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Bringing the War home

Robert Downes - May 31st, 2010
Bringing the War Home
Perhaps someday, someone will unearth some top secret file at the
C.I.A. which will tell us exactly what we’ve gotten in return for
5,456 deaths and $3 trillion spent on our wars in Iraq and
Or, like the war in Vietnam, it will all remain a mystery, with no one
ever being able to adequately explain what these wars have done to
benefit America.
Speaking of Vietnam, to borrow a phrase from the 1960s, perhaps it’s
time to “bring the war home.”
In the ’60s, that slogan was used by the Weather Underground to
advocate bringing the violence of Vietnam to the streets of America as
a way to encourage our country to get out of the war.
Today, however, we could take it to mean we’ve had enough of funneling
American lives and dollars down the black hole of Central Asia. We’ve
got enough troubles of our own, and those war dollars and our armed
forces are needed here -- not halfway around the world.
We have an ongoing calamity in America that seems much the same as a
war zone. For starters, the most compelling urban renewal strategy of
our time involves the destruction of cities which have been ruined by
destructive ‘fair trade’ policies and the outsourcing of jobs.
Consider the City of Detroit where the jobless rate is currently
hovering near 50%. Mayor Dave Bing’s plan to save Detroit is to
downsize it by bulldozing a quarter of the city -- 10,000 homes and
empty businesses over the next three years. In total, there are an
estimated 33,500 abandoned buildings in Detroit and 91,000 vacant
Last week it was announced that the 5,000-square-foot boyhood home of
presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will
be torn down in the Detroit enclave of Palmer Woods. This was once a
neighborhood that inspired visions of opulence and success. What an
irony that even the mansions of presidential candidates can fall to
the wrecking ball in a country that’s been bled in so many ways by its
In Flint, where 70,000 jobs have been lost by the withdrawal of
General Motors, more than 4,000 abandoned buildings have been marked
for destruction. Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee came up with this
strategy for Flint’s rebirth and his ideas are reportedly being
considered for 50 other American cities, most of which are in the
“Rust Belt” of the Midwest and Northeast.
Other towns, such as Youngstown, OH; Baltimore, MD; and Pittsburgh, PA
are following suit. To paraphrase another saying from the Vietnam era:
“Sometimes you have to destroy a village to save it,” and that’s
apparently where we’ve landed.
Consider what 5,456 fallen servicemen could have done as teachers,
social workers and construction workers, rebuilding our cities. And
were we better off spending $3 trillion on Iraq and Afghanistan when
scores of our own cities are in danger of becoming part of the third
Ironically, Detroit, which has a $300 million deficit and an
evaporating tax base, served as the world’s “Arsenal of Democracy”
during World War II, building thousands of bombers and tanks. The old
town could sure use some of those war bucks now.
A ‘peace dividend’ could also benefit some of our local communities --
Cadillac, Gaylor and Manistee -- which have been hit hard by factory
closings. Imagine if the billions spent on bombing and then
rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq had gone into new green energy
projects and factories here in Michigan. We certainly wouldn’t be in
last place in the nation for joblessness.
Currently, 58 congressional candidates from 21 states have come out
opposing any more funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That
includes 19 Democrats, 18 Greens, 17 Libertarians, 2 Independents, 1
Republican, and 1 Socialist, according to author and antiwar activist
David Swanson. He adds that although many of the candidates differ in
their politics and philosophies, they’ve agreed on the following
“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost Americans over $1 trillion
in direct costs, and over $3 trillion altogether. At a time when our
national debt exceeds $13 trillion, we can no longer afford these
wars. It’s time for Congress to reject any funding except to bring all
our troops safely home.”
To borrow another example from the Vietnam era, we didn’t get out of
that war because the Vietnamese ‘beat’ us; we left because the
incoming Democratic Congress elected on an antiwar platform in 1972
vowed to end funding for the war. This prompted President Richard
Nixon to order the 10-day Christmas bombing of Hanoi, resulting in a
speedy peace agreement.
Perhaps a similar threat of a pullout could prompt the governments of
Iraq and Afghanistan to get their act together. Instead, they have all
the incentive in the world to stay hitched to the U.S. gravy train.
Although most U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Iraq this August,
with the drawdown expected in Afghanistan set to begin in 2011, one
can only imagine that the ‘afterglow’ of these wars will mean
stationing troops there for 50 years or more, as has been the case in
Korea and Western Europe.
Only time will tell if our efforts in Central Asia will play out, but
we do know that we’ve got an even greater emergency here in America
right now that needs attention.
Any among us could think of better ways to have spent $3 trillion than
on the dusty ruins of Iraq and Afghanistan. We might have spent a
fraction of that simply building thousands of roundabout traffic
circles in every city in the country, putting millions of people to
work and cutting our dependence on foreign oil. We might have spent a
fraction of that on new high-speed railroads or on restructuring
America’s energy grid to accommodate wind power -- again, cutting our
reliance on foreign oil.
Bring the war home, if only to begin rebuilding America and winning
our own war on joblessness and decay.

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