Sanders: ‘National security involves a lot more than bombs’
The man's cardboard sign on his right side, below the American flag, asks, "How can you get a job when you don't have a home?" Poverty in America is a policy choice. especially when we have a government that has chosen to spend trillions on militarism and war, rather than on meeting the people's needs. | Common Dreams

“If this horrific coronavirus pandemic has shown us anything, it is that national security involves a lot more than bombs.”

That statement by Sen. Bernie Sanders appeared in an article published yesterday in the UK Guardian. In the article the former candidate for the U.S. presidency illustrates how slashing the military budget even by only 10 percent could help lift the U.S. out of its status as an international pariah because of its failure to curb the coronavirus.

The latest indicator of that pariah status was the decision this week by the European Union to ban Americans from entering at least 23 countries on that continent.

Much of the world is saying to the United States that if Trump can’t get his act together on the coronavirus, Americans are not welcome in their countries. This will have nothing less than a destructive effect on the U.S. economy which Trump claims he will bring back “better than ever.”

“At this unprecedented moment in American historya terrible pandemic, an economic meltdown, people marching across the country to end systemic racism and police brutality, growing income and wealth inequality and an unstable president in the White Housenow is the time to bring people together to fundamentally alter our national priorities and rethink the very structure of American society,” Sanders said.

Despite his announced determination to do whatever he can to defeat Trump in November, Sanders did not avoid criticizing some in his own party, too.

“I have been disturbed that for too long, Democrats and Republicans have joined together in passing outrageously high military budgets while ignoring the needs of the poorest people in our society. If we are serious about altering our national priorities, then there is no better place to begin with than taking a hard look at the bloated $740 billion military budget that is coming up for a vote in the Senate this week.”

The senator’s concerns are quite real as we approach that vote in the Senate this week in the leadup to Independence Day because, in dollars adjusted for inflation, the U.S. is now spending more on the military than at any time during the Cold War or during any other hot war in which it has been involved.

He notes that this incredible military spending is being done by a Pentagon and a Defense Department establishment that is totally unaudited and is showering huge amounts of money on the corporate CEOs of defense contractors. Sanders estimates that at least $6 trillion has been spent already on the so-called War on Terror.

Meanwhile, unmentioned by Sanders, the fight against the pandemic, the real enemy terrorizing the U.S. and the world, is starved for funds and is being sabotaged by the Administration.

“I believe this is a moment in history when it would be a good idea for all of my colleagues, and the American people, to remember what the former Republican president, Dwight D Eisenhower, said in 1953: ‘Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.’”

Many of the issues today are the same as they were when Eisenhower was president. We spend more today on nuclear weaponry than we do on creating jobs, affordable healthcare, and housing.

Sanders has introduced an amendment today to the Defense Authorization Act to cut the military budget by 10 percent to, in his words, “begin the process of transformation of our national priorities.”

Passage of the bill would result in $74 billion in funds to meet human needs, rather than feeding the un-audited Defense Department and the government defense contractors.

Communities are in desperate need of these funds. Attempts to end mass incarceration and dismantle systemic racism in response to the current national uprising will fail if the people cannot have access to funds now feeding the military monster.

In his article, Sanders listed the things his amendment to the Defense Authorization Act will do:

  • Create jobs by building affordable housing, schools, childcare centers, community health centers, public hospitals, libraries, sustainable energy projects, and clean drinking water facilities.
  • Improve education by hiring more public school teachers to reduce class sizes, ensuring teachers receive adequate pay, providing nutritious meals to children and parents, and offering free tuition for public colleges, universities, and trade schools.
  • Make housing more affordable by providing rental assistance and bringing an end to homelessness.

“If this horrific coronavirus pandemic has shown us anything, it is that national security involves a lot more than bombs, missiles, tanks, submarines, nuclear warheads and other weapons of mass destruction,“ Sanders said. “National security also means doing all we can to improve the lives of the American people, many of whom have been abandoned by our government for decades.

“In this extraordinary moment in the history of our country, now is the time for us to truly focus on what we value as a society and to fundamentally transform our national priorities. Cutting the military budget by 10% and investing that money into communities across the country is a modest but important way to begin that process.

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John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.