Sunday, December 12, 2010

Afghan War Versus Human Needs

Source: Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Los Angeles

LA Metro recently announced that they'll be cutting back their bus service. They're running a $251 million budget deficit due to the weak economy. This is despite the fact that in 2008 we LA County voters overwhelmingly chose to increase our taxes to fund a pretty progressive package of transportation investments (i.e. more transit than roads).

This got me to thinking about what we do spend money on as a society, particularly war, and specifically the "good" war in Afghanistan.

According to the National Priorities Project LA County will contribute $3.8 billion (with a "b") to the Afghan War in fiscal year 2011 alone. That's more than enough to plug Metro's entire budget hole and do a lot more besides, perhaps to reduce our 12.5% unemployment rate.

I could spend a long time telling you why I think this war is unnecessary and counterproductive. Basically the argument boils down to our war ends up killing innocent people and reinforces Al-Qaeda's narrative of America as a domineering nation at war with Islam, which in all likelihood fuels terrorism at least as much as it prevents it. I also wish the government put the threat of terrorism in perspective, since the number of people killed in car crashes in 2009 was 11 times greater than the number of people who died in the 9/11 attacks.

There is a contradiction between saying we care about things like transit and supporting a war that is taking a terrible toll in blood and treasure. A sad irony is that transit is especially critical for people with disabilities, and one segment of society that is more likely to be disabled, thanks to its dangerous work, is our soldiers and veterans. Let's treat terrorism like a crime, not a war, and spend our limited funds on human needs, including caring for the people we send to fight.

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