Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Price of Being Stubborn

In the press conference about his retirement as Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates expressed an opinion that I whole heartedly agree with. He finally agreed with what I have been saying for years, namely that we should only go to war as an act of self defense and that he regrets the human cost of waging the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our world would have changed for the better if he had expressed that opinion years ago.

We have wasted trillions of dollars on those wars and ruined who knows how many lives. And since we are talking about the cost of wars, we should note the passing of another anniversary: 40 years of the totally fraudulent "war on drugs," another war that has cost trillions of dollars and ruined millions of lives.

Funny how when misguided politicians decided to pass a law making it illegal to drink alcoholic beverages, it took less than a decade for them to admit what a colossal mistake they had made, and repealed the law, and turned alcohol sales into a revenue producer rather than an expense.

So why can the politicians admit to the same mistake and take the same actions after 40 years? Over these years, millions of people have been arrested and imprisoned for the "crime" of possessing and using drugs. Many of our prisons had to be built just to house all these people.

I am all for imprisoning violent criminals, but how absurd to imprison someone because they choose to smoke rather than drink, or even snort something. Whatever. Treat it like alcohol and tobacco, let it be sold in stores and fund government programs with those taxes. Only arrest those who commit violent crimes.

The same lessons came from prohibition of alcohol. The modern mafia became powerful because they geared up to sell everyone the stuff that they could not buy legally.

Today's prohibition has had even more sinister side effects. Various terrorists have funded their operations through drug sales. Where would they be if all those poppy fields were legal? All that violence along the Mexican border would disappear overnight since it is all about controlling drug traffic. Once people could buy their drug of choice in stores just as easy as cigarettes or a six pack, there would be no traffic to fight over.

And what did our trillions of dollars buy us in Iraq? They never were a threat to us. Afghanistan? Do we really need to control that country? What did our trillions buy us there?

Plus we cannot forget how many people died there, or how many disabled veterans will require extensive medical care for the rest of their lives and can no longer function as ordinary people.

So when I hear politicians and heartless greedy people say that we cannot afford a single payer health care system because it is expensive or that we should cut teachers pay, Medicare or Social Security because they are expensive, I see these as obvious lies.

These people are simply stubborn. They decided to have these wars and they will not change their position in the face of overwhelming facts. It is a perfect example of what results we get from being stubborn. Being stubborn just leads to stupidity, which compounds the error.

If we were not spending trillions of dollars on these pointless wars, we could spend that money on health care, which would be a much better use of it. And we could afford to build a greater percentage of our power grid with clean, renewable energy. And we could afford to pay living wages to all kinds of people, including teachers, sanitation workers, food inspectors, cops, firemen, and others without begrudging them a decent salary.

And perhaps all that would affect the private sector as well. Instead of getting jealous of the fact that public employees have paid holidays, we should be questioning why that is not the norm for all working people.

Look at all the huge benefits that can result when we quit being stubborn.

I was pleasantly surprised at the candor of the views expressed by Robert Gates upon his retirement. Perhaps that moment of enlightenment will rub off on other politicians and inspire other voices. One can only hope.

1 comment:

angel said...

Wow! this is wonderful! well said. I agree with every word of this!