A Dysfunctional Reciprocal Relationship:
The Domestic Cost of America’s Continued War on Terror and its Impact upon the American Working Class
By: David Elliott Pritt Father, Mountaineer, Socialist, USAF Veteran, Veteran for Peace
SPUSA—At Large (West Virginia Coal Fields)
“The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous…”
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children… This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. Is there no other way the world may live?”
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
Any person in this nation who is remotely familiar with current events has likely, and often, stumbled upon article after article stating the monetary cost of the American War on Terror (WOT) to date—ever increasing and ever escalating. There is merit in highlighting the monetary costs. Each dollar spent waging war is a dollar lost to the edification of civilization and the furtherance of mankind in general. I firmly believe, however, that the greatest cost of this continued failed experiment at American Imperialism through this “WOT” is the steep price paid by the working class people of the world—especially of the primary nations affected. For the sake of congruence and focus, the subjects of this article will remain focused solely on the domestic cost of American Imperialism. That is not to say that the global cost is null; it is astronomical, and I fully acknowledge that. After all, an injury to one worker is an injury to all regardless of nationality. My focus on the negative domestic outcomes is meant to reiterate to all of us—myself included—that there are people who we come into contact with on a daily basis who have been impacted by American Imperialism. Often, it seems we focus upon national affairs (and rightly so) or the international effects of American Imperialism, but many times, sadly, we fall short in addressing the domestic costs. Solidarity my friends. Solidarity forever.
Since the dawning of civilization itself, it has been the working class family and the poor who have shouldered the greatest burdens associated with war. Since ancient Sumer, the rich and powerful have collected the poor and powerless among them, solidified them into armies, and pitted these armies against one another in battle. It seems then, that the ultimate goal of the rich and powerful elites would not be simply to strengthen their own power, stature, and wealth, but to pacify and compel their subjects into submission by force of arms. This incredible drama has repeated itself time and time again throughout human history. Through intense propaganda campaigns which label opposing forces as less than human and propel pseudo-nationalistic patriotism or religiously themed zealotry throughout the culture at large, elites are able to convince the greater population to acquiesce to their authority, and acquiescence to such authority translates into complete and total obedience on the battlefield. Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, once remarked, “If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one of them would remain in the army.”
This line of constant exploitation by the elites of our world perpetrated against the working classes extends even into the modern era. The time in which we currently find ourselves is an unprecedented era of ‘War for Profit’. The defense industries in the Western World are raking in hundreds of billions of dollars in profit each and every year—and with every year that passes, their profits increase. It stands to reason then, that the words of Orwell ring true. The point of ‘War for Profit’, is not peace, but exactly that—profit. The continued profitability of the modern defense industry relies upon several key factors: Propaganda, Willing Volunteers, and an apathetic population appeased with the scraps offered to them by consumerism. Though all three are inexorably intertwined, it’s the second point that is fuel for the fire—so to speak—domestically.
Though it is perfectly logical to draw a direct line from the History of US intervention in foreign affairs throughout the globe since the advent of the Monroe Doctrine to the modern day attitude of the world toward the US, no line is better drawn and more pertinent to current events than the US intervention in Middle Eastern domestic affairs post World War II. With the US involvement in the partitioning of the former European colonies, and the continued insistence upon meddling in the democratic processes of Middle Eastern nations, sometimes with lethal force (CIA overthrow of Iran’s government in 1953,) it is no wonder then that the prevailing attitude in many nations is profoundly anti-American. And it is precisely the existence of this anti-American sentiment that the elites in our nation and within the defense industry rely upon to stoke military recruitment for our current WOT.
“We are not hated because we practice democracy, value freedom, or uphold human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things to people in Third World countries whose resources are coveted by our multinational corporations. That hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism…Instead of sending our sons and daughters around the world to kill Arabs so we can have the oil under their sand, we should send them to rebuild their infrastructure, supply clean water, and feed starving children. In short, we should do good instead of evil. Who would try to stop us? Who would hate us? Who would want to bomb us? That is the truth the American people need to hear.”
Former U. S. Air Force Lt. Col, fighter pilot in Vietnam
Without an influx of ready and willing volunteers, our military ventures overseas would not be possible. Unwilling or unable to repeat the disastrous domestic faux pas associated with American intervention in Vietnam and the associated drafting of the citizenry, our modern form of war waging relies upon an all volunteer force. Impoverished rural and urban areas are purposefully targeted for military recruitment endeavors. Current economic conditions being as they are in many of these locales, young and naive individuals who have few options post secondary schooling are drawn in by the half-promises of a steady pay-check, free college, and provided healthcare and benefits promulgated by military recruiters with no other care other than meeting their quarterly recruitment numbers. The defense industries rely upon the non-existence of American social safety nets to aid in their military recruitment endeavors. With no National Healthcare System, astronomical costs associated with higher education, and few economic opportunities, many individuals feel compelled to military service as a means to an end—a chance at social safety and the potential to better their situation in life. The unfortunate and oft-ignored truth of the matter is that a better life is not what happens for many after their military service is concluded. In fact, their quality of life is actually worsened in many cases.
A Veteran’s Administration internal study released in 2017 highlights the problems associated with Veteran’s Suicide statistics—citing Veterans of the WOT to be at the highest risk. The statistic is an average of 20 Veterans per day in American end their own life. With climbing rates of mental illness diagnoses, alcoholism, substance abuse, divorce, along with an over-prescription of both anti-depressants and pain medications, veterans in this nation are at the mercy of their past experiences—physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. The vast majority of these persons herald from America’s poor or lower Working Class. Disenfranchised politically, denied true economic power and a living wage, denied healthcare and higher education, many young people throughout the United States feel that military service is their only valid avenue. We must address this inadequacy.
What can be done? We must work to protect our younger generations from the vulture-like recruitment tactics employed by the US Military. We must work to provide real, true, and accurate information about the negative effects and outcomes of military service. We must work to expose the true reasons for America’s WOT and its ultimate goal of Imperialistic conquest over the natural resources of less powerful nations. We must provide a legitimate and trustworthy alternative set of information to the young individuals targeted by military recruitment campaigns. We must expose the very true and very negative costs associated with service in America’s war machine. We must divulge the true information about civilian casualties associated with America’s never ending global war. We must work to build America’s social safety nets by any means necessary. We must build our local communities—we must be there for one another during difficult times. We must demand a stop to the trillions of dollars flowing into the defense industry’s pockets and demand reallocation of funds toward domestic programs. No one should feel that their only option moving forward is volunteering themselves for military service for a cause that is ultimately indescribably detrimental to human existence and worldwide peace. In short, we must work to promote economic justice.
The domestic cost of America’s failed War on Terrorism and its never ending quest for Imperial expansion is truly astronomical. Tens of thousands of men and women—Veterans—are left hurting mentally or physically, many of them taking their own lives. The monetary cost has been incalculable. With trillions upon trillions of dollars being allocated for the war effort, domestic projects and priorities have faltered: failing infrastructure, cuts to education, and crumbling inner cities. We must do better. We can do better.
Counter Terrorism Spending 2001-2017. The Stimson Center, www.stimson.org/sites/default/files/file-attachments/CT_Spending_Report_0.pdf.
Kotlikoff, Laurence. Has Our Government Spent $21 Trillion Of Our Money Without Telling Us? Forbes Magazine, 13 Dec. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/kotlikoff/2017/12/08/has-our-government-spent-21-trillion-of-our-money-without-telling-us/#5ef326587aef.
III, Leo Shane, and Patricia Kime. New VA Study Finds 20 Veterans Commit Suicide Each Day. Military Times, 8 Aug. 2017, www.militarytimes.com/veterans/2016/07/07/new-va-study-finds-20-veterans-commit-suicide-each-day/.
Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. Harper Collins, 2003.