Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 6.23.11

Reordering Priorities
Time to bring our war dollars home
By Anne Bridgman and Michael Carrigan

America is in a deep economic crisis that can only be addressed if we adopt new priorities to create a sustainable economy for the 21st century.

The federal government has spent well over $1 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Part of that money was financed through debt, but a large amount of it was money that could have been spent on America ã aiding state and local governments to provide public services, social services, and programs. Here in Oregon (one of five states whose deficits are more than 20 percent of the general fund) Lane County and the city of Eugene have seen millions of dollars in budget cuts since the wars began.

Its time to reclaim that money so we can fund our schools adequately. So we can keep open a place like First Place, which provides 100 slots for homeless preschoolers so they can get a boost in readiness for school. So we can support environmental programs, rebuild infrastructure, provide for our growing homeless population, and create jobs.

Mayor Kitty Piercy has submitted a resolution to the U.S. Conference of Mayors calling on Congress to redirect military spending to domestic priorities; already, 18 other mayors have signed on ã including the mayors of Madison, Wis., Baltimore, Md., and Los Angeles. The resolution will be presented at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Baltimore June 17-24.

Across the U.S., cities, municipalities and counties are mounting efforts to bring our war dollars home. In towns like Hartford, Conn., and San Francisco, and counties like Montgomery County, Md., citizens are launching campaigns urging action to shift war dollars to local communities, where budgets have been slashed and programs shuttered.

Here in Eugene, City Councilman George Brown plans to introduce a resolution to pressure our elected officials in Congress to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Together, those wars have already cost Eugene about $350 million. For that amount of money, the city could have bought low-income health care for more than 187,850 children for a full year or VA medical care for more than 45,780 military veterans for a year.

The resolution will ask Oregons representatives in Washington to start reining in the Pentagons budget, which has doubled since 1998 to a staggering $725 billion, way more than is needed to keep us secure. Our elected officials must speak out against the continued war spending thats hurting our community.

More than 6,000 members of the U.S. armed forces have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ã including 128 from Oregon. More than 120,000 civilians have been killed. Thousands more have suffered devastating physical and mental disabilities. Many of our own homeless are enduring PTSD. And the U.S. public, in recent polls, supports cutting military spending and ending the wars.

In light of the severity of the ongoing economic crisis, its imperative that we use our nations financial resources for the good of our nation. We are in urgent need of jobs, we need to restore vital public services, and we have to fund social programs to meet the needs of our fellow Eugeneans, including the most vulnerable among us.

Its time to reorder our priorities so that money being spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan comes home.

Anne Bridgman is a peace activist in Eugene. Michael Carrigan is the peace organizer with Community Alliance of Lane County, which has been working for peace and justice in Lane County since 1966.