By Veronica Fellerath-Lowell
Former Pax Christi USA National Council Member

Ed. Note: This article is part of our continuing series of posts in support of the Pax Christi USA Statement of Principles for the 2020 Elections. To read more about the 2020 elections, visit our Elections 2020 – #VotePax webpage.

It is time to say “Defund the Military.” If U.S. leaders are truly interested in working to protect the lives of all people in the United States, then, in addition to peaceful diplomacy, they need to begin with building relationships and observing the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you want others to do unto you.”

We should be able to uphold our federal budget as a moral document, one that includes people’s immediate needs. 

It is unjustifiable that the FY2020 Department of Defense budget amounts to more than $700 billion. Currently, half of our personal federal income tax dollars each year (not including Social Security taxes) goes to military-related expenses, including debt from prior wars. How much income tax did you pay last year? Let’s say your federal income tax return last year showed $4,000 in federal taxes. This would mean $2000 of it would immediately be allocated to military-related expenses before all other national priorities. It’s also worth noting that if you received a $1200 “check from President Trump,” it is less than you contributed to military spending.

Here’s a list of concrete actions that could be taken right away:

  • Defund new weapons systems that many Pentagon officials do not want developed. How could this happen? Aggressive contractors lobby on behalf of weapons manufacturers and on behalf of members of Congress who fear job loss in their states. We need to dismantle the power of the military-industrial complex. For example: Stop upgrading the (nuclear) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force. Many have questioned the need for this program, including former Secretary of Defense William Perry, who has argued for eliminating all ICBMs.
  • Eliminate the budgeting for nuclear weapons modernization. In 2017, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that it would cost $1.2 trillion to modernize and maintain nuclear weapons over the next three decades. All nuclear weapons should be eliminated. The explosion of even one nuclear bomb on a city (e.g. New York City), due to an error in judgment, misinformation, or accident would immediately kill millions of people and cause a nuclear winter (no growing season) over a large part of the earth. Watch Physicians for Social Responsibility former Co-President Ira Helfand’s 2-minute video, Back from the Brink.
  • Stop the U.S. training of militia from other countries in guerrilla warfare tactics that are often used not to protect their citizens but to terrorize, torture, and murder them. Example: The 30-year-old “School of the Americas (SOA)” training program at Fort Benning, Georgia. Soldiers from El Salvador, trained at SOA, were eventually convicted in the killing of the six Jesuits and two women housekeepers in 1989. [In 2000, instead of closing it, the U.S. Congress changed the name of the School of the Americas (SOA) to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).]

In his speech at the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima on November 2019, Pope Francis stated: “When we yield to the logic of arms and distance ourselves from the practice of dialogue, we forget to our detriment that, even before causing victims and ruination, weapons can create nightmares; ‘they call for enormous expenses, interrupt projects of solidarity and of useful labor, and warp the outlook of nations.’  […] A true peace can only be an unarmed peace.”

As we quickly approach the end of the voting period, let us discern on this topic along with many others, and make sure we cast votes, at the national and local level, that reflect our principles not only as Catholics but also as members of the greater human community.

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