by Eric Stoner and Bryan Farrell
April 17, 2007
When millions took to the streets across the U.S. and around the world on February 15, 2003, in the largest global demonstration for peace in history, President Bush brushed it off with ease. To let this influence his decision to attack Iraq, he quipped, would be “like saying I’m going to decide policy based upon a focus group.”
Such has been the administration’s disdainful response to every antiwar protest since, and the bloody occupation of Iraq rages on.
With tax day upon us, those fighting for peace should ponder another hardliner’s words. “Let them march all they want to,” Reagan’s Secretary of State Alexander Haig reportedly said in 1982, after a massive rally for nuclear disarmament in New York, adding: “as long as they continue to pay their taxes.”
Bush’s proposed federal budget for 2008 requested $645 billion for national defense, including the $142 billion supplemental to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even this enormous figure could be considered incomplete, as Winslow Wheeler, a defense analyst at the Center for Defense Information, has pointed out, because it does not factor in among other things the cost of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs, military aid to allies, or “the share of annual payments on the interest of the national debt that can be attributed to the Defense Department.”
To the taxpayer, these numbers mean that at a bare minimum over half of every tax dollar that Congress has control over through the appropriations process – also known as the discretionary budget – will go to the current wars or for maintaining the military establishment.
Since marching has proven so fruitless against this administration, those working for peace may want to voice their dissent through tactics that sever the flow of tax dollars to policies they find morally reprehensible.
While the U.S. government has been spendthrift when it comes to building its arsenal, Americans, by and large, have been the misers, refusing to pay any significant price for their convictions. As Father Daniel Berrigan, no stranger to personal sacrifice, once remarked, “Because we want peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war, of course continues, because the waging of war, by its nature is total – but the waging of peace, by our cowardice is partial.”