From N.C. Peace Action, a startling statistic: The budget gap facing North Carolina in 2011-12 is an estimated $3.2 billion. The annual cost to North Carolina taxpayers of our military operations in Afghanistan, post-surge: about $3.2 billion.
That's right. The amount of money needed to maintain important social services and avoid cuts to school, community college and university budgets is considered too huge for state politicians to raise. $3.2 billion? Far beyond our means — according to both parties. (The Republicans: Far, far beyond our means. Especially since they want tax cuts.)
But when it comes to sending troops to Afghanistan to fight and die for a cause that is dubious at best, and more likely an enormous blunder, $3.2 billion is a sum unworthy of public discussion. Spending it, at least by mainstream political and media standards, is a given.
I'm tardy in posting the picture above. It was taken at a vigil last week at the Community United Church of Christ in Raleigh. The event marked the 9th anniversary of the U.S. invasion and the beginning of our 10th year of war in Afghanistan. Sponsors included Peace Action, N.C. Council of Churches, Muslim American Society, American Friends Service Committee of the Carolinas, N.C. Stop Torture Now, Pakistan Flood Relief Coalition and the CUCC's Social Justice Ministry.
During the vigil, participants read the names of the nearly 1,100 U.S. and NATO troops killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion. According to United for Peace and Justice, at least 15,000 Afghan citizens have also been killed. As the names were read, the group responded: "We grieve the loss of these lives."
Sponsors also wrote to each of the state's 15 congressmen, congresswomen and senators and to the candidates for Congress. They were asked to consider the evidence from several reports that our military efforts in Afghanistan are accomplishing little except to create anger at the United States throughout the region. One such report is available here. Others can be found here.
They were also asked "to endorse a course of U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and to take action for a re-ordering of our national and state funding priorities."
Responses were requested by October 25.
That's a week before Election Day. But this isn't so much about this year's candidates as it is about how voters view the long-term security interests of the United States and the world. Do we think that our continual invasions and military occupations of foreign places are making the world safer for us? For others? Or are we instead just fueling a fire of war that must inevitably blow back on us and other nations?