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The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne, Sunday, January 3, 1993

To use expensive toys

By Howard Fast

A group of homeless men in the freezing cold of a New York City street were asked by a TV interviewer to give their opinion of President Bush's decision to send 28,000 troops to Somalia. One of them said simply, "We're homeless - right?"
But in what might be called government-response-to-video, Bush appears to be unaffected - as he always has been - by what goes on in our great cities, and chooses instead to go out in his own particular blaze of glory at the price of anything from $400 million to $1 billion and possibly more, because there is no end in sight. He chose to roar into Somalia with this enormous army, and no one will ever know whether there wasn't a more sensible way of getting food to the Somalis, just as no one will ask where Bush was during the two years since the starvation began.
This is Bush's final gambit with his expensive and deadly toys, and I thought this might be an appropriate moment to remind ourselves what we paid for them. The following figures and comparisons are from the Center for Defense Information, which says the United States could pay for:
  • One B-2 Bomber ($2 billion) or build 424 elementary schools for 254,000 children.
  • One F-117 Stealth fighter plane ($140 million) or hire 4,200 policemen for one year.
  • One F-14D fighter plane ($121 million) or pay 3,600 teachers for one year.
  • Operating one Army division for one year ($2 billion) or teach 30 million functionally illiterate adults to read.
  • U.S. troops defending Japan for one year ($10 billion) or meet international standards for kindergarten through 12th grade.
  • Nuclear test explosions for one year ($500 million) or increase by 50 percent federal funds for alternative energy.
  • One Aegis destroyer ($832 million) or send 263,000 children to Head Start for one year.
  • Twenty-one Trident II missiles ($1 billion) or prenatal care for 2 million low-income families for one year.
  • One aircraft carrier ($4.2 billion) or provide Pell education grants to 2.8 million students.
  • One Seawolf submarine ($2 billion) or fully fund cancer research.
  • One V-22 Osprey aircraft ($42 million) or fully fund vaccine research for AIDS for one year.
The above was compiled by an organization of retired U.S. Army and Navy officers. It spells out a dream as heady and as wonderful as any utopian visions of what might have been in the 20th century; yet there is nothing impossible in these alternatives to the military insanity and lies that have been fed to American citizens during the past half century. There is nothing here that we could not do - if only we were inspired with the vision and determination to do it.
Two generations have passed since President Eisenhower warned us against the power of the military-industrial complex. The list above shows how little we thought of this warning. Yet what of the future?
Let me quote from the Center for Defense Information: "During his campaign, President-elect Clinton promised to build every new weapon the Pentagon planners wanted plus a few they did not want. President-elect Clinton promised to maintain an active military force much larger than necessary. President-elect Clinton promised to maintain U.S. military forces in Europe, Japan and Korea even though they are no longer necessary."
With all of the above, Clinton is a consummate politician, and certainly he recalled the fate of George McGovern, who lost on his position as a peace candidate. Let's hope and pray that Clinton's positions were simply election persiflage.
Howard Fast is an author, playwright and screenwriter. He wrote this for the Greenwich Time.