Money for weapons while the planet is on fire

Vijay Prashad * – (Institute for Social Research) 5/9/2022

Translation: Aladdin Abu Zina

Last year, global military spending surpassed the $ 2 trillion mark for the first time. The top five spenders – the US, China, India, the UK and Russia – spent 62 per cent of this amount. The United States alone accounted for 40 percent of all gun spending. In the next article, Vijay Prashad reflects on the squandering of social wealth in the name of defending American hegemony.

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    In the past month, two major reports have been released, none of which have received the attention they deserve. On April 4, the report of the third intergovernmental working group on climate change was published, eliciting strong reaction from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
    Guterres said the report was “a series of climate promises that have been broken. It is a dossier of shame, which catalogs the empty promises that put us firmly on the path to an uninhabitable world. ” At the World Climate Conference, COP26, developed countries pledged a modest $ 100 billion to the Adaptation Fund to help developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change.
    Meanwhile, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) also released its annual report on April 25 and found that global military spending had exceeded the $ 2 trillion mark for the first time. The top five spenders – the US, China, India, the UK and Russia – spent 62 per cent of this amount. The United States alone accounted for 40 percent of all gun spending.
    There is an endless stream of money going into weapons, but less than a small amount is being spent to ward off a global disaster.
    It is not an exaggeration to describe a “disaster”. UN Secretary-General Guterres warned that “we are on the fast track to climate catastrophe … it’s time to stop burning our planet.”
    These words are based on the facts presented in the third working group report. It is now firmly established in the scientific record that the historical responsibility for the destruction of our environment and our climate rests with the most powerful nations, led by the United States. There is little discussion of this responsibility in the distant past, and it is the result of the cruel war against nature waged by the forces of capitalism and colonialism.
    But this responsibility also extends to our present period. On April 1, a study published in The Lancet Planetary Health showed that from 1970 to 2017, “high-income countries accounted for 74 percent of global drug overuse, occurring primarily by the United States (27 percent) and the 28 high-income European Union countries (25 percent).
    The excessive use of materials in the North Atlantic countries is due to the use of non-essential resources (fossil fuels, minerals and non-metals). China accounted for 15 percent of global overexploitation, while the rest of the South accounted for only 8 percent.
    Overexploitation in these low-income countries has been largely driven by the use of vital resources (biomass). This distinction between abiotic and biotic resources shows us that the excessive use of materials from the global south comes from a largely renewable source, while the materials from the North Atlantic countries are non-renewable.
    The news of this report should have appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the world, especially in the global south, and its results should have been widely discussed on television channels. But it passed almost unnoticed.
    The report certainly proves that the high-income countries of the North Atlantic are aiming to destroy the planet, that they need to change their ways and pay various adjustment and mitigation funds to help the countries that are not creating the problem. , but who suffers the most from it.
    After presenting the data, the scholars who wrote this paper note that:
    “High-income countries bear the great responsibility for global environmental collapse, and are therefore indebted to the rest of the world. These countries must take the lead in making drastic reductions in the use of their materials to avoid further deterioration, which is likely to require the adoption of transformative post-growth and outgrowth approaches. ” Here are some interesting ideas: “radical reduction in resource use” and then a “post-growth and decline approach.”
    The North Atlantic countries, led by the United States, are the largest spenders of social wealth on weapons. A study by Brown University states that the Pentagon – the US military – “remains the largest excessive consumer of oil, and as a result is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world.”
    To get the US and its allies to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, UN member states had to allow military greenhouse gas emissions to be excluded from national emissions reports.
    The vulgarity that these things imply can be clearly expressed by comparing two values ​​of money. First, in 2019, the United Nations calculated that the annual funding gap for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals was $ 2.5 trillion. Moving $ 2 trillion annually from global military spending to the Sustainable Development Goals will help a great deal in dealing with major human dignity attacks: hunger, illiteracy, lack of housing, lack of medical care, and so on.
    It is important to note here that the $ 2 trillion figure quoted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute does not include the endless waste of social wealth given to private arms manufacturers as the price of arms systems. For example, the Lockheed Martin F-35 F-35 weapon system is expected to cost close to $ 2 trillion.
    By 2021, the world has spent more than $ 2 trillion on war, but has – in an overly large account – invested only $ 750 billion in clean energy and energy efficiency.
    Total investment in energy infrastructure for the year was about $ 1.9 trillion, but the bulk of this investment went to fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal). Therefore, investment in fossil fuels continues and investment in weapons increases, while investment in the transition to new forms of clean energy remains insufficient.
    On April 28, US President Joe Biden asked the US Congress for $ 33 billion for weapons systems to be sent to Ukraine. The call for these funds comes in parallel with strong statements made by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who said the United States is not trying to remove Russian forces from Ukraine but is working “to see Russia weaken. “
    And Austin’s remark should come as no surprise. This reflects US policy since 2018, which has prevented China and Russia from becoming “close to each other”. Human rights are not the concern; The focus is rather on preventing the emergence of any challenge to American hegemony. For this reason, social wealth is wasted on weapons and not used to address the dilemmas facing humanity.
    Think of the way the United States reacted to an agreement reached between the Solomon Islands and China, two neighboring countries.
    Manasseh Sogavari, Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, said the agreement was aimed at promoting trade and humanitarian cooperation, not the militarization of the Pacific.
    On the day Prime Minister Sugavari delivered his speech, a high-ranking U.S. delegation arrived in the country’s capital, Honiara, and told Prime Minister Sugavari that if the Chinese set up any kind of “military installations” in his country, the United States will “then have great concern.” It will respond accordingly. These were clear threats.
    A few days later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said:
    “The island nations of the South Pacific are independent and sovereign nations, not the backyard of the United States or Australia. Their efforts to revive the Monroe doctrine in the South Pacific will receive no support and will lead nowhere. ”
    The Solomon Islands have a long memory of Australasian-British colonial history and the scars left by atomic bomb tests. The practice of “black birds” led to the abduction of thousands of Solomon Islanders in the 19th century to work in the sugarcane fields of Queensland, Australia, which eventually led to the 1927 Kwaiu Rebellion in Malaita.
    Solomon Islands fought hard against weapons and in 2016 agreed with the world to ban nuclear weapons. And the desire to be the “backyard” of the United States or Australia does not exist. This was evident in the illuminating poem “Signs of Peace” (1974) by the author of the Solomon Islands, Celestine Colago:

a mushroom that sprouts
A barren atoll in the Pacific
and distributed in space
Leave a pure remnant of the power
what an illusion
peace and security
Mens claw.
In the calm of the early morning
The third day after
that love found joy,
in the empty tomb
wooden cross of shame
Turn into an icon
to serve love
In the low heat of the afternoon
United Nations flag waving
Darkened by national banners
and below
The men are sitting with clenched fists
They sign peace treaties.

* Vijay Prashad, Indian historian, journalist and commentator, is executive director of the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, and editor-in-chief of Left Word Books.
* This article was published under the title: Money for Weapons as the Planet Burns

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