Two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee Barry Sanders told a Bloomington audience that one morning, as he awoke, two questions came to mind: How much pollution does the military produce? How much pollution does the U.S. military produce in a year, month or day? As an ordinary citizen, not a military expert, he set about trying to answer these questions.
Sanders said he felt complicit in the military’s pollution since it was taxpayers’ money that funds the military. What drove his quest was the assumption that “an informed citizenry is a much more powerful collection of people than those who care little or not at all.”
Most people recognize that the events of 9/11 were the driving force behind the "War on Terror." Less well recognized is the fact that this borderless war against an ill-defined enemy has expedited economic collapse, driven totalitarian legislation and generated a great deal of animosity against the United States throughout the world. The pain and suffering caused by 9/11 comes with an opportunity, however. Through a better understanding of those tragic events, we can achieve crucial insights that can not only end the wars but might ultimately lead to lasting positive change in human society.
On Sept. 4, at 7 p.m. in the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre in Bloomington, the 9/11 Working Group of Bloomington will sponsor a free presentation by two prominent truth and peace activists. Buddhist scholar and peace studies director Graeme MacQueen will discuss "The fictional basis for the war on terror." Behavioral scientist Laurie Manwell will speak on the social and psychological implications of 9/11 and other state crimes against democracy.
The numbers coming out of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars can be overwhelming and numbing.
First are the financial costs. Weapons contractor Lockheed’s defense contracts in 2008 came to $115 billion, according to Public Citizen.
CODEPINK said in an e-mail that the D.C. city council is considering paying defense contractor Northrop Grumman $25 million in taxpayers’ money to move its headquarters to the District of Columbia. According to a Northrop promotional video, the corporation receives 65 cents out of every $1 the government spends on “defense.”
As anyone who has walked the halls of the U.S. Capitol can attest, the hairstyles of male politicians oftentimes rival Stonehenge for implausible construction.
Perhaps it is easy for me to say, since I don't have to brandish my own rapidly receding hairline on C-Span, but Indiana voters seem to be treated to more than our share of toupees, hair plugs and comb-overs elaborate enough to make Donald Trump blush.
But, if hair provided the window on the political soul, the true look of the moment would be the faux-hawk.
On Feb. 1 President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve a record $708 billion in defense spending for fiscal 2011. The budget calls for a 3.4 percent increase in the Pentagon's base budget to $549 billion, plus $159 billion to fund the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But citizens aren't sitting by while the Pentagon's budget balloons. On March 20, just after the seventh anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, protestors will march on Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco.
On Friday evening, March 19, at least 55 Hoosiers and Kentucky residents will board a bus bound for Washington, D.C., for the second peace march since President Obama was elected. Participants will demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Like abolitionists, civil rights activists and opponents of the wars in Vietnam before them, those who question the endless U.S. war on terror are routinely dismissed as naive.
But what should we call those whose trillion-dollar wars hold no answers for a disturbed Nigerian young man willing to blow up an airplane on Christmas? What about those whose bombs could not prevent a Jordanian spy from killing himself and eight others on a CIA base in Afghanistan?
Predator drones and troop surges could not stop these threats. But U.S. invasions, missiles and torture surely fueled them. And the cycle of violence rolls on.
The recent spate of high-profile intelligence failures -- most notably the attempted Christmas Day bombing on board Northwest Airlines fight 253 -- put me in mind of an old Groucho Marx line: "Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms." In the days following the foiled terrorist plot, the usual suspects in and out of official Washington demonstrated their own faulty intelligence.
On one hand, Obama administration officials struggled to save face in the wake of an embarrassing, and potentially catastrophic, security lapse. On the other, a handful of House Republicans sought to score a few political points -- and raise a little campaign money in the bargain -- by politicizing this latest terrorist episode. Meanwhile, syndicated columnists and cable TV pundits were working overtime, spinning the story this way and that. As usual, the ensuing debate over intelligence failures and security breaches generates more heat than light.
At the commencement ceremony held on the Bloomington campus of Indiana University on Dec. 19, 2009, the speaker was honored with the degree of doctor of humane letters and upheld as an exemplary individual before the assembled hundreds of IU graduates. One might have thought that the recipient of this signal distinction was some large-hearted benefactor to the human race.
Maybe a scientist who had dedicated many years of selfless toil to the discovery of a cure for a killer disease. Or a humanitarian who had established schools and hospitals in underserved parts of the world. Possibly an apostle of peace who had worked tirelessly to resolve a festering international conflict. Someone whose heroic efforts had prevented loss of life amid present and future generations of concerned parties in a prolonged conflict.
Unfortunately such reasonable expectations are wide off the mark in regard to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the invited speaker at the winter commencement. The secretary has been best known since 2006 as a prominent enabler of the wars that have ravaged life and society in Iraq and Afghanistan. His most conspicuous recent achievement was advocating the escalation of a merciless war waged in Afghanistan by a powerful, technologically superior military against a country whose essentially defenseless population is innocent of complicity in perpetrating attacks on the United States.
It's not every day that the U.S. secretary of defense comes to Bloomington to address the new graduates and receive an honorary doctorate. Local peace activists saw this event, which took place at 9 a.m. on Dec. 19 at Assembly Hall, as a call to action.
On the cold, snowy Saturday morning, 22 people with signs stood, conversing quietly, across from the south entrance to Assembly Hall as people arrived to observe a commencement ceremony that featured Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Gates served as secretary of defense under President George W. Bush and continues in that role today under President Barack Obama. He was the director of the CIA from 1991 to 1993. Before that, from 1986 to 1989, he was the deputy director of the CIA.
It is a bitter cold Friday afternoon, and three people stand bundled up against the wind on a downtown Indianapolis street corner, silently holding signs pointed toward the rush-hour traffic. Two of the signs are in blue and white, with the words "War is not the answer" printed next to a drawing of a dove. The other sign reads, "Peace is patriotic."
This presence across from the Minton-Capehart Federal Building has been a weekly vigil since shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, when President George W. Bush chose to respond to tragedy with warfare.
A few folks driving or walking by wave at the demonstrators; a peace sign is flashed. Most just stare and move on.