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The Kent-Ravenna Record-Courier (Ohio)

A High Price for Looking the Other Way

Retired U.S. Ambassador Charles Dunbar, speaking recently at Kent State University about the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, observed that "bombing civilians saves (our) soldiers' lives."

Just so: Bombing is cheaper than boots on the ground. Fairly small, safe crews can quickly dispatch numbers that it could take hundreds of ground troops days and casualties to kill.

Indeed, the Global War On Terror (GWOT) itself has been cheaper than diplomacy and treating our neighbors fairly and humanely. It's cheaper in terms of money, not least because the rich, smart and powerful can profit by financing and selling high-tech ordnance and equipment (not only to the United States and friends, but to enemies) The rich and powerful make money by brokering oil, services and mercenaries, and by selling consumer goods with infotainment of war, bombings mayhem, and torture.

The costs of the GWOT and most wars are borne by the poor, ignorant and powerless -- by poor people living in "enemy" territory who pay with their lives, by non-rich Americans, whose children serve in the Armed Forces and who pay with inadequate medical care, underfunded education, crumbling infrastructure and deregulation and privatization of basic community services.

The costs of this war are borne heavily by poor people and ecosystems in South America, Africa and Asia. Residents of our Gulf Coast have suffered "collateral damage" from storms of a planet overheating dangerously for the profit of international corporations.

The rise of terrorism should have given us a clue. Although its major manifestation in the 21st Century has been financed by the biological sport of an oil-rich Saudi family, terrorism isn't primarily a capitalistic venture or driven by profit. Efforts to link it to specific nations, corporations or organized crime have not been successful. It uses cheap materials, improvised technologies and volunteer labor. It further cheapens human life by killing only to spread fear and disorder, not for profit or power

It took the "collateral damage"
of the collapse of our financial markets based on funny-money and vast profits for their managers to wake us up to the perils we face.

To loosely paraphrase Pastor Martin Niemoller: First they came for our votes in Florida, but we didn't speak up, because we thought our votes were counted OK. Then they gave tax cuts to the rich, and sold our nation's surplus to the private sector, but we thought that was OK because they gave us some stimulus money to spend.. When they invaded Iraq and said it would keep us from being nuked, we believed that was, well, OK. When they sent young people who couldn't get jobs or afford college for repeated tours of duty in Iraq, we didn't protest -- they mostly weren't our kids. When they reduced our retirement and health care benefits and charged more for medical care, we didn't speak up, because we were OK and sick people should take responsibility for themselves. When they used torture and took away habeas corpus, most of us thought it couldn't happen to us, so it was OK.


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But when they came for our mortgages and the credit we need to buy cars and college degrees and run our businesses, it was not OK. We woke up and realized that 30 years of free-market economics, doctrines of greed, shock and fear, and Command & Control decision-making have got us into a very bad place.

By the time you read this, we may have averted, at least temporarily, a massive collapse of the American economy and the U.S. dollar. But our work is just beginning. We can't keep pouring billions of dollars into the private sector to finance wars and Wall Street.

First we have to make the best choices we can for president/vice president and Congress to rebuild our nation in the great gaping hole left by the Bush administration. Then we must make it plain that we are going to take part in managing a responsible, accountable and democratic government.

A democratic government is like a strong family: people help one another, take care of the young, old and sick, accommodate differences; regulate harmful behaviors. It's where everyone works in the garden, kitchen, workshop or study and comes together at the table, sharing food and arguments, making do with what there is and deciding how to spend or invest surplus.

Democracy is when the whole family agrees on some general boundaries and values, but won't allow doctrine to drive decisions or immutable rules to govern every contingency. It's when we are confident enough in ourselves and in one another to improvise and make things up as we go along in response to the needs of the whole family and community; it's when we have elders we respect and who respect us.

Today we are necessarily a global family, facing major challenges of war/terrorism/genocide, environmental degradation, disease, and. above all, poverty.

So far, the major costs of the folly of war and market fundamentalism are being passed along to poor children: Bombing saves warriors' lives by killing poor children. War makes money for the rich at the expense of poor children's lives. Capitalism bestows wealth and power on the few, at the expense of poor children everywhere, and the young of all species on earth.

Vote carefully. Those in childhood now, and those who will be born in coming generations will pay a steep price for our follies, our economics, our wars.

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Caroline Arnold

Caroline Arnold retired in 1997 after 12 years on the staff of US Senator John Glenn. She previously served three terms on the Kent (Ohio) Board of Education. In retirement she is active with the Kent Environmental Council and sits on the board of Family & Community Services of Portage County. Her Letters From Washington has been published as an e-Book by the Knowledge Bank of the Ohio State University Library.  E-mail:

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