Sunday, February 9, 2014

Three of the US government's longest and most expensive wars are shameful failures

The War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, and the War on Terror. Three expensive, decades-long wars, three different goals, and yet not a single one can be labeled a success. 

The War on Poverty, first introduced by President Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964, has ultimately led to a stagnant economy and record-breaking levels of hardship. The War on Drugs, first introduced by President Richard Nixon on June 18, 1971, has led to higher rates of drug usage and a wider availability of illegal drugs. The War on Terror - the US government's newest campaign - spawned an onslaught of new terrorists that may haunt the country for generations to come. 

But don't take my word for it. What does the evidence have to say? 

War on Poverty

"Many Americans live on the outskirts of hope - some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity. This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America."

-- President Lyndon B. Johnson, State of the Union Address, 1964

Fifty years later...

* Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press finds four out of 5 US adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives.

* Almost 6 million young people are neither in school nor working, according to The Opportunity Nation coalition. The coalition also finds that 49 states have seen an increase in the number of families living in poverty and 45 states have seen household median incomes fall.

* In 2010, about 46.2 million Americans were living in poverty, or about 15.1% of the US population. 

* One in five families with a member holding a fast-food job has an income below the poverty line, and 43 percent have an income two times the federal poverty level or less.

* The United States ranked 34th out of 35 countries in child poverty and welfare rankings. 

* In 2011, there were 17 states where at least half of all public school students came from low-income families, up from just four in 2000. Across the whole country, 48 percent of kids qualified as low income, up from 38 percent a decade earlier.

* Food stamp participation since 1980 has grown the fastest among workers with some college training, a sign that the safety net has stretched further to cover America's former middle class.

* According to Oxford University Press, economic insecurity among whites is more pervasive than is shown in the government's poverty data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60.

* The poverty rate has followed a hilly path that reached as low as 11.1% in 1973 and hit a high of more than 15% in 1983, 1993 and 2010, and it's still at that level today.

War on Drugs

"America's public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive."

-- President Richard Nixon, 1971

Forty years later... 

* The US government spent $33 billion in marketing "Just Say No"-style messages to America's youth and other prevention programs, yet high school students report the same rates of illegal drug use as they did in 1970, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses have "risen steadily" since the early 1970s.

* Individuals convicted of drug-related offenses are offered more punishment than rehabilitation. Not only are they labeled felons for life, but they are also denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits.

* Black Americans were nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010, even though the two groups used the drug at similar rates.

* The US government spent $121 billion to arrest more than 37 million nonviolent drug offenders, about 10 million of them for possession of marijuana, even though jail time tends to increase drug abuse.

* More than one-third of teens polled by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse said they could buy marijuana in just a few hours, 27 percent in an hour or less. For the first time since the study began in 1996, marijuana edged out cigarettes and beer as the easiest drug for teenagers to buy.

* A total of 13.7 percent of students reported using prescription drugs - without a doctor's prescription - in their lifetime.

* The US government spent $49 billion for law enforcement along America's borders to cut off the flow of illegal drugs, yet this year, 25 million Americans will snort, swallow, inject and smoke illicit drugs, about 10 million more than in 1970, with the bulk of those drugs imported from Mexico.


War on Terror

"Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. Americans are asking, "Why do they hate us?'' They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."

-- President George W. Bush, 2001

More than a decade later... 

* Over 95 percent of all suicide attacks have been in response to foreign occupation, according to extensive research conducted at the University of Chicago's Project on Security and Terrorism, where over 2,200 suicide attacks across the world from 1980 to the present day were examined. As the United States has occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, which have a combined population of about 60 million, total suicide attacks worldwide have risen dramatically - from about 300 from 1980 to 2003, to 1,800 from 2004 to 2009. Further, over 90 percent of suicide attacks worldwide are now anti-American. The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops, which is why 90 percent of suicide attackers in Afghanistan are Afghans.

* A 30-page National Intelligence Estimate completed in April 2006 cites the "centrality" of the US invasion of Iraq, and the insurgency that has followed, as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda. It concludes that, rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counterterrorism struggle, the situation in Iraq has worsened the US position, according to officials familiar with the classified document.

* The perpetrator of the failed 2010 Times Square car bomb attack, Faisal Shahzad, was asked what his motives were for trying to kill innocent people, including children. "When the drones [in Pakistan] hit, they don't see children," he replied. "I am part of the answer to the US killing the Muslim people."

* Prior to 9/11, the anger against the United States came primarily from involvement with Saudi Arabia, support for Israel's oppression of Palestine, and destructive economic sanctions against Iraq. But post-9/11, the US has done infinitely worse. Not only does it continue to support the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia and Israeli oppression of Palestine, but now the US also has upwards of 100,000 innocent human beings on its tab in Iraq and over four times the body count of 9/11 in Afghanistan. And we haven't even touched on the casualties from the US drone wars in PakistanYemen, and elsewhere, which have terrorized, maimed, and slaughtered without remorse.

* The torturous nightmare at Guantanamo Bay, where dozens of men have rotted away for years without trial or explanation, is no longer used by al-Qaeda operatives as a recruitment tactic to join in the fight against the United States. Instead, drones have taken the place of Guantanamo.

* Sudarsan Raghavan of the Washington Post interviewed tribal leaders in Yemen, as well as victims' relatives and human rights activists, and reports that "unintended consequence" of US drone strikes have stimulated a "marked radicalization of the local population." Raghavan notes that since Barack Obama ordered the first air strike in Yemen in 2009, the number of core al-Qaeda members in Yemen have more than doubled from 300 to at least 700.

* A report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2010 found "strong evidence" for a "revenge effect" when examining the relationship between civilian casualties caused by US forces in Afghanistan and radicalization after such incidents occur. Figures provided by Brown University put the death toll from the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan at 12-14,000 civilians. Taking these figures into consideration, along with the "revenge effect", what can be suggested as far as the outlook for future terror attacks against Americans?
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None of the aforementioned stats were compiled to imply that lifting people out of poverty, reducing drug addiction rates, or thwarting terrorist attacks are necessarily unproductive goals. The issue here is moreso concerned with the government bureaucrats who have so poorly mismanaged taxpayer dollars to the point where their efforts have not only failed, but failed so miserably that they have actually had the opposite effect of their intended goals. A "War on Poverty" led to more poverty; a "War on Drugs" led to more drugs; and a "War on Terror" is leading to more terrorism.

If these campaigns are to be considered the best our government is capable of, we're all in a hell of a lot of trouble.
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See also: 

Blaming the rise of ISIS on religion neglects the major role of US imperialism - When an American is beheaded, we blame it all on freedom-envious religious zealots instead of our blowback-inducing foreign policy

Why the War on Terror guarantees more terrorism and perpetual warfare - This self-perpetuating War on Terror -- War OF Terror -- may outlive all those reading these words today

The US government has a nasty habit of killing the families of its enemies - Not only do we have preventative strikes against nations for what they may one day do, but also against individuals - individuals who are sometimes teens and infants

The problem isn't Obama, and it wasn't Bush - Until it's widely recognized that the system is the problem, not its figureheads, the United States will remain in the hell of collective stagnation

The White House petition section and illusions of a responsive government - With their approval rates plummeting, US officials create and promote an online petition website in a desperate attempt to keep the public at bay 

Guardians of the status quo - How the US government kills progress in all movements - from the animal rights movement to the antiwar movement

Your tax dollars hard at work - The gap between what the US government wants and what US taxpayers want is incredibly hard not to notice

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