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Panelists Say Time Has Come to Cut Military

By Alexander T. Nguyen

Reducing the $265 billion U.S. military budget in favor of increasing funding for educational and other social programs is not only timely but also sensible, members of a progressive panel agreed on Sunday.

Speaking before a crowd of more than 100 in the Science Center, the panelists, including Rep. Barney Frank '61-'62 (D-Mass.), said that there is less need now for a large military budget.

"People were talking about the two big wars back then: Russia and China," Frank said. "Today, these two countries have been replaced by Iraq and North Korea. I'd say that's a lot cheaper."

Other panelists were Dr. Paul Walker, former senior advisor of the House Armed Services Committee; Carol Doherty, former president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association; and Susan Shaer, executive director of the Women's Action for New Directions.

The forum, titled "A peacetime military budget: Why, When, How?" was co-sponsored by the Citizens for Participation in Political Action (CPPAX) and the Harvard-Radcliffe Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

Military spending is analogous to insurance, Frank said, because the money is invested in the hope that it will never be used. Thus, in a peace- time economy, the funding can be allocated to producing goods and services which boost the economy.

"The United States of America has the biggest air force. China has the second biggest air force," Frank said. "And do you know who has the third biggest air force? The U.S. Navy."

Despite the lack of a major foreign threat, military spending still remains at a very high level, because of ineffective threat reassessment, bureaucratic inertia and poor Congressional leadership, Walker said.

"One other reason is jobs--pork," Walker said. "That's why the New England delegation in the House and Senate voted for the Seawolf submarine, including our two senators [from Massachusetts]."

Moderator George Sommaripa pointed out that the forum coincided with Bastille Day.

"That's an example of what happens when government does not govern and the people can't participate in government," he said.

Doherty said high military spending despite the lack of a foreign threat is part of a design to increase the desperation level in the domestic population and make citizens compete for low-paying jobs.

"We've been trapped between the twin evils of capitalism and communism," she said. "Communism collapsed because it was undemocratic. Now we are gradually discovering that capitalism is also undemocratic. Most are realizing that capitalism and democracy are no longer compatible if they ever were."

Shaer promoted grass-roots involvement in an effort to bring about social change.

"If I think about the sixties, I think of the women's movement," she said. "What will they say of this decade if [military spending] ends up being more than 60 percent of the budget. How will we feel?"

Earlier this year, CPPAX lobbied Harvard Dining Services to not serve Pepsi in dining halls because of PepsiCo's investments in Burma.

"I think the most powerful of this forum was [the message] that people should get involved," said Derek A. Curtis, a second-year student of the Divinity School. "There's an apathy and despair about politics that's keeping people away, but that's the wrong thing to think.

"The United States of America has the biggest air force. China has the second biggest air force," Frank said. "And do you know who has the third biggest air force? The U.S. Navy."

Despite the lack of a major foreign threat, military spending still remains at a very high level, because of ineffective threat reassessment, bureaucratic inertia and poor Congressional leadership, Walker said.

"One other reason is jobs--pork," Walker said. "That's why the New England delegation in the House and Senate voted for the Seawolf submarine, including our two senators [from Massachusetts]."

Moderator George Sommaripa pointed out that the forum coincided with Bastille Day.

"That's an example of what happens when government does not govern and the people can't participate in government," he said.

Doherty said high military spending despite the lack of a foreign threat is part of a design to increase the desperation level in the domestic population and make citizens compete for low-paying jobs.

"We've been trapped between the twin evils of capitalism and communism," she said. "Communism collapsed because it was undemocratic. Now we are gradually discovering that capitalism is also undemocratic. Most are realizing that capitalism and democracy are no longer compatible if they ever were."

Shaer promoted grass-roots involvement in an effort to bring about social change.

"If I think about the sixties, I think of the women's movement," she said. "What will they say of this decade if [military spending] ends up being more than 60 percent of the budget. How will we feel?"

Earlier this year, CPPAX lobbied Harvard Dining Services to not serve Pepsi in dining halls because of PepsiCo's investments in Burma.

"I think the most powerful of this forum was [the message] that people should get involved," said Derek A. Curtis, a second-year student of the Divinity School. "There's an apathy and despair about politics that's keeping people away, but that's the wrong thing to think.

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