"In the counsels of Government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military Industrial Complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961.
"It's a growth industry and we will get what we want."
- Gen. David Petraeus, when asked recently about the need for the deployment of more troops to Afghanistan.
As we came to the end of our walking-wheelchair trek from the Jefferson Memorial, Korean and Vietnam War memorials, to the World War II site, my 82-year-old mother offered a most surprising comment.
"We Americans sure like our wars," she said sadly.
This from the wife of a WW II veteran who was awarded the Silver Star and a Purple Heart for his heroism.
It was that simple comment that made me pause and reflect on where we were as a society, a country.
I am also the sibling of a two-tour Vietnam War veteran who suffered through the aftermath of that conflict. Drugs, joblessness and life without a wife and children were his rewards.
Thousands of our young have died, depriving us of a social force that may have brought us to a more peaceful, a more academically enlightened, and possibly a more environmentally friendly time decades later.
Dwight Eisenhower said it best when he commented on the need for war to "prevent" communism, terrorism or world domination: "When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war."
As thousands of our young soldiers have died in our current wars, many more thousands have returned with a multitude of war-related illnesses.
And as we were underprepared to properly equip and protect our soldiers on the battlefield, so are we now so ill-prepared to care for these young Americans, their children and their wives upon the soldiers' return to our communities.
And again, another generation lost and a country missing out on what could have been - would have been - if these thousands of young men and women were here today, healthy and alive.
The compromised physical and mental health of these soldiers will have an immeasurable toll on their families, our health-care system and our country for years to come.
"The time not to become a father is 18 years before a war," E.B. White said.
A conservative number of 100,000 innocent Iraqi and Afghan men, women and children have died in these wars.
An apology and a few thousand dollars are offered as payment for loss of home and life.
For generations, the families of these innocent victims will hold us accountable for their sadness, misery and loss - a breeding ground for sustainable acts of terrorism.
"And one of the things we should learn is you can't fight and win a civil war with outside troops, and particularly not when the political structure in a country is dissolved. So it wasn't the press that was the problem. The problem was that we were in the wrong place with the wrong tactics."
- Robert S. McNamara, secretary of defense during the Vietnam War.
One in eight Americans and one in four children now rely on food stamps. We have more families and children living in poverty now than we did during the Lyndon Johnson war on poverty era.
In this nation, a child is born into poverty every 33 seconds (Children's Defense Fund, CDF).
As we continue to experience the numbing greed of Wall Street, we have more children going to bed hungry than ever before.
According to economist Jeffrey Sachs, "Wall Street takes more bonuses each year than the U.S. gives in all official development assistance."
Many of our community food pantries were finding it difficult to keep shelves stocked for this past Thanksgiving, and quite possibly will for the upcoming holidays and holy days.
According to Marian Wright Edelman, president of CDF, we spend $60 billion per month on the war. It will take $105 billion over 10 years to provide maximum health-care reform for children. What is the child worth? Who are we?
As our health system is fragmented and failing, our educational system is also suffering.
The high school dropout rate is unacceptable by anyone's standards.
Our science and math scores are noncompetitive at the international level, and the ability of our students to obtain degrees once they enter college is surprisingly and sadly low.
Our children still do not have the right to an education and health care as is the case in other modern, industrialized countries.
Our young adults leave their educational environment thousands of dollars in debt before they have their first job offer.
This is not the case in the great majority of other modern societies.
We still abuse children by the hundreds of thousands, with one in 10 suffering some form of maltreatment. More than 10,000 children are known to have died from abuse and neglect from 2001 through 2007. The number could be much larger.
Nations are staging special events to mark the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came to be on Nov. 20, 1989. It is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty. Every country in the world, with the exception of the United States and Somalia, has ratified it.
Poverty breeds social unrest and violence. Though we need to be intelligently and morally responsive, militarily, to terrorism, the real war to win is that on poverty.
Our military experts are now negotiating with the Taliban, realizing that they fight for food and money, regardless of who pays.
According to Sachs, it will take one-tenth of one percent of the world's gross national product to provide basic financial support to the world's poor. And $35 billion, total, as compared to the $60 billion per month on the war effort, to significantly and positively alter the course of world poverty.
When Gen. David Petraeus, the overall commander of U.S military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, was asked recently about the need for more troops, his response was, "It's a growth industry and we will get what we want."
Many Americans are now approaching that Vietnam mind-set of war weariness, and at a time when we are in a deep economic depression.
There is discussion of a war surtax just as we are realizing the cost of overhauling of our health-care system, upgrading our educational system, and moving to cleaner, more-efficient energy sources.
It is also the poverty, the hunger and the declining spirit of the masses.
"The most successful war seldom pays for its losses," Thomas Jefferson said.
I believe this country has a "machine" as strong and powerful as our military machine of generals and war strategists.
"Give peace a chance" should no longer be a cliché of the past. Today we are much better prepared to call upon and muster nations, economists, community planners, sociologists, educators, medical and public health professionals, and political peacemakers who can strategically infiltrate a society in conflict, or a country experiencing massive poverty, and reap significant gains with significantly less loss to life.
It is time for a new world order - whether it be with the advice of a well-known Democrat, John Kennedy, "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind," or that advice of another distinguished soldier, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, when he courageously stated: "I believe that the entire effort of modern society should be concentrated on the endeavor to outlaw war as a method of the solution of problems between nations."
It is now that moment, in the history of our country, at this place in time, to speak out, peacefully protest, write and stir the spirit of this country.
"May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower.
"War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today."
- John F. Kennedy.