Saturday, June 09, 2012

the iron cross

In 1953, during his first year in the White House, President Eisenhower spoke to the American Society of Newspaper Editors about the costs of war. I thought of this speech this morning as I was reading an Associated Press story about the Pentagon's plans to build a new "stealth" warship equipped with exotic science-fiction weapons such as an electromagnetic "railgun" and a host of automated systems. The price tag? Three billion dollars per ship!

Eisenhower said:

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. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Let's see; how many elementary schools could we build for three billion dollars? How long would such an amount fund an expanded food stamps program?

Some call it "defense spending," but as far as I'm concerned it's just good old piracy on the high seas.

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