On Earth Day: "Why We Oppose War and Militarism"
April 22, 2018
Environmentalists Against War
On February 20, 2003, Environmentalists Against War (a global coalition of antiwar organizations) held a press conference at the San Francisco office of the Sierra Club to announce its opposition to the George W. Bush administration’s imminent attack on Iraq. A joint statement -- signed by more than 100 environmental, antiwar, and social-justice organizations from around the world -- enumerated 11 reasons to reject war and militarism.
Why We Oppose War and Militarism
Environmentalists Against War
On February 20, 2003, Environmentalists Against War (a global coalition of antiwar organizations) held a press conference at the San Francisco office of the Sierra Club to announce its opposition to the George W. Bush administration’s imminent attack on Iraq. A joint statement -- signed by more than 100 environmental, antiwar, and social-justice organizations from around the world -- enumerated 11 reasons to reject war and militarism. The declaration read as follows:
1. War Kills People
War is humankind's deadliest activity. From 500 BC to AD 2000 there have been 1,022 major documented wars. Between AD 1100 and 1925, around 35.5 million died in European wars alone. In the 20th century, an estimated 165 wars were responsible for the deaths of 165 million to 258 million.
Military conflicts caused the deaths of as many as 6.25 percent of all the people born during the 20th century. Approximately 8.4 million soldiers and 5 million civilians died in WWI. WWII claimed the lives of 17 million soldiers and 34 million civilians. Seventy-five percent of those killed in modern war are civilians. War disproportionately kills and injures women, children, the elderly, minorities, and the poor.
2. War Destroys Nature
War destroys wildlife, disrupts native habitats, and contaminates the land, air, and water. The damage can last for generations.
The United States dropped 25 million bombs and 19 million gallons of Agent Orange herbicide and other chemical weapons on the forests, fields, and farms of Vietnam. Millions of acres from Russia’s Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean have been contaminated by military chemicals and radioactive wastes.
In Cambodia, 1,300 square miles are salted with several million mines that continue to kill wildlife and humans. Angola's environment is burdened with more than 10 million land mines.
Cluster bombs, thermobaric explosions, chemical and biological weapons, and projectiles made with radioactive depleted uranium are indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction.
3. War Devastates Society
War destroys villages, farmland, and urban infrastructure. Wars destroy irreplaceable cultural artifacts, ancient landmarks, and archeological sites. The United States dropped 88,000 tons of bombs on Iraq in 1991, destroying 9,000 homes, water systems, power plants, critical bridges, and four major dams. The resulting health emergency contributed to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children.
In 2002, the US dropped a quarter-million cluster bomblets on Afghanistan. In 2003, the US dropped 28,000 rockets, bombs, and missiles on Iraq. In the past 25 years, war has devastated cities and villages around the world, leaving lasting damage in such diverse countries as Sudan, El Salvador, Mozambique, Angola, Lebanon, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Liberia, Uganda, Colombia, Somalia, Congo, Iraq, Burundi, Iran, and Ethiopia.
4. War Consumes Resources
A vast global military empire must be maintained to feed the world’s oil-based economies. Waging war requires burning vast stores of oil and generates significant spikes of greenhouse gasses. WWII consumed 6-9 billion barrels of oil. Desert Storm: 45 million barrels. The Pentagon consumed 134 million barrels in 2001. The world's armies consume nearly two billion barrels of oil annually. The Pentagon is the largest consumer of oil, chemicals, precious metals, paper, and wood.
5. War Pollutes
Bombs, missiles, shells, bullets, and military fuels poison our land, air, and water with lead, nitrates, nitrites, hydrocarbons, phosphoros, radioactive debris, corrosive and toxic heavy metals.
Unexploded ordnance lies scattered over more than 15 million US acres. The world's armies are responsible for as much as 10 percent of global air pollution. The 1991 Gulf War generated 80,000 tons of global-warming gases.
On any given day, more than 60,000 US troops are engaged in operations or military exercises in about 100 foreign countries. The Pentagon is the world's largest polluter, generating 750,000 tons of hazardous wastes each year.
U.S. military bases have polluted communities in Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Greenland, Iceland, Italy, Panama, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey. There are more than 14,000 contaminated military sites in the United States, many located near low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
6. War Is Costly
The cost of all US military conflicts from the Revolutionary War to WWII has been estimated at more than $4 trillion. Increased military spending drains funds from critical social, educational, medical, and environmental needs.
In the United States, 51 percent of the 2003 discretionary federal budget went to the military. Global military spending hit $798 billion in 2000. Global spending on the military now stands at around $842 billion a year. It costs $2.2 billion to build, support, and operate one naval battle group for one year.
Thirteen million dollars could provide access to clean water for 80,000 Third World villages. The cost of one $1.5 billion Trident submarine could immunize the world's children against six deadly diseases and prevent 1 million deaths a year.
CNN observed on March 20, 2003: "The cost of the first 25 Tomahawk Missiles launched in the first hour of the first day in the war with Iraq was more than 50 times the annual HUD budget to End Homelessness in America."
7. Militarism Undermines Peace
War diverts vast amounts of capital resources and human energy from serving critical social, educational, medical, and environmental needs into efforts that are destructive and deadly. Unsustainable economies must rely on the use of military force to secure control of essential foreign resources -- oil, uranium, and metals.
In 2001, 247,000 US soldiers were stationed at 752 bases in more than 130 countries. Militarily dominant states are prone to acts of aggression -- and aggression invites retaliation. The United States is the world's largest supplier of weapons ($31.8 billion in 2000).
Many countries that buy US weapons are repressive regimes that ignore the needs of their own citizens. Around the world, militarism impoverishes the many and enriches the few. The only beneficiaries from this dangerous instability are the world's weapons manufacturers and war profiteers.
8. Militarism Weakens Democracy
Military organizations are inherently authoritarian systems that promote a cult of obedience rather than a culture of independence. Since 1859, US troops have intervened militarily around the world more than 160 times -- an average of once a year.
To justify these interventions, US officials have lied to the American people about the pretexts underlying the wars. Around the world, declarations of war and martial law -- frequently based on misrepresented or staged provocations -- have been used to institute press censorship, curtail dissent, and imprison political opponents.
Militarization and the war on terrorism have been used as an excuse to erode political and civil liberties. Under the US PATRIOT Act, environmental protests now can be defined as terrorist acts. Around the world, the military insists on being exempt from environmental and civil laws.
9. Militarism Distorts Science
Militarism encourages the development of ever-deadlier weapons. Universities and corporations that could be devoting time, talent, and resources to addressing problems of poverty, sickness, and injustice are instead designing exotic new military technologies.
These exotic weapons include: chemical weapons, ethnically targeted weapons, electromagnetic guns, mind-altering drugs, miniaturized surveillance technology, and "less-than-lethal" weapons to be used to control a country's own citizens.
The United States spends more than $58 billion a year on military research and development. Worldwide, more than 50 million scientists, researchers, and workers are employed in the arms industry.
10. Militarism Promotes Racism
Militarism requires citizens of one country to believe that the citizens of competing nations are intrinsically evil or even subhuman. Military bases, weapons depots, storage yards, and military exercises expose poor neighboring communities to debilitating levels of noise, chronic air pollution, chemical contamination, and the risk of accidental death or injury. Nuclear ore is extracted from native lands, nuclear weapons are tested on native lands, and nuclear wastes are deposited on native lands.
11. Militarism Threatens Human Survival
The United States has threatened other countries with the preemptive use of nuclear weapons -- the ultimate weapons of mass destruction. US nuclear attacks against the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed 210,000, while blast survivors were doomed to slow, lingering deaths.
Fallout from open-air nuclear testing is expected to eventually kill about 2.4 million people worldwide. Nuclear weapons stockpiled by Israel, India, Pakistan, Russia, China, and Britain have the potential to end human civilization. An exchange of nuclear weapons between India and Pakistan could kill 30 million. These costly and dangerous stockpiles must be dismantled and destroyed.