by Shar Lichty, Organizer
On Saturday, October 8 PJALS held what has sadly become a yearly event, a march against US war and occupation to commemorate the 10th anniversary of US war in Afghanistan, now the longest war in US history. As part of our Bring Our Billion$ Home campaign this year’s theme was “Work Not War.”
We kicked off the event with a community speak-out, hearing from veterans and community members on the human and economic costs of war. Speakers included Rusty Nelson and Mike Edwards from Veterans for Peace, service providers David Brookbank and Reese McMullin-Holford and Pastor Liv Larson-Andrews from Salem Lutheran Church. The speak-out was followed by a march through the Garland District in a show of support for our local, small businesses. (Pictures after the jump!)
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost more than 10,000 Afghan lives, at least 125,000 Iraqi lives, more than 9 million civilian refugees and displace people, more than 6000 American lives and more than 552,000 veterans disabled, according to CostsofWar.org. One third of veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan with identified mental illness. During the past two years, more soldiers have died from suicide than in the field. These human costs of war are unacceptable.
At a national level, the two wars have cost US taxpayers $1,250,000,000,000. Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District’s portion is $2.1 billion. As our state legislators return for a special session to make another round of budget cuts to the tune of $2 billion, Washington State has lost $28.6 billion to what Martin Luther King called the demonic destructive suction tube of war. These economic costs to our communities result in cuts to lifeline services for struggling families causing further human costs, all of which are unacceptable.
Our nation’s economic crisis must be addressed by adopting new priorities and bringing billions of war dollars home to create a strong, sustainable economy. As our state and local communities are facing stark revenue crises and responding with cuts that hurt the most vulnerable families in our communities, the need is as great as ever to end these wars, bring the troops back to their families and give them the care they need, cut wasteful Pentagon spending, and re-direst funds to invest in job creation, education, healthcare, infrastructure, and other lifeline programs which support struggling families and quicken economic recovery for all of us.
These human and economic costs have influenced public opinion with two thirds wanting an end to the wars—67% in two years or less. This shift in public support was evident during this year’s event with far more honks and thumbs of support than angry shouts and fingers.
I dream of the day when the public voice has become loud enough on this issue that we no longer have a need to organize an annual anti-war event yet I realize I will likely not live long enough to see our country at peace in the world. I will continue to play an active role in our campaign, a tiny yet important piece of the movement that is building across the country to shift priorities in spending to Money for People, Not for War.
Our Bring Our Billion$ Home campaign is endorsed by over 750 individuals and 14 organizations. We’re part of a national group called the New Priorities Network, which calls for four things: create living wage jobs; save services and education; end the wars and cut the Pentagon budget; and close tax loopholes on big corporations and the uber-wealthy.
If you have not yet endorsed this campaign, visit www.pjals.org/billions. If you are part of an organization that may be interested in endorsing, please contact me at [email protected] or 509-838-7870.