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A U.S. flag on the uniform of an American soldier. (Photo: Armin Weigel/picture alliance via Getty Images)

10 Negative Consequences of Boundless US Militarism and Imperialism

By connecting our struggles and building mass movements, we can resist war and all the horrors of broken societies that follow.

Sam CarlinerOlivia DiNucci

In recent years, the U.S. has seen great numbers of people and mass movements take to the streets to challenge the status quo. While domestic outrage grows, resistance to the U.S. war machine remains limited, even as President Joe Biden is looking to pass a military budget of $813 billion. This bloated budget proposal comes as inflation makes basic products unaffordable and funds for the ongoing pandemic are gutted. 

The militaristic and imperialist foreign policy of the United States has negative consequences for every aspect of life in the U.S. and abroad. As long as we're investing so much in the military, not only will we not have the money to invest in better things, but we are also exacerbating countless problems on a global level. In order to create the world we want and need, U.S. social movements must take up the struggle against militarism. Here are just ten ways that injustices in the United States are fueled by the war machine. 

1. Police violence is armed by the Pentagon. Since 1996 the 1033 program has been providing excess military equipment to police departments throughout the United States. A 2014 ACLU report titled "War Comes Home" found that "militarized police act aggressively and violently, target Black and Brown communities, and kill Americans at an alarming tempo." This violence was shown explicitly when city police departments as well as federal police and the National Guard were deployed to tear-gas, bludgeon, and kettle anti-racist protesters in 2020. Within the last year, we saw abortion rights, activists in Los Angeles and water protectors in the Indigenous-led struggle to stop Line 3 from being subjected to similar militarized police suppression. 

2. The War on Terror has fueled the criminalization of immigrants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a massive surveillance database that it uses to track immigrants and immigrant rights activists. ICE is a direct product of the War on Terror which eroded basic privacy rights and established some of the United States' most draconian anti-immigrant policies which the Biden administration is maintaining. The War on Terror also ramped up the longstanding militarization of the United States/Mexico border and raids on immigrant communities. 

3. U.S. warmongering fuels hate. Last year anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States jumped 339 percent. It is no coincidence that this spike happened as the United States was pushing a foreign policy of militarily containing China. Similar spikes in anti-Asian violence throughout the United States were prevalent when the United States was at war with Japan and waging a military invasion of Vietnam. During the height of the War on Terror similar racist violence and systemic racism were directed at Arab and South Asian communities. 

4. The U.S. military furthers settler colonial occupation of Indigenous lands. From mining uranium and testing nuclear weapons on Navajo Land to poisoning and harassing Indigenous communities throughout the Pacific like in Hawai'i and Okinawa, the U.S. military maintains colonial violence against Indigenous peoples. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to support apartheid, occupation, and ethnic cleansing in Palestine, giving Israel nearly $4 billion in aid just last year.

5. The U.S. military is the world's largest institutional polluter in the world. The U.S. military is the world's largest oil consumer and causes more greenhouse gas emissions than 140 countries. Along with fossil fuel use, the U.S. military has harmed the environment by dumping toxic chemicals that poison communities throughout the United States. Yet, at COP26 militaries were exempt. We've publicly spent $21 trillion since 2001 on the Pentagon and yet $4.5 trillion could fully decarbonize the U.S. electric grid. 

6. The military upholds patriarchy. The recruitment and training methods of the military are based on stereotypes that strength corresponds to manhood and physical dominance. The harm and misogyny of these stereotypes can be seen most clearly in the rampant sexual assault of women within the military and toward local women where the military is based abroad, as well as suicide rates of men in the military whose suppression of their emotions results in untreated depression. 

7. U.S. imperialism suppresses LGBTQ+ communities. Because the main purpose of the military is to impose U.S. economic interests by force, the military maintains the interests of some of the worst anti-LGBTQ+ regimes so long as they are U.S. allies. For example, the U.S military has acted in support of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two violently anti-LGBTQ+ regimes. 

8. Student debt is a predatory trap used for military recruitment. The U.S. Army has outright bragged that it has been able to use the student debt crisis as a way to meet its recruitment goals. This predatory recruitment practice which many characterize as a "poverty draft," means that Black, Brown, and poor white communities are disproportionately more likely to enlist. 

9. When warfare is a priority, healthcare is not. Just like promises of debt cancellation, the military uses promises of healthcare to recruit vulnerable communities. Along with depriving people in the U.S. of healthcare to make military service more appealing, U.S. imperialism deprives the world of healthcare by suppressing medical innovation if it comes from countries that don't align with U.S. imperialism, like Cuba and China. 

10. The military budget must go towards reparations for Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. Along with maintaining white supremacy and systems of oppression, the U.S. military continues to further bloat its budget every year, taking away wealth that could go towards reparations programs for racial equity. The United States owes reparations to countless communities including payments to Black communities for loss of generational wealth tied to slavery, Land Back to Indigenous communities, and repayment to economies destroyed by U.S. wars such as Afghanistan. The military's constant hunger for more money is an obstacle to putting money towards reparations programs. 

As movements grow and struggles unite, it is essential that injustices that the United States perpetuates via military aggression are not left out of the conversation. Intersectionality allows activists to understand not only how systems of oppression are intertwined, but also how they are bolstered by unchecked state violence.

CODEPINK will be highlighting this anti-war perspective at the Poor People’s Campaign Mass Assembly and Moral March on Washington, D.C. from June 17 thru 19. This perspective is central to the Poor People’s Campaign's framework of fighting the interlocking oppressions of racism, militarism, poverty, and ecological destruction. Peace activists will be coming to D.C. from across the country to demonstrate the power of strength in numbers, demand an end to the immoral war economy, and build power for the fights ahead. By connecting our struggles and building mass movements, we can resist war and all the injustices that come with it.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Sam Carliner of CodePink

Sam Carliner

Sam Carliner is a journalist based in New Jersey. His writing focuses on US imperialism and the climate crisis. He is also the Weekend Social Media Manager at CodePink.

Olivia DiNucci

Olivia DiNucci

Olivia DiNucci is an anti-militarism organizer at CODEPINK and also works as a social and climate justice facilitator internationally.

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