For working people in the United States, April is the month for rendering unto Caesar. This is the time when we pay for things like the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, the aircraft carriers cruising the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean, and weapons to Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and a host of other worthies.
More than half of the taxes Americans paid in 1986 — 52.9 percent to be exact — went to cover the Pentagon’s bills. In 1986, military programs cost about $396 billion. For 1987, the sum is $410 billion, and the military will take an even larger bite — 53.3 cents of every tax dollar. These are the calculations of Paul Murphy, director of Military Spending Research Services. In addition to what the Pentagon acknowledges, Murphy includes foreign military aid, a portion of the space agency budget and payments for wars past in the form of veterans programs and a share of the net interest on the public debt. Murphy says that Reagan’s military buildup will increase the military share of income taxes to 59 percent by 1991.
Howard Morland, at the Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy, computes the military budget a little differently. Not including veterans programs and the net interest on the national debt, Morland figures military spending comes to about $307 billion. That still represents about 40 cents out of each tax dollar. Morland then breaks out the budget on the basis of broad military missions. He figures that only some $40 billion or 13 percent of this is used for the territorial defense of the United States, including second-strike nuclear weapons. Another $115 billion, or 37 percent, is the bill for “containing” the Soviet Union. The main items here are the huge military presence in West Germany and first-strike nuclear weapons.
The largest chunk of the military budget — $138 billion or 45 percent — is dedicated to military intervention in the Third World. Almost two-thirds of this — $87 billion — is for Mediterranean and Persian Gulf area forces. This means that about 11 cents of every dollar we pay Uncle Sam finances US military intervention in the Middle East. Something to remember as Caspar Weinberger promises more aid to the Turkish generals, as US warships steam into the Gulf of Sidra or the Arabian Sea, as Israeli warplanes blast Palestinian camps in Lebanon.
In this issue we carry a report from Israel about the arrest of four Jewish Israelis whose crime was to talk about peace with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Supporters of the four are collecting signatures of US citizens — scholars, artists, professionals — for a petition to be published in Israeli newspapers. They believe that a strong reaction from the US intellectual community can make a difference. Please send messages of support and financial donations to Micah Kaminer, 915 A Eagle Heights, Madison, Wisconsin 53705.
Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who made public information about Israel’s extensive nuclear weapons capabilities, also has a support group in the US which is seeking endorsements and contributions for his legal defense fund. Charged with espionage and treason, he is being held in solitary confinement and faces the death penalty. His case involves many important issues of nuclear proliferation, civil disobedience and due process. Readers can contact Vanunu’s defense fund through Judy Zimmet at PO Box 45005, Somerville, MA 02145.
Virtually every day we hear about another instance of US intervention in Central America, Southern Africa or the Middle East. Why, then, is the Middle East nearly absent from the public agenda of the peace and justice rallies scheduled for April 25? The organizing coalition for this event includes a number of religious groups and trade unions for whom Central America work, and the contra aid issue specifically, is paramount. This broadened movement of major institutions against the administration’s war in Central America is an important and noteworthy development. Unfortunately, it seems that one of the costs is near-silence on the Middle East. The labor unions bear major responsibility for this deplorable state of affairs. The close ties of high labor officials to Israel and pro-Israel networks translates into a threat to pull out of the coalition should US policy in the Middle East appear as an issue.
The best way to cope with this rather transparent intimidation in the short term is to make sure large numbers of people attend the rallies determined to identify the Middle East as a prime area of concern for a peace and justice movement. The Rainbow Coalition, Mobilization for Survival and the American Friends Service Committee have been working to put the Middle East on the agenda of the US peace movement. It is important that they get support for these efforts.