By Rachel Bruhnke
At the inaugural meeting of the new Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council in mid-July, I gave a 2-minute public comment - shown below. I was moved to speak out for Peace ahead of the upcoming "Fleet Week at the L.A. Waterfront", in our lovely San Pedro.
This will be the "1st Annual" L.A. Fleet Week, where several active Navy ships will be stationed in our commercial port over the Labor Day week, 1,500 active Navy sailors, and hundreds of personnel from all branches of the U.S. Military. There will be military air shows, lots of military propaganda, pageantry, and recruitment. In the the years to come, we should expect to see larger and larger Military presence during subsequent, annual, L.A. Fleet Weeks.
I don't think this should go unopposed, so I spoke out. If you are interested in organizing a free speech, peace response to this issue, let me know. So am I.
First, I want to congratulate you all on your election as board members to the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council. I hope you do well, and I thank you for the many many volunteer hours you will be putting in to do this job.
I told my sister I was going to say something here tonight, and she told me to speak from the heart, so this is what I am going to do.
...I was 23 when we first invaded Iraq. That was 25 years ago. We have been bombing or patrolling that country for a quarter of a century, and we wonder why there is ISIS today.
Today's American households, on average, are paying $75,000 annually in War Taxes. Almost half of our income taxes are going to fund war in one form or another, either to pay for past wars, to wage current wars or to prepare for future wars. Wars that are making us less safe, not more safe. Wars that create failed states, mass refugee migrations and worse terrorist threats.
We have poured $5 trillion into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I million Iraqis have been killed, 100,000 Afghans and thousand of Americans. Our drones and bombs and our Middle East military bases are causing, not lessening, the recruitment of ISIS and Al Qaeda militants.
It is because of this militarism, this non-stop war that I am opposed to Fleet Week in San Pedro. I see Fleet Week as a huge, subsidized promotion of War and of the military recruitment of our youth. The Navy, just for this next year, wants $165 billion U.S. Tax dollars, including $45 billion dollars for more weapons and military infrastructure.
Fleet Week has been called a "big opportunity". To me, people looking at military promotion as an economic windfall is like looking at post-invasion Iraq, like we did, as a business opportunity.
I am morally opposed to making money off of war.
As you discuss the matter of Fleet Week tonight, and for all other subsequent discussions, including this Thursday at the Chamber of Commerce, I hope these words and these sentiments will be remembered.
War is NOT the answer to human problems, and the promotion of war is NOT good for the heart of a community that wants Peace. Thank you for your attention.
Rachel Bruhnke is a lifelong peace activist, focusing on Latin America Solidarity, calling out Militarism, and promoting a Peace Economy. She is a board member of Witness for Peace/Southwest and has been organizing to change U.S. policy toward Latin America since the Reagan Wars of the 1980's. Rachel worked at Global Exchange to educate Americans about Cuba's work around sustainable development, and to promote citizen diplomacy between our peoples. She was in the Peace Corps in Honduras and is today working actively hold Hillary Clinton accountable for her support of the U.S.-backed coup in Honduras in 2009.