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Robert Naiman
Robert Naiman
Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy.
Why tax the rich to pay for more war?
Instead of taxing the rich to enable continued warfare, it would be better to stop the conduct of war.
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2011 11:14
US officials plan to tax the super-wealthy, such as Warren Buffett, in order to arm Afghan warlords [GALLO/GETTY]

Ordinarily, I think of myself as a card-carrying liberal. But lately, I'm getting the feeling that Liberal America had a meeting to decide on our current priorities - and peace advocates weren't invited. I open my email and it's full of rallying cries about the urgency of taxing the rich. When was it decided that taxing the rich was the marquee demand of Liberal America at this juncture? Were peace advocates invited to this meeting? I see no evidence that we were.

In a different political juncture, I would be happy to march behind the banner of taxing the rich. But at this political juncture, when the war budget is half of federal discretionary spending, and when because of the Budget Control Act and the Supercommittee, we have a historic opportunity to cut the war budget - a much better prospect, at present, than our prospects for raising tax rates on rich people - I ain't marching for this dogwhistle anymore.

Suppose there were a massive government program to dump truckloads of dioxin in Lake Michigan. And suppose that - in addition to the direct effects of poisoning a major source of drinking water - this program were tremendously expensive in blood and treasure. Suppose that since October 7, 2001, more than five thousand US workers had been killed carrying out the Lake Michigan-poisoning project, with tens of thousands of US workers counted as wounded, and the real toll of wounded workers many times higher. And suppose that the budgeted cost so far of the massive government program to dump poison in Lake Michigan were over a trillion dollars so far, with the real financial cost to society, when you count things like the future health costs of the poisoned American workers, much higher.

Would the marquee demand of Liberal America be to make Warren Buffett pay his fair share for the Lake Michigan-poisoning program? Or would the marquee demand of Liberal America be to stop dumping poison in Lake Michigan?

Take from the rich, give to the war

If we're going to use the money to kill, imprison, and otherwise oppress people in other countries who have done us no wrong, I would just as soon let Warren Buffett keep his money. Maybe he will donate some of it to a good cause. But even if he uses it to buy caviar, that would be better than continuing the war in Afghanistan, which is, on a routine basis, violating the basic human rights of the Afghan people, in addition to killing and maiming Americans for no good reason. In the November issue of the Atlantic, Matthieu Aikins makes a compelling case that the Pentagon is violating the Leahy Amendment by arming the forces of Afghan warlord Abdul Raziq, given that Raziq's forces have a history of gross human rights abuses as long as your arm. But this Pentagon activity has proceeded unmolested by the Leahy Law.

Why should we take money from Warren Buffett to pay for this? Shouldn't we just stop it?

In a recent article in Truthout, Gareth Porter demolishes the claim that US "night raids" in Afghanistan - that's when US forces smash into people's homes in the middle of the night, shooting anyone who might appear to resist - are "precisely targeted", noting that a key target of the night raids is not insurgents, but civilians who might know insurgents - a blatant violation of the laws of war; and that moreover, people are targeted based not on their identity, but based on their phone records. So if somebody calls someone linked by the US to the insurgency from your phone, US forces can smash into your house, kill you and your relatives, and claim success: "Taliban killed."

Why should we take money from Warren Buffett to pay for this? Shouldn't we just stop it?

At this juncture in our history, why should we make common cause with the warmongers against the Tea Party? Wouldn't it be more righteous to make common cause with the Tea Party against the warmongers?

What's particularly striking at this juncture is this: House Democrats appear to be ahead of Liberal America on this issue right now. Seventy Representatives - mostly Democrats - have written to the debt-reduction Supercommittee, urging them to end the wars. Why isn't our email full of urgings to support the seventy Representatives in their demand that the Supercommittee end the wars?

On October 7, 2011, we'll have been at war for ten years. There will be protests around the country. Let us first end the wars. Then I will gladly march behind the banner of taxing the rich.

Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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