Money For War ⎯ Attacks on Our Lives

Last Friday, another 400,000 secret documents about the US war in Iraq were leaked to the public through the website Wikileaks. These documents again show us the reality of this war. Among other things, the documents show that US soldiers handed over people it detained to the Iraqi police knowing that they would be tortured and killed; that US soldiers have killed hundreds of civilians at military checkpoints; and that the US has lied about the number of Iraqi civilians killed.

The same day that Wikileaks released these documents, the Obama administration announced that it wants to give $2 billion in so-called military assistance to Pakistan. The Obama administration says this funding is to supposedly help the Pakistani government fight the so-called terrorists. But the reality is that the US war in Afghanistan has extended into Pakistan and they want more money to pay for it.

These wars have brought nothing but death and destruction for the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. In Iraq alone, over 1 million Iraqi’s have died as a result of the US invasion and occupation. In just the past year, more than 100,000 Afghanis have been displaced from their homes as a result of the US escalating the war. And since 2008, more than 1,700 Pakistanis have been killed in attacks by remote-controlled US drone planes.

For us in the US, these wars will end up costing trillions. And it is our tax dollars that are being used. Meanwhile they are slashing the social programs our tax dollars should be used for.

The future of young people is being attacked through massive cuts to education at all levels. Within California alone, more than $9 billion has been cut from education since 2009. These attacks have turned our high schools into warehouses for the young, where overworked teachers are unable to teach in increasingly crowded classrooms. In California, the average drop out rate is more than 20 percent.

For young people who do graduate, they are entering an economy where workers are under attack and finding a job is increasingly difficult. In California, the official unemployment rate is more than twelve percent. The workers who do have jobs are being told that they must accept more work, take less pay, and receive fewer benefits if they want to hold onto their jobs.

The futures of older workers and retirees are also under attack. Here in California, we are being told that the retirements of state workers are the source of the state’s multi-billion dollar deficits. Like many states, California is facing the prospect that there won’t be enough money coming in to pay state workers’ retirement benefits. But this isn’t the fault of state workers. Since 2001, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost California more than $139 billion. And this number is growing every day.  State workers didn’t make the decision to wage these wars.

We see the same attacks on the social security system. Politicians are saying that social security is paying out more money in benefits than it is taking in and forcing the government to spend money it doesn’t have. One of their so-called solutions is to raise the retirement age to 70. Another is to replace the program’s system of regular benefit payments with individual private investment accounts that people would invest in the stock market. In other words, their solution is to make people work longer and empty social security’s multi-trillion dollar trust fund into the bank accounts of corporations.

In other countries throughout the world, young people, workers, and elderly are also being told that they have no option but to accept these types of attack to their lives. In France, the government is telling people that it has no choice but to raise the retirement age because of the country’s deficit. But millions of workers and students have been on strike over the last month showing the authorities that they don’t have to accept their attacks. We could do the same.