For Mother’s Day, Bring the Troops Home Now!
By Bonnie Weinstein
This speech was delivered May 7, 2005 to a lively “Wage Peace” Mother’s Day media walk and rally initiated by Code Pink. The group marched with signs and banners against the war and against military recruitment. They walked from CBS to ABC TV offices and ended up in front of the U.S. Military Recruitment Office for the rally. Although the group was small, only about 100 people, the response from passing cars and people was overwhelmingly supportive. Cars honked as they drove by and gave the peace sign— it was surprising how many did. All of the passers-by took counter-military recruitment material and expressed solidarity with us. I spoke in behalf of Bay Area United Against War (www.bauaw.org), a local Bay Area Antiwar Group.
This Mother’s day, we are taking up the declaration issued by Julia Ward Howe in 1870 on behalf of all mothers and all children: “The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” We protest this war today and vow to do all we can to prevent the next one. We want all the troops returned home now! Our work to end the war and discourage young people from joining the military is of utmost importance. Without cannon fodder, the government will not be able to continue this war, or get us into any more wars.
And, we’re making progress. The U.S. Army, the Army Reserve, the National Guard, the Marines, have all failed to meet their recruitment goals by at least 30 percent or more—the Army missed it by 42 percent! Nationwide, enrollment in the Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps—ROTC—which trains and commissions more than six of every ten new Army officers each year, has slipped by more than 16 percent. Junior ROTC funnels High School kids who plan to go to college into ROTC and if they don’t plan to go to college they are encouraged to practice “good citizenship” and “serve their country” in some way after high school. The U.S. Army runs JROTC in the public high schools. The schools have no say in JROTC curriculum and the Army appoints the teachers. In San Francisco they pretend that it’s a “conflict resolution program,” but we are well aware that it is a multi-million dollar propaganda program to glorify the U.S. military and to recruit our children for war.
The military’s low enlistment rate reflects the fact that the American people are opposed to this war. We know what’s going on!
While our schools are being shut down across the country, and schools, roads, railroads, and other basic necessities are crumbling, and funds for human needs are routinely and systematically being stripped, U.S. military expenditures are skyrocketing. Congress voted $82 billion more last Thursday.
In fact, the super-grand total for the military budget for 2004 reached the astonishing amount of nearly $754 billion. That’s 3/4 of a trillion dollars! —And that figure doesn’t include the huge sums of money being spent on war-related security, space, oceanographic and atmospheric technology, biological and germ experimentation, research and development, just to name a few—which brings the amount the U.S. government actually spends on war into the trillions of dollars each year—dwarfing the four-hundred-and-one billion dollar war budget the government officially claims.
Now think of this: The U.N. estimates that it would cost 80 billion dollars to feed, clothe, house and give medical care to every homeless and starving person on the planet this year! Can you imagine what we could do with the trillions this government is wasting?
And where do they get the money for all this? Over the last three decades, the tax system has been twisted even further to subsidize the wealthiest 1/100th of one percent of the country. It is a myth that the more one earns, the more one pays in taxes. The tax laws are designed by both Republicans and Democrats to subsidize the super rich by stealing from the rest of us.
Through tax laws never reported in the news, Congress takes money from those making $30,000 to $500,000 per year and funnels it to the wealthy elite.
What a great system. The wealthiest 1/100th of one percent of Americans create the tax laws that force the rest of us to subsidize them, and pay for their wars, with our tax dollars and the lives of our children.
And what do we get in return? Jails! Growing at a rate of about 900 inmates each week they now hold over 2.1 million people. That’s roughly 1000 prisoners out of every 138,000 U.S. residents. Compare that to Cuba, which holds 297 prisoners out of every 100,000 Cuban residents. Prison has become a “rite of passage” for young people in America’s poor communities—those same communities where the U.S. military hunts and captures its hungry cannon fodder.
But has American big business suffered in any way? Exxon Mobil Corporation’s first-quarter profits surged 44 percent. Halliburton’s net profit was only $365 million. It would have been much more but they had to pay fines for being caught cheating on government contracts. But Bechtel, based right here in San Francisco, made a cool $17.4 billion—all of them are profiting at the expense of Iraqi and American lives.
We are going to have to put a stop to this. We are going to have to join together and turn things around to end this war and bring our troops home—and we want them home now!
We have to reach out to everyone opposed to this war and continue to build and organize a giant, united antiwar movement—including a counter-recruitment campaign in every city. It’s already being done all over and we’re linking together now. We have to go to every college and high school, every mall, every recruitment office in every community and stop them from recruiting; we have to have antiwar referendums on every ballot to make it crystal clear what the American people really want; we have to go to every school district and demand that they cut all ties to the military and stop handing our kids over to them—and we have to show up anywhere the military shows up—to put an end to military enlistments and prevent this government from continuing this war or from spreading this war to Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Korea or anywhere else.
Together we can defeat the warmongers, protect our children and ensure them a bright, peaceful and caring world.