BY MICHAEL MCCONNELL AND LINDA ENGLUND
Thirty thousand more troops to Afghanistan is a $30 billion decision because, according to the White House, it costs about $1 million to send one soldier there.
That $1 million could be spent in many other ways. It could pay 30 caregiver stipends to family members of severely disabled veterans who have come back from Afghanistan and Iraq, providing them with first-rate care. It could support 70 unemployed people for a year. It could give tax credits to small business to create 77 new jobs. It could provide 102 full college scholarships for a year. It would pay for health insurance for 690 children for a year. It could refit 1,330 homes with renewable energy.
That $1 million could -- and should -- be used here to positively affect so many lives. As a nation, we are investing more into the war and occupation of two countries than we are into the economic and educational revitalization of our own.
This hemorrhaging of resources contributes to the economic deterioration of the United States.
At home, military spending increases the debt, debilitates hundreds of thousands of our vets returning home and hurts our credibility in the rest of the world. It drains our treasury of needed resources that could be applied to solving such security issues as climate change, unemployment, public health and infrastructure repair.
No matter where people stand on the morality or effectiveness of the wars, the simple fact remains: We cannot afford them!
We cannot afford the loss of our own young people either to death or to wounded lifetimes. We cannot afford to lose our sympathetic standing internationally, reawakened by the election of Barack Obama. We cannot afford to drive our nation deeper into debt, ignore the decay of our neighborhood schools or the plight of young people forced to drop out of college because they cannot pay for it.
We cannot afford the weight of innocent civilians killed in these wars, for their deaths will haunt not only our dreams but also our attempts at a new foreign policy based not on militarism, but cooperation.
The war in Afghanistan is neither good nor necessary. The sooner this nation realizes and acts on that fact, the sooner we can apply that $1 million per soldier to rebuilding our economy and creating jobs, taking care of the educational and health needs of our children and our veterans, and forging a foreign policy based on humanitarian aid.
Michael McConnell is the Chicago-based regional director of the American Friends Service Committee. Linda Eglund is a member of the Chicago chapter of Military Families Speak Out.