New York --
The real objective of
placing more than 400,000 Americans in the Persian Gulf is to
dominate the area and to justify a continuation of enormous US
military budgets that assure the prosperity of military industry,
as well as the power of President
Bush, now the
CEO of the military-industrial
Such policies have gutted
the US economy. Public works that improve the quality of life
outside the home received 24 percent of federal spending in 1960,
but a mere 11 percent in 1990. From 1949 to 1989, the war economy
used up $8.2 trillion in resources (measured in 1982 dollars),
more than the 1982 value of all US industry and infrastructure
-- $7.3 trillion.
Direct US costs of war
in the Persian Gulf would be about $50 billion, with a cost in
lives that could reach 45,000 US dead and wounded. Drawing on
the Viet Nam experience, it can be estimated that the indirect
cost to the US economy of a Gulf war would be a further $190
billion. This includes the value of production lost owing to
dead and wounded withdrawn from civilian work. interest charges
on the federal government borrowing necessary to pay for the
war, the cost of veterans' pensions and medical care, etc. These
costs will further deplete the resources needed to rebuild our
America needs restructuring
at home through conversion from military production to civilian
priorities to eradicate the pain and the disgrace of poverty
in the United States.
An alternative to the
war economy could cost less than the projected social costs of
a Gulf war and would allow an extensive rebuilding of our domestic
programs. The proposed alternative budget would finance the electrification
of the US rail system ($10 billion), toxic waste cleanup ($16
billion). miscellaneous health costs ($12.5 billion), radioactive
waste cleanup ($17.5 billion), funding for school facility repairs
($23 billion), repair of roads, bridges, sewer and water systems
($26 billion), a comprehensive housing program ($30 billion),
and spending on education ($30 billion).
The permanent war economy
amounts to a domestic war on the middle class and minorities,
children and the poor, single parents, the homeless and elderly.
Seymour Melman is a professor emeritus of industrial engineering
at Columbia University, Chair of the National Commission for
Economic Conversion and author of The Demilitarized Society.
A longer version of this article first appeared in the Los
Angeles Daily News.