Published on Tuesday, September 8, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
Healthcare vs. Warfare: The Future Costs of the
On Wednesday, President Obama will address a joint session of Congress on health care. Later this year he will decide whether to deploy additional troops to the war in
The choice is clear: healthcare or warfare; the Common Good or Common Destruction.
Two key developments in the
Meanwhile, behind the scenes and out of the public eye, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force are preparing their respective budget requests for FY 2011 (which begins October 1, 2010 and runs through September 30, 2011).
The publication “Inside the Pentagon” reports:
“Now, as the Pentagon weighs the FY-11 base budget and OCO requests submitted by the services on August 14, it is finding the services’ FY-11 OCO requests are larger than expected. Instead of a ‘substantial’ decrease tied to the draw down in Iraq, the OCO total is ‘roughly flat’ compared with FY-10, a Pentagon official said, noting it is only a bit under the FY-10 level.”
In other words, the military services seem to be seeking $120 to $130 billion in war funds for 2011, during a time period when ostensibly the U.S. will be reducing troop levels in Iraq and at a time when much is made about the $100 billion per year projected cost for providing substantive (though not perfect) healthcare reform. (“OCO” is the new term of art for the wars in
These initial requests likely will be modified to some extent as they wind their way through the Department of Defense and the White House. However, the size of these requests indicate the importance of current organizing efforts to end funding for the
Regrettably, though, it gets worse, as the U.S. will, without substantive troop reductions, likely continue to expend anywhere from $70 billion to $100 billion per year to continue on-going military operations in Afghanistan in 2012 and beyond.
The decidedly non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report in August that projects average monthly troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan through FY 2012 (i.e., through September 30, 2012). It then draws upon the work of the Congressional Budget Office to project future war costs. What emerges is a never ending war with never ending costs unless pressure can be brought to bear upon President Obama and Congress to reverse course in
The Congressional Research Service bases its analysis upon average monthly troop levels over the course of a year rather than numbers of troops on the ground in any given month. For example, if 100,000 troops are deployed to a country for the first 6 months of 2010 but then are reduced to 50,000 troops for the final 6 months of 2010, the average monthly troop level in 2010 is 75,000 troops. Using the monthly average over the course of a year evens out the increases and decreases in troop levels as troops are deployed into and redeployed out of a country.
The CRS projects average monthly troop strength in
While arguably the troop withdrawals should occur on a more rapid timetable, pressure must be maintained upon Obama to ensure that he does not allow any slippage to occur in his own proposed timetable. The
Second, pressure must be exerted to prevent any expansion of the
And this is where the wave of substantive (though imperfect) healthcare reform comes crashing upon the shoals of warfare. Keep $100 billion in mind—the projected cost for each year of healthcare reform—as you read the following based upon reports from the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
In January 2009, the CBO projected the costs of maintaining troops in
The CBO projects that the cost to maintain 112,500 troops in
The CRS projects that average monthly troop levels in FY 2011 will be 106,200. Looking at the $95 billion cost projection of the CBO (for 112,500 troops), one would think that the war costs in FY 2011 will be in the range of $90 to $100 billion. Yet, as indicated at the start of this article the military services are apparently seeking funding somewhere in the range of $130 billion for FY 2011 (or slightly lower). Either way—whether it’s in the range of the $95 billion or so projected by CBO or the perhaps nearly $130 billion in the military services’ initial budget requests—that’s more than adequate funding to pay for substantive healthcare reform in 2011.
The financial hemorrhaging will continue for as long as the
The long term cost of the Afghanistan war will then likely be in the range of $55 to $70 billion per year (with average monthly troop levels of 4000 in Iraq and 67,500 in Afghanistan according to the CRS projections). This is based upon the CBO projection that maintaining a deployment of 75,000 troops will cost somewhere between $55 billion and $70 billion per year from 2013 onward (on a slightly more optimistic note, the CBO projects that it will cost somewhere in the range of $25 billion to $32 billion per year if U.S. troops levels are reduced to 30,000).
All of this leaves out any discussion of reframing the size of the
At this moment of critical decision-making we should utilize all legal and extralegal (i.e., nonviolent civil disobedience) methods and techniques to send the strongest possible message to President Obama and Congress that it is time to completely end the U.S. military misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On October 5, nonviolent civil disobedience/civil resistance will take place at the White House. Organized by such groups as the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, Witness Against Torture, War Resisters League and Atlantic Life Community, this effort is an opening salvo in a renewed and revitalized effort to completely end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to bring the U.S. into full compliance with international law as regards torture and mistreatment of those being held by the U.S. in the erstwhile “war on terrorism”. The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance  website is with additional information available on the website of the War Resisters League .
The longer term Peaceable Assembly Campaign  is an umbrella effort being coordinated by Voices for Creative Nonviolence in an effort to draw the connections between the continuing pursuit by the U.S. and its allies of on-going Common Destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories on the one hand and the lack of funding for the Common Good—schools, health care, full employment and living wage policies, the public infrastructure, refugee services—on the other hand. The Peaceable Assembly Campaign seeks as well to draw the connections between the ongoing militarization of the United States and the critical necessity to commit our country to a new environmentalism that, amongst other things, makes the strong commitment to a renewable energy policy that is safe for the environment.
The Peaceable Assembly Campaign begins, this fall, with the development of local campaign committees to advance campaign objectives and to lobby Congress regarding these objectives.
In January 2009, the PAC will focus upon President Obama. From January 19 to February 2 we will maintain a daily vigil—which will include daily acts of civil disobedience--at the White House seeking an end to funding for the wars in
After February 2, the Peaceable Assembly Campaign will once again emphasize legal and extralegal lobbying work to achieve its objectives. The extralegal lobbying work will consist of nonviolent civil disobedience at the offices of Representatives and Senators who do not agree with the objectives of the campaign—and especially who do not commit to cutting off funding for warfare with a concomitant redirection of funds to serve the Common Good. This phase of the campaign is timed to the legislative calendar during which Congress will be developing and enacting the Defense Appropriations Bill for 2011—a bill which will likely include funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than likely the House and Senate will act upon the Defense Appropriations Bill for 2011 by the end of July 2010. The Peaceable Assembly Campaign can be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org ), by phone (773-878-3815) or on the web (http://
These next several weeks and months are critical in redirecting our country away from Common Destruction and towards the Common Good. Decisions will be made by President Obama and Congress which could send hopes for health care, education, living wage jobs, a new environmental policy crashing upon the shoals of never ending war in
Jeff Leys is Co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and be reached at email@example.com 
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs