Green!  . . . by ALL MEANS 

John Brower

          History Repeating  

from . . . Earth Island Journal: Winter, 1991


Winter, 1991

The Price of War

by Prof. Seymour Melman

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 complex.

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 This includes the value of production lost owing to dead and wounded withdrawn from civilian work.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 society.

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.


See Also:



Healing Time on Earth

Conservation and National Security

Midnight Insights - The Lessons of War

all by  David R. Brower