America just committed $40 billion to Ukraine. Actually, scratch that: America actually just committed $40 billion to several US military corporations (like Raytheon Technologies, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, etc) who, after deducting their certainly fat margins, will ship weapons to Ukraine.
The $40 billion came out of the US budget, which is in a yawning deficit, but, I guess, the military–industrial complex pays the government to get such contracts by making hefty campaign contributions to American politicians across the board. Of course, this largesse will mean there is $40 billion less for “… infrastructure programs to repair decaying roads and bridges, which require USD 41.8 billion to fix the 43,586 structurally deficient bridges, on average 68 years old [;…] forgiveness of $1.7 trillion in student debt” or any other of the crying needs of domestic expenditure, including “the 17 million who go to bed each night hungry” in the US.
But, this has been business as usual in the US for decades, which, in the name of “making the world safe for democracy” or “eliminating weapons of mass destruction” or whatever, has always fed its military hardware/consulting companies who have been the face of virtually every armaments-based tragedy in the world, from Iran in the 1950s to Cuba and Vietnam in the 1960s to Chile, Argentina and El Salvador in the 1970s to Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua in the 1980s, Iraq in the 1990s, Afghanistan (again) and Syria in the 2000s and, of course, the current trauma in Ukraine.
While US corporations have made out like bandits over the years, about 1.4 million Americans have been killed in all these wars since and including World War II; of course, the number of non-Americans killed in these misadventures is many, many times that. It is hardly surprising, then, that anti-American sentiment is universal, and seems to be getting louder and louder by the day.
To be sure, the US is not the only country that makes money by selling murderous products across the world—Russia, China, the UK, France, Italy, to name a few, also have large armaments industries. In some senses, these businesses are simply an evolution of colonialism and the slave trade, where violence was directly used to extract economic value, whether from colonised or disenfranchised people.
However, the US is the only country that also has a huge retail gun trade, which is clearly the other face of the armaments coin. The total number of people estimated to have been killed by handguns in America over the same period has been 1.5 million, more than those killed in all the wars. “Between 1982 and 2011, a mass shooting [defined as one where at least 4 people were killed] occurred roughly once every 200 days…between 2011 and 2014, that rate has accelerated greatly with at least one mass shooting occurring every 64 days in the United States … In recent years, the number of public mass shootings has [further] increased substantially … By the end of 2019 there were 417 mass shootings, by the end of 2020, there had been 611, and by the end of 2021, 693, according to the Gun Violence Archive. By mid-May 2021, there were 10 mass shootings a week on average; by mid-May 2022, there was a total of 198 mass shootings in the first 19 weeks of the year, which represents 11 mass shootings a week.”
In the face of this, it is amazing to me that anyone in the US can get up and go out of the house in the morning. How can parents stand to send their kids to school? How terrified must kids be as they see endless retakes of this violence on TV and social media Is it any wonder that mental health problems amongst young people in the US are off the charts and rising?
A study supported by the US National Institute of Justice that identified 172 mass public shootings from 1966 to 2019 found [rather unsurprisingly] that “Persons who committed public mass shootings … were commonly troubled by personal trauma before their shooting incident, nearly always in a state of crisis at the time, and, in most cases, engaged in leaking their plans before opening fire.” With incidences of mental health problems and mass shootings feeding off each other, America appears to be on a treadmill of death.
How can it turn this treadmill off? Well, first off, rather than spending the $40 billion on fat cat corporations for sending arms to Ukraine, the government should double the state spending on mental health services and treatment. And, obviously, find a way to limit the huge number of guns—more than one per citizen—floating across America. Good luck!
(The writer is CEO, Mecklai Financial; https://www.mecklai.com)