Bringing our war dollars back home.

Radio Ecoshock 101224 Holiday edition.


The Christians call their founder "The Prince of Peace."  Yet America, which loudly proclaims it's Christianity, has been at war for decades, all over the world, during most of my life.


Now American cities and towns are broke.  They are laying off services to the most needy, cutting off even essential things like police and firemen.  The media says America is too poor to deliver universal health care delivered by every other developed country.  Following the real estate and banking crash, the States are going broke.  While delaying payment of bills, States depend upon constant cash infusions from the Federal Government, which owes to many trillions, it prints money on demand, while buying their own bonds, through the Federal Reserve.


At least half of all available tax dollars, after the interest is paid on the massive Federal debt, goes into maintaining over a hundred military bases all over the world.  By published figures, ten to twelve billion dollars a month to into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Others speculate the real bill is much higher.


Why don't Americans demand their war money back?  To spend it on rebuilding their own declining services?  A finish to endless war, and the self-appointed role of Policemen of the World.  Will America withdraw from militarism gracefully, or spend to the end, as the Soviet Union did?




A world at peace, with nobodies soldiers, in other people's lands.  That is my idle day-dream.  Peace seldom makes the newspapers, the television, or the violent movies and games.  Who could talk about real peace?


My mind goes immediately to Bruce Gagnon.  He is the coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.   Bruce has a blog, a world campaign, a public access television show in Maine, and appearances in alternative video. He speaks, writes and protests.  Bruce Gagnon has a lifelong commitment to the unsung underdogs of another American Dream: Disarmament, and Peace. 


Even in my own mind, I'm not sure a less armed world is possible.


Here are some of the obvious objections to American withdrawal, the ones activists like Bruce Gagnon must hear all the time.  Against closing U.S. bases around the world, and resigning as the self-appointed "cop" of global affairs.  In our extended Radio Ecoshock interview, Bruce and I go through questions like these, although we don't get to them all, and new ones arise:


1. Would rogue states and dictatorships, rise up, worse than the Americans, possibly arming themselves with long-range nuclear missiles?  There are plenty of bullies, and weak social structures facing insurmountable problems in some countries already. Would the move to Peace create worse monsters than we have now? 


2. Will China simply dominate the world?


3. What happens to the defense of Germany and Japan, if the Americans close their bases and go home?


4. What happens to all those nuclear weapons?  Maybe America depending on nukes for their only defense might be more likely to start or take part in a nuclear exchange, devastating cities?


5. What about the impacts on unemployment.  Joining the Armed Forces has been a traditional safety valve for the poor.  U.S. unemployment is already near record highs.  Would the country implode with the release of hundreds of thousands of soldiers?


(perhaps they can help back home?)


6 Also on the economy - what else does the U.S. still manufacture except weapons and violent entertainment?  Without the military-industrial complex, what happens, what will disappear?


7. Bottled water costs more per gallon, or liter, than gas at the pumps.  Why?  Because the American military dominates the richest oil producing of the world by brute force.  If we withdraw the troops, won't oil rise to a crippling price, ripping up the remains to the U.S. economy?


8. What about Peace and climate change?  The U.S. military is the single largest consumer of oil products in the world, with all those emissions damaging the atmosphere.  How can there be a climate campaign that is not also a Peace campaign?


9a . Bruce , does America even have a Plan B?  Have you seen reports on how to demilitarize, without collapsing the nation?


9b. Would closing the overseas bases represent "defeat" - or a new beginning for America, and the rest of the world?


10. Where is the tipping point, when the Americans at home realize they are losing essential social services, like fire, police, adequate schools and health care - because half of all available spending goes to the military and the overseas apparatus of control, or empire?


11. What could we do with all that money, the Peace dividend we were promised after the Soviet Union collapsed?


I'm Alex Smith with Bruce Gagnon, the long-time Maine peace activist now fighting against the militarization of Space.  Read his blog at 



12. A recent article in the blog Tom's Dispatch, called "Taking Down America" is by Alfred W. McCoy.  He's a Professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The article suggests four scenarios, ways that America might handle it's declining role in the world.  In one,  by 2020, a desperate  America faces off with rising China, or even India, in space warfare.


I'm going to take a minute to read this quote from McCoy's article:


"To check China, and extend its military position globally, Washington is intent on building a new digital network of air and space robotics, advanced cyber warfare capabilities, and electronic surveillance.  Military planners expect this integrated system to envelop the Earth in a cyber-grid capable of blinding entire armies on the battlefield, or taking out a single terrorist in field or favela. By 2020, if all goes according to plan, the Pentagon will launch a three-tiered shield of space drones -- reaching from stratosphere to exosphere, armed with agile missiles, linked by a resilient modular satellite system, and operated through total telescopic surveillance.


Last April, the Pentagon made history.  It extended drone operations into the exosphere by quietly launching the X-37B unmanned space shuttle, into a low orbit 255 miles above the planet.  The X-37B is the first in a new generation of unmanned vehicles, that will mark the full weaponization of space, creating an arena for future warfare, unlike anything that has gone before."


That was a quote from Alfred W. McCoy, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as he looked at possible futures.  McCoy has convened a group of 140 historians, to examine the Fall of past empires, in the hopes of finding a soft landing, not just for the United States, but all the client military states, which include greater Europe.


Bruce Gagnon, the subject of Space Weapons happens to be one of your specialties.  Is a coming space war likely, and what can we do to stop it?


My thoughts: When it comes to space wars, we may not need armies any more.  The drones in space can attack anyone, any time.  They can control "them" - and us!.  Who ever has the keys to the launch code, and it may be countries, corporations, or oligarchs.  Some billionaires have already begun their private space programs.  One of them is launching for NASA these days.  With miniaturization, and the spread of technology, in the future hackers and violent believers may get the code, holding us ransom. 


We are intent on entombing ourselves in a skin of violence, at the edge of the upper sky, poised always to rain down upon us.  Space warriors.


McCoy also talks about the long history of last-ditch attacks by empires in their last gasp.  The last stupid war, with humiliating defeat.  It has happened over and over.  Can America avoid it?  Has it already passed, in the unwinable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?


Tell us about the film "Pax Americana".


(Winner best documentary at Whistler Film Festival: "Pax Americana: and the Weaponization of Space")


When it comes to local action, what is going on in Maine, with the campaign called "Bring Our War Dollars Home"?


Their video page is here.



Bruce, in your blog, you recommend against trying for National legislation, or even action in Washington D.C.  Why do you want more local action?


Have you heard of other campaigns, or reports we should know about, leading in the direction of demilitarization, and we hope, World Peace?


Finally, Bruce Gagnon, as we wrap up, let's try and dream a little.  It's hard, because you and I have always grown up in fear of nuclear annihilation, and now terrorism.  The arms trade is flourishing world-wide.  Weapons research funds many Universities.  Military Bases support towns and even whole States.


But... suppose we can.  Talk to me about the world we want, the human civilization built on Peace.  What would it look like?



I'm Alex Smith, dreaming of Peace, with long-time Maine activist Bruce Gagnon.  Find out more at  Bruce has an organizing notes blog at Blog at


He also does a public access TV show.  From his blog:


"I taped another edition of my public access TV show, This Issue, today. I've just completed my 7th year of broadcasting the program that plays on eight TV stations across Maine."


Here is Gagnon's blog entry on the campaign to bring the troops home:


"Last night I was on a national conference call - to discuss the growing movement that is making the connection between endless war spending, and economic collapse here at home. People from coast-to-coast were on the call, and they shared what they have been doing locally around this concern. It is clear that Maine's Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home is a model of sorts, for other groups around the nation, who are just beginning to move into this particular organizing focus."


And yet Bruce doesn't believe in trying to organize for national action for Peace.  It's all about organizing at the local and regional levels.  Is a decaying national government not yet capable of action?  That seems to be the case for both military waste and climate change.




As student fees go up, as businesses go down, as welfare is cut off and pensions cut - people all over the world are calling for an end to wasteful military spending.  On 17th November 2010 Stuart Parkinson, executive director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, addressed the Sheffield CND AGM on 'Arms Conversion for a Low Carbon Economy'.  I run a small sample, taken from the hour-long presentation.


My thanks to Sheffield Indymedia for sharing and posting this speech, at


 Slides for that speech on Arms Conversion are here. 


Even though the UK is close to bankrupt, like the United States, it still has the fourth largest military budget on Earth.  The new Conservative government is trying to cut back a little.  For example, they are sharing aircraft carriers and other naval vessels with France, almost unifying their navies.  But services are being cut to the bone in Britain, even as the military spending goes on and on.


When will the people ask why?  And will they ask politely, or in more riots?


I hope you enjoy this program, trying to show that "peace pays".  For a bit of nostalgia, try Pete Seeger singing in the Vietnam War days, "Bring 'em Home"

You tube video of Pete Seeger live "Bring 'Em Home"



Whether you are religious or not, we wish you the oldest and greatest blessing: Peace on Earth, and Goodwill Toward Men, Women, children, and all the innocent species of this amazing Planet.


Alex Smith

Radio Ecoshock