Originally published by Rally! Voice of the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, May 15, 2023.
In the first quarter of the 21st century, the U.S. government is embroiled in another large-scale military conflict that the American people are funding. Ukraine is being destroyed and thousands of Ukrainians and Russians are dying because leaders in the United States are determined to destroy or weaken Russia, as a step to attacking China, even risking the threat of nuclear war in the process.
Ukraine was long a strategic country in NATO’s eastward expansion toward Russia under U.S. auspices. Conflict escalated over the last two decades with the most consequential turn being the U.S. backed Maidan coup of 2014, that used as its strike force the fascist right-wing militias which ousted Ukraine’s elected leader Viktor Yanukovich.
Of the more than $27 billion sent to Ukraine by the United States since then, $24 billion of it has been spent since February 2022. Deaths from both sides are estimated at around 200,000. The United States is spending billions on weaponry that Ukrainian forces need months of training to master. Prolonging this conflict brings human and ecological devastation. Britain for example, is sending depleted uranium shells to the battlefield that would destroy Ukraine’s agricultural sector which exports over 10% of the planet’s grain.
During the early years of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration had made unprecedented deep tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans instead of raising taxes to offset the cost of wartime spending. Those costs will be paid for by future generations and the strain is palpable. Meanwhile, Congress cannot find money to ensure housing, healthcare, education, safe roads and bridges, or even secure food and clean water for everyone in this country.
Crisis after crisis in capitalism
We have to question why the war is being fought. Difficult as it can be to unravel the complex historical events that led to war in Ukraine we can grasp the fundamental contradiction that underlies it. Far more money is going into fueling a conflict that is destroying yet another country through force than is being used to address the crises we face where we live. It is for this reason that war must be regarded as an attack on the working class, both at home and abroad.
The United States has been hit with two catastrophes in the last two decades. In 2008, irresponsible lending brought on financial collapse. A global pandemic that killed over a million people in the United States also threw millions out of work and turned millions out of house and home. Both events exposed capitalism’s crisis-prone cycle and its inability to meet the needs of people in a time of crisis. The train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio which resulted in tanker cars spilling a variety of toxic chemicals like vinyl chloride should have resulted in emergency reaction. This, after the railroad lobbied against federal safety mandates that could have prevented this and more recent tragedies. Crisis after crisis points to a society whose leadership has its priorities in the extraction of wealth and the expansion of political power around the world.
The Ukraine conflict brought to light the increasingly aggressive stance of the United States toward Russia and China. The provocative role of the United States has strengthened the coalition of Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) and other regional organizations. More countries are making moves to develop alternate currencies and payment systems not tied to the dollar. The prospect of an alternative to the U.S. dominated world order is a threat to the U.S. ruling capitalist class.
The war has not benefited the working class in any way. The sanctions regime orchestrated to wreck Russia’s economy proved short-sighted, leaving Germany and much of Europe without a source of cheap energy and increasing the cost of living in the United States. Consumers and workers are feeling the pinch at the pump and at the supermarket.
Human and ecological costs of war
What does this mean in terms of human and ecological costs of war?
We are a country in trauma: opioid crisis and mass shootings, homelessness, hunger. Our ruling class and its foreign policy are not in the interests of the working class in the United States or the world. Each escalation of this war brings us closer to the threat of nuclear annihilation than we have ever been.
We, the people of the United States, cannot tolerate our “leaders” pouring money into destruction abroad while claiming there is not enough money to provide basic human needs at home. The struggle for needs and rights here can become a struggle for peace – a struggle to stay the hand of our war-making ruling class that is terrorizing one country after another, intensifying the danger of nuclear war and wreaking ecological devastation. Make every struggle for human needs and rights a struggle for peace.
Since the war began, the Biden administration and Congress have directed more than $75 billion in assistance to Ukraine, which includes “humanitarian,” financial and military support. At the same time, the United States is facing the lowest recruiting rates in recent history, with just 9% of Americans 17 to 24 years old who are eligible to serve being willing to serve. The appeal of military recruitment has been steady employment and good benefits. Today, nearly a quarter of active duty enlisted military personnel are experiencing food insecurity, according to the most current Department of Defense statistics.
There are still cities in the United States – Flint, Baltimore, Jackson and others – that do not have clean, safe water, while many more are confronted with decaying basic infrastructure. The cost of a single day’s operations at the Pentagon, $1 billion, could fix most if not all of these problems.
People in America are increasingly becoming aware that there is no material benefit for them in war. Economic sanctions are essentially acts of war, preventing essential products like food or medicine from reaching the targeted population. Sanctions hurt more than the targeted population and there are more victims than the direct casualties of war. Those living in the United States also bear the cost. They have at least an instinctual understanding that what they’re told about the conflict in Ukraine and what they see at home do not match up. Wars are waged for power and for control of a land’s wealth and domination over people. The foundation for peace requires not just that the basic needs for survival are met, but that the right to live as full human beings in society is guaranteed.
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