On May 30, 2010, at 10:06 a.m, the direct cost of occupying Iraq and Afghanistan will hit $1 trillion. And in a few weeks, the House of Representatives will be asked to vote for $33 billion of additional "emergency" supplemental spending to continue the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. There will be the pretense of debate -- speeches on the floor of both chambers, stern requests for timetables or metrics or benchmarks -- but this war money will get tossed in the wood chipper without difficulty, requested by a president who ran on an anti-war platform. Passing this legislation will mark the breaking of another promise to America, the promise that all war spending would be done through the regular budget process. Not through an off-budget swipe of our Chinese credit card.
The war money could be used for schools, bridges, or paying everyone's mortgage payments for a whole year. It could be used to end federal income taxes on every American's first $35,000 of income, as my bill, the War Is Making You Poor Act, does. It could be used to close the yawning deficit, supply health care to the unemployed, or for any other human and humane purpose.
Instead, it will be used for war. Because, as Orwell predicted in 1984, we've reached the point where everyone thinks that we've always been at war with Eastasia. Why?
Not because Al Qaeda was sheltered in Iraq. It wasn't. And not because Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan. It isn't. Bush could never explain why we went to war in Iraq, and Obama can't explain why we are 'escalating' in Afghanistan.
So, why? Why spend $1 trillion on a long, bloody nine-year campaign with no justifiable purpose?
Remember 9/11, the day that changed everything? That was almost a decade ago. Bush's response was to mire us in two bloody wars, wars in which we are still stuck today. Why?
I can't answer that question. But I do have an alternative vision of how the last 10 years could have played out.
Imagine if we had decided after 9/11 to wean ourselves off oil and other carbon-based fuels. We'd be almost ten years into that project by now.
Imagine if George W. Bush had somehow been able to summon the moral strength of Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller, or Martin Luther King Jr, and committed the American people to the pursuit of a common goal of a transformed society, a society which meets our own human needs rather than declaring "war" on an emotion, or, as John Quincy Adams put it, going "abroad, in search of monsters to destroy".
Imagine that we chose not to enslave ourselves to a massive military state whose stated goal is "stability" in countries that never have been "stable", and never will be.
"Imagine all the people, living life in peace."