Rethink Afghanistan: How to Get What You Pay For

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

As of this morning, the cost of our war in Afghanistan hit the $1 Trillion mark:

You can head over to Facebook and tell us what you would do with a trillion dollars. You’d be surprised at what you could be getting for that money. You could buy Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn many times over, or buy health care for everyone. Only it’s just a game, isn’t it? You’re not really buying that stuff. But as the video says, you’re not really getting what you’re paying for in Afghanistan either.

You’re not any safer because of that money. If anything, you’re less safe because of that wasted money. California had to cut its “Healthy Families” program, among countless other basic human services. We’re supporting corrupt drug addicts and committed war mongers overseas. We even have airplanes literally falling out of the sky because of how our broken our economy is. That trillion dollars is gone, the war is coming up to its 104th month, and we have only disaster to show for it.

But don’t be fooled by our Facebook app. It’s more than just a game. No, you can’t buy Bill Gates or the Large Hadron Collider, but you can actually force the government to spend money on programs which do make us safer. You can even cut off the war ending funding entirely. After all, the cost is just hitting $1 trillion, it’s not stopping there. It’s only going up, faster and faster as President Obama’s escalation continues. It’s not as simple as dropping your items in a shopping cart, but it doesn’t take much more than that either. With just a little bit of action, you can go way beyond a Facebook game and actually accomplish real change.

For example, here’s Rep. John Conyers, of the Out of Afghanistan Caucus, telling us what he would do with the money:

What could we have purchased with this $1 trillion? Today, we might be enjoying the fruits of a green economy, spurred by New Deal-like investments in wind and solar. Perhaps we would have created a single-payer health care system and used this $1 trillion to provide health security to every man, woman, and child in the United States for an entire year. Or, we might have made the smart investments in our domestic law enforcement capabilities and homeland security apparatus to provide true protection from Al Qaeda and others who would wish us harm. Sadly, we’ll never know, because our political leadership never explored alternative means of achieving peace, such as emphasizing rigorous regional diplomacy, and instead overextended our military forces abroad.

He’s a real congressman, with real power to introduce real legislation controlling real funds. And lo and behold, he’s doing exactly that, co-sponsoring the War is Making You Poor Act alongside Rep. Alan Grayson:

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation called the “War Is Making You Poor Act,” which aims to call attention to a) how much money is being spent to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and b) how budget gimmicks are used to pay for them. Grayson’s legislation would slash the $159 billion request for supplemental war funding and use that money to deliver a tax break for all Americans. Grayson demands the Pentagon use its currently existing $549 billion defense budget to fight the wars.

It’s not just a game, that’s a real bill. Because their constituents pressured them into it, Conyers and Grayson turned an idea like actually getting something for our money into legislation, and with a little more pressure it can become law.

That’s where you come in. After you’ve played the game and told us about your plan, go just a little further and turn that plan into action. Call Congress at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your representative. Tell them your plan for the trillion dollars. Tell them about all the real benefits we could be getting instead of wasting it on the disastrous war. Tell them to block the upcoming $33 billion war supplemental. Tell them $1 trillion is too much already and it has to end now. It takes a little bit more than a Facebook game, but not much.

We know this pressure works, we’ve seen its successes over and over. Just last week we saw a big move in the senate to end the war, all because constituents forced it. We have Conyers’ Out of Afghanistan Caucus, and Grayson’s War is Making Your Poor Act, not springing up spontaneously but because you demanded it.

So go check out the game, it’s fun. Tell us your plan on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook page, but remember, it’s more than just a game. You can turn that plan into reality, you can end the war in Afghanistan, it just takes a little pressure. Contact your representative, and tell them no more funding for a trillion dollar war that isn’t making us safer.

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