Cleveland Peace Action to present program illustrating military/wars funding
On Tuesday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. at the Lee Road Library, Cleveland Peace Action will present "Our Tax Dollars Off To War," led by longtime Cleveland Heights resident Francis Chiappa, Cleveland Peace Action copresident. The program is free and open to the public, and will be followed by discussion.
Chiappa’s presentation will show how the military/war budget has grown and how the Pentagon uses tax dollars (the United States accounts for about 47 percent of the world's total military spending). He will contrast America's military spending to its spending on domestic needs.
“Cleveland Peace Action believes that if we can know the amount of military spending, and where it goes, useful public discussion can occur regarding trade-offs between domestic and military spending, to decide which expenditures make us more or less secure,” said Chiappa.
“By now, the public knows that the congressional Super Committee, assigned to cut $1.2 trillion from the national budget, failed its assigned mission,” he said, “thus triggering mandated cuts of about $1 trillion from domestic and military budgets to commence in 2013.”
“While we don't yet know where and how these cuts will happen,” Chiappa continued, “we do know that Ohio communities will be severely impacted. Vital funding for social programs, schools, hospitals, Great Lakes cleanup, the Cuyahoga National Park, and domestic safety net programs are on the chopping block. Meanwhile, military proponents are trying to shield the Pentagon budget from cuts, claiming any funding reduction jeopardizes U. S. security.”
Chiappa said that Cleveland Heights taxpayers will pay $97.4 million for proposed Department of Defense spending for 2012, and $21.5 million more for the Afghanistan war in 2011. “That's a total of almost $119 million,” he said. “Cleveland Peace Action believes that, as responsible citizens, we must learn the vital facts then act upon them.”
Chiappas's activism goes back to 1984 when he was a leader of the Cleveland Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. Then, joined by other Heights area residents, he raised public awareness about the dangers of nuclear weapons and organized opposition to nuclear testing, along with a call for nuclear weapons abolition. He was involved in numerous anti-nuclear demonstrations in downtown Cleveland, at the Nevada test site, and in the Great Peace March that came through Cleveland in 1986.
The national anti-nuclear movement evolved with a broadened agenda in 1993 to become Peace Action. Today, it is the largest grassroots peace group in the U.S., with affiliate chapters in 27 states and national office near Washington, D.C. Chiappa has led Cleveland Peace Action for the last eight years.
“As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 16,” said Chiappa, “we recall also Dr. King's great voice and courageous stand against militarism at the height of the Vietnam War. Two of his quotes from that era still reverberate today: ‘I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.’ And, ‘A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.’”
Following the Jan. 17 presentation, Cleveland Peace Action will ask area city councils to pass a "New Priorities" resolution, similar to those passed in other cities around the country. The resolution will ask Congress to end the wars, cut military spending and prioritize spending on community needs.
To learn more about Cleveland Peace Action, visit www.peaceactioncleveland.org.
Nina McLellan is copresident of Cleveland Peace Action.