrating its durability and perseverance. Like a Japanese Daruma doll, each time it is knocked off balance it serenely pops back up. The movement has been seeking justice for the 99 percent, and justice is an essential element of peace.
For decades, our country has been in permanent preparation for war, spending over half of the total annual discretionary funds that Congress allocates on “defense,” our euphemism for war. World military expenditures exceed $1.5 trillion annually, and the US spends more than half of this amount, more than the rest of the world combined.
The US has been engaged in wars around the globe from Korea to Vietnam to El Salvador to Nicaragua to Serbia to Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya. In all of these wars, many in the one percent reap financial gains. Many large corporations, such as Halliburton, formerly led by Dick Cheney, are the beneficiaries of lucrative government contracts that support war, while it is mainly the poor who are enlisted to fight, kill and die in our wars. War is a surefire way of transferring wealth up the social ladder.
It is time to wake up to being used as tools in warfare while others profit. War is not an effective or reasonable way to settle disputes. It uses up resources and destroys human lives. In war, people are expendable. Civilians all too easily become “collateral damage.” In the Nuclear Age, civilization itself could become collateral damage.
As President Eisenhower pointed out in 1953, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” How little our politicians have responded to the deep concern of this former military leader.
War is costly not only in dollars, but on our national psyche. We slaughtered innocent men, women and children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then celebrated our prowess. We went to war in Vietnam based on lies, killing millions of Vietnamese and dropping Napalm and Agent Orange on them, while they struggled for their freedom and independence. Ultimately, after the death of more than 58,000 Americans, we withdrew in defeat, declaring victory. We seemingly learned little that is meaningful from the experience, as we continue to send our soldiers to fight and die in far-off lands, and still based on lies. Enough is enough.
How do we occupy peace? First, we change our modes of thinking and stop basing our self-worth as a nation on our military prowess. Second, we bring our troops home from exploitative foreign wars. Third, we seek peaceful solutions to conflicts. Fourth, we make our priority justice, and peace will follow. Fifth, we work to end deaths due to starvation and preventable diseases rather than inflicting deaths by high altitude bombing and drone attacks. Sixth, we take the lead in abolishing nuclear weapons so no other cities or countries will suffer the fate of the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Seventh, we reallocate our resources to health, education and ending poverty rather than continuing to gorge the military beast until it is too fat to move.
War is a place of fear and fear is a place of borders. Fear requires us to dehumanize our enemies and, in the process, to dehumanize ourselves. Borders should not provide a justification for dehumanization. That is a trick of militarists, who are in need of enemies, real or imagined, to make the war system work for them. But there is another way to deal with enemies, and that is to turn them into friends by our actions.
We need to stop fearing each other and treat each other with kindness. Consideration for the 99 percent does not stop at a country’s border. We are all humans together and we need each other to be fully human. We need to embrace our common humanity. In the Nuclear Age, war is far too dangerous, having the potential to end civilization and most life on the planet. Peace is an imperative. We need to find a way to occupy peace, which begins in our hearts and must expand to encompass the world.