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Lawrence Wittner's blog

Clinging to Mass Violence

Is the human race determined to snuff itself out through mass violence?  There are many signs that it is.

The most glaring indication lies in the continued popularity of war.  Despite well over a hundred million deaths in World Wars I and II, plus the brutal military conflicts in Korea, Indochina, Hungary, Algeria, Lebanon, Angola, Mozambique, the Philippines, the Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, wars continue to rage across the globe, consuming vast numbers of lives and resources.  In 2012, worldwide military spending reached $1.75 trillion.  Moreover, the most lavish spenders for weaponry, war, and destruction were the supposedly “civilized” nations of NATO, with $1 trillion in military expenditures.  By far the biggest military spender in 2012 was the United States, which accounted for 39 percent of the world total.

Nor has this pattern shifted since that time.  Currently, the U.S. government is pouring $7 billion a month into its twelve-and-a-half-year-long war in Afghanistan.  Elsewhere, drones are rapidly becoming the U.S. weapons of choice in the worldwide “War on Terror,” with America’s largest spy drone, the Global Hawk, costing $220 million each.  In recent months, as the U.S. House of Representatives voted to end food stamps for the poor, continued the sequestration that slashed meals for sick and homebound seniors, and moved toward ending Saturday mail delivery, it rejected a 1 percent cut in military spending and, then, voted for a national defense authorization that provided for billions of dollars more than the Pentagon requested.

Corporate Welfare or Education?

Should a public university be transformed into a corporate welfare project?  That’s the key question surrounding “Tax-Free NY,” a new plan zealously promoted by New York State’s Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo.

Under the provisions of his Tax-Free NY scheme, most of the 64 campuses of the State University of New York (SUNY), some private colleges, and zones adjacent to SUNY campuses would be thrown open to private businesses that would be exempted from state taxes on sales, property, the income of their owners, and the income of their employees for a period of ten years.  According to the governor, this creation of tax-free havens for private, profit-making companies is designed to create economic development and jobs, especially in upstate New York.

Joined by businessmen, politicians, and top SUNY administrators, Cuomo has embarked on a full court press for his plan.  Tax-Free NY, he announced, was “a game-changing initiative that will transform SUNY campuses and university communities across the state.”  Conceding that these tax-free zones wouldn’t work without a dramatic “culture shift” in the SUNY system, Cuomo argued that faculty would have to “get interested and participate in entrepreneurial activities.”  As he declared in mid-May, the situation was “delicate, because academics are academics. . . .  But you can be a great academic and you can be entrepreneurial, and I would argue you’d be a better academic if you were actually entrepreneurial.”

That's Where the Money Goes

By Lawrence S. Wittner

According to a report just released by the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military expenditures in 2012 totaled $1.75 trillion.

The report revealed that, as in recent decades, the world’s biggest military spender by far was the U.S. government, whose expenditures for war and preparations for war amounted to $682 billion -- 39 percent of the global total.  The United States spent more than four times as much on the military as China (the number two big spender) and more than seven times as much as Russia (which ranked third).  Although the military expenditures of the United States dipped a bit in 2012, largely thanks to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, they remained 69 percent higher than in 2001.

U.S. military supremacy is even more evident when the U.S. military alliance system is brought into the picture, for the United States and its allies accounted for the vast bulk of world military spending in 2012.  NATO members alone spent a trillion dollars on the military.

Thus, although studies have found that the United States ranks 17th among nations in education, 26th in infant mortality, and 37th in life expectancy and overall health, there is no doubt that it ranks first when it comes to war.

This Number 1 status might not carry much weight among Americans scavenging for food in garbage dumpsters, among Americans unable to afford medical care, or among Americans shivering in poorly heated homes.  Even many Americans in the more comfortable middle class might be more concerned with how they are going to afford the skyrocketing costs of a college education, how they can get by with fewer teachers, firefighters, and police in their communities, and how their hospitals, parks, roads, bridges, and other public facilities can be maintained.

Speaking Events



August 2-6: Peace and Democracy Conference at Democracy Convention in Minneapolis, Minn.


September 22-24: No War 2017 at American University in Washington, D.C.


October 28: Peace and Justice Studies Association Conference

Find more events here.


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