Sixty-one years ago on Jan. 17 — the same date this year that we commemorate what would have been the 93rd birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — President Dwight Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to the nation. He warned that a permanent military-industrial complex would threaten democratic society.
The world is now living with the fact that Eisenhower’s worst fears have become reality. On Dec. 27, two days after the world observed the birth of the “Prince of Peace,” President Joe Biden quietly approved the 2022 military budget of $768 billion. Three percent of that amount could end starvation on Earth; 1.3% could curtail the global spread of COVID-19 variants.
Up to half of the $14 trillion spent by the Pentagon since 9/11 went to for-profit defense contractors. Because he regarded the U.S. government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world," I believe that King would have concurred with Eisenhower’s statement that “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.”
War-making does not make us more secure. The world is now more fearful than ever! Military occupation in other countries, infrastructure destruction and the killing of innocent civilians creates more terrorists. Moreover, U.S. military pollution is a significant contributor to climate change. If the U.S. military were a nation-state, it would be the 47th largest pollution emitter in the world. Its negligence, nuclear proliferation and disregard for human life has come at a huge environmental cost. Change is needed to protect our planet.
We need courage and creativity to step outside our usual patterns of thinking. Let’s use our nonviolent imagination inspired by King to envision life-affirming paths of action that would lead us from where we are to where we need to be.
Harold A. Penner