Friday 25 March 2011

Can anyone explain why the USA spends over a HALF BILLION Dollars PER DAY in Afghanistan and gives $8.2 Million PER DAY to Israel?

America is obscenely wasting billions of dollars every week in Afghanistan, and the Obama administration is actually hard pressed to explain why.  A few weeks ago journalist Chris Hellman, writing for Tomdispatch, calculated that the real annual US military budget is $1.2 trillion -- an astounding and virtually unfathomable number.

This is an amount that would solve virtually every fiscal problem America has -- state budget shortfalls, health care, education, environmental protection and retirement for many, if we ever found the will to emphasize human priorities, not making war and dominating the globe. 

The "giant elephant in the room" is the destructive nature of  American Empire -- the attempt to dominate the world with weapons and mega dollars. With this obscene amount of money going to war and the military, our leaders -- Bush, and now Obama it seems -- are addicted to "endless war" portending destruction of our collective security and a viable future under the pretence of securing it.

Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the United States spends approximately $16 billion a month in Afghanistan, a number equal to the annual budget of the United Nations, or of all but 13 of the US states.  (This fact and the following ones are excerpted from a recent appeal for support from the editors of Alternet.)

The cost of a month in Afghanistan is roughly equivalent to  262,500 teachers; 1,995,000 children in day care;  annual health care for more than 5 million  people -- and this is just one month!  

Some right-wing demagogues are screaming "we are broke!"  But that is mere hogwash.  End the war, significantly cut the incredible trillion dollar annual military budget, and we would have plenty of money to take care of most everyone's needs --  and still be one of the safest countries in the world.

Do you know how much foreign aid the United States is giving the state of Israel currently?  (Most of it now in the form of aide to buy the latest military hardware, provide military manufacturing subsidies and other financial aide enabling Israel to build those illegal settlements - illegal according to United Nations agreements - and pay for the living costs of the settlers -- all of which perpetuates Israel's state-sanctioned Apartheid policies ensuring tight control over the Palestinian population.)

Australia certainly does not have the percentage of its national budget and financial resources tied up like America does, but its policies aren't much better.  Current leaders among both the Liberal (Coalition) and Labor parties are not doing much independent thinking -- they simply walk in lock-step with America (or so it would seem from what I observe living here and absorbing the news) praising and supporting America's military priorities and  every foreign policy move.

Stopping this incredible excessive waste on military and empire is one of the most - if not the most - significant challenge of our lives.  And if Americans (and Australians, as well) can't change their national priorities, there is no light at the end of the tunnel... 

I welcome serious discussion about the best ways to get this message across.  That is THE question burning in my mind and heart of late.  And I think it begs for some creative thinking, mutual encouragement, persistent questioning, AND putting our bodies and our individual commitments on the line.

Let's talk - and act - for justice, for peace, for common sense, and the common good.  What are you thinking and feeling in this regard?  What is the particular bit you feel called to do?

In the short run, I've decided it's worth investing a bit of personal time in two things which enables me to build face-to-face relationships here in Australia with other peacebuilders:  1) I'm preparing for this local endeavour (a special peace lantern vigil on Anzac eve in Canberra) and 2) I'm getting involved in some strategic planning with others - forming the Australasian chapter of Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Clair Hochstetler

*This week I attended a local meeting set up by Australians for Justice and Peace in Palestine to watch a multiple-award-winning documentary they were showing entitled Occupation101.  It is loaded with well-researched facts, but also deeply moving.  The viewer is challenged to double check whatever he/she thinks they know about the history of the conflict in Palestine/Israel.  (I encourage you to obtain your own copy of the DVD - or at least watch some of the excerpted clips in the online "multimedia" section right here. (The 8 million per day in aide to Israel is cited in clip #4, among other astounding facts.)

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Gene Sharp - key strategist behind the toppling of the Egyptian government! Ever hear of him?


In case you haven't stumbled across this powerful story yet, I thought it was worth passing along.   Gene Sharp, now 83 years old and living in East Boston MA, is a very shy and quiet man. Ever hear of him before? I hadn't - to my chagrin.  I certainly should have been paying better attention.  

Gene is considered the world's foremost contemporary expert on non-violent revolution and his work has been translated into more than 30 languages.  Mr. Sharp's writing has been having a very powerful influence on what has been happening of late around other parts of the Arab world, providing the "blueprint" for how to work together effectively to overthrown dictators.  Many are saying he is the man now credited with the strategy behind the toppling of the Egyptian government!  Here is the article on Gene Sharp which brought me up to speed - a good read all the way to the end!   

I did a bit more research and found out the man is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, a Quaker, and member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  (Quoted from this other recent article I found in the NYT: "Some people suspect Mr. Sharp of being a closet peacenik and a lefty — in the 1950s, he wrote for a publication called “Peace News” and he once worked as personal secretary to A. J. Muste, a noted labor union activist, pacifist, and Executive Secretary of the FOR— but Gene insists that he outgrew his own early pacifism and describes himself now as “trans-partisan.”) 

Here's Gene Sharp's list of 198 "nonviolent weapons" in outline form.

It's been quite the education this evening...

Clair Hochstetler