Tag Archives: military

Get the Military Off of Main Street

By ELIZABETH R. BEAVERS and MICHAEL SHANK, New York Times, AUG. 14, 2014

Ferguson Shows the Risks of Militarized Policing

WASHINGTON — FERGUSON, Mo., has become a virtual war zone. In the wake of the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, outsize armored vehicles have lined streets and tear gas has filled the air. Officers dressed in camouflage uniforms from Ferguson’s 53-person police force have pointed M-16s at the very citizens they are sworn to protect and serve.

The police response has shocked America. The escalating tension in this town of 21,200 people between a largely white police department and a majority African-American community is a central part of the crisis, but the militarization of the police is a dimension of the story that has national implications.

Ferguson’s police force got equipped this way thanks to the Pentagon, and it’s happening all over the country. The Department of Defense provides military-grade weapons and equipment to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program, enacted by Congress in 1997 to expand the practice of dispensing extra military gear. Due to the defense industry’s bloated contracts, there is a huge surplus. To date, the Pentagon has donated military equipment worth more than $4 billion to local law enforcement agencies. And the giving goes on, to police forces in all 50 states in the union….

continue reading at New York Times

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Filed under Guns, violence, crime

LOSING TIM: A Mother Unravels Her Military Son’s Suicide

A Review/Essay by John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening, 4/25/14

I met Janet Burroway when I was a Vietnam veteran on the GI Bill at Florida State University and I signed up for a creative writing workshop she was just hired to teach. She was a worldly, published novelist seven years older than me. She had just left an oppressive husband, a Belgian, who was an important theater director in London where she’d been to parties with the likes of Samuel Beckett. I graduate in 1973, and in a turn of events that still amazes me, I asked her out and ended up living with her for a couple years. She had two beautiful boys, Tim, 9, and Toby, 6, who I grew to love.

Cut to 2004. Even as a kid, Tim had a hard-headed moral code about what was right and wrong. As he grew into manhood, he became enamored of all things military; he loved guns. He had a career in the Army as a Ranger, where all his evaluations suggest a stellar soldier. He reached captain, but a promise to his wife and other reasons led him to resign his commission in the active Army. He worked in the Army reserves for a while in places like Bosnia. Contacts led him to civilian jobs in the military contractor world in Africa and Iraq, where he ended up running de-mining operations and training de-miners for RONCO Consulting Corporation.

By Spring 2004, he decided to resign from RONCO. He visited his mother in Tallahassee, then flew to Namibia, northwest of South Africa, to be with his wife Birgett, a white Namibian he’d met during an assignment in Africa where she worked for the UN. Birgett had an adolescent son from a previous relationship. They had a one-year old daughter.

The details are not absolutely clear. Tim was certainly disillusioned from his experiences in Iraq and was apparently sinking into depression. For reasons only he could know, one afternoon he put a nine-millimeter pistol to his head and, in front of Birgett, shot himself dead at age 39.

What is one to make of an act like this? What is a mother to make of the death of her son in this way — especially a mother who throughout her son’s military and contractor career was politically at odds with her son and against the war in Iraq? If that mother is a respected novelist with a talent for spare, honest prose, the answer is a memoir like Losing Tim, just published by Think Piece Press.

For a flavor of the writing in Losing Tim, here’s Burroway on the political tension between her and Tim and how it matured her as a mother:

“Here’s the irony: that nothing led me toward eventual adulthood quite so insistently as the passive endurance of my disappointment — that I had borne, and must adore, a golden right-wing gun-toting soldier son.”…

continue reading at This Can’t Be Happening

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Filed under John Grant, Peace, Security, Terrorism, War

Middle class remains target in Battle of the Cliff

letter, Daily Local News, 1/4/13

The middle class dodged most of the bullets from the Battle of the Cliff, but the guns from the promised negotiations on spending cuts are squarely aimed at us. The president has expressed a willingness to reduce spending on popular programs like Medicare and he’s still talking about “entitlement reform,” which means cuts to Social Security. Republican lawmakers are salivating at the prospect of getting these cuts.

Where in all this chatter is a mention of cuts to the bloated Pentagon budget? Numerous reports in the last couple years document that $100 billion a year could be safely cut from military spending, with hundreds of costly overseas bases as the chief culprits of overspending. Cutting $100 billion a year would just about eliminate the federal deficit.

Effective job creation is the best long-term solution to the budget deficit, and studies document that military spending is the least effective way to create jobs. Education, health care, renewable energy, and yes, even tax cuts create more jobs than giving money hand over fist to the war profiteers, as we do now. Military spending has almost doubled in the last decade. It’s no coincidence that jobs have declined.

Let’s flip this script: first cut the Pentagon. Remember, Social Security has added not one dime to our deficit.

JANE SWIFT DUGDALE
Bryn Mawr

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Filed under Economy, Labor, Tax, Peace, Security, Terrorism, War

Cut military costs, invest here at home

letter to New York Times, sent 7/22/09:

With states from California to New Jersey experiencing large budget deficits and crises, and the federal government waiting and hoping for its stimulus packages to take effect, the question is pressing as to how to reduce costs and procure monies.

Some propose cutting back human services, public institutions, or educational funding, but military and defense-related expenditures take up approximately one half of the tax dollar, more than any other.

The issue of “guns or butter,” “swords or plough shares” has faced nations and empires throughout history. These have invariably discovered that it is impossible to sustain great amounts of both. The former Soviet Union collapsed and fell apart in large measure to the incredible cost of its military and “arms race.”

In the Iraq war we have again learned, as the Soviets did in Afghanistan, how very difficult and costly it is to subdue and occupy a foreign, sovereign country.

For years informed critics have lamented unchecked Pentagon spending where seemingly anything asked for is given, sometimes without competing contracts. It has been argued that in an era when isolated terrorists can plant a bomb or fly under the radar, many of these expensive weapons are practically obsolete.

With US military bases in about 113 foreign countries, can we continue to finance a “policing” of the world when there are so many crying needs here at home?

A number of forward-looking representatives in Congress and elsewhere have proposed a reduction of Defense Department and Pentagon budgets next year by as much as one fourth. Would that not be a sensible and helpful place to begin to reduce and lessen the increasingly looming and foreboding deficits on all levels of our government and nation?

(Rev.) David W. Long
West Chester

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Filed under David Long, Economy, Labor, Tax, Iraq, Peace, Security, Terrorism, War