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In These Times - September 8, 2021

But this gets at something crucial—if difficult to quantify—about the harm done by 20 years of the War on Terror. The push for militarization has been used to shut down exactly the left-wing political ideas that are vitally needed to curb the climate crisis. As I argued in February 2020, U.S. wars have repeatedly been used to justify a crackdown on left-wing movements. World War I saw passage of the Espionage Act, which was used to crack down on anti-war protesters and radical labor organizers. The Cold War was used as pretext for crackdowns on a whole host of domestic movements, from communist to socialist to Black Freedom, alongside U.S. support for vicious anti-communist massacres around the world. The War on Terror was no different, used to justify passage of the PATRIOT Act, which was used to police and surveil countless protesters, including environmentalists. The Global Justice Movement was sounding the alarm about the climate crisis in the late 1990s, and was not only subjected to post‑9/​11 government repression, but was then forced to refocus on opposing George W. Bush's global war effort.

Twenty years into a nebulous ​“War on Terror,” the United States is in the grips of a full-fledged climate crisis. Hurricane Ida, whose severity is a direct result of human-made climate change, flooded cities, cut off power to hundreds of thousands, killed at least 60 people, and left elderly people dying in their homes and in squalid evacuation facilities. This followed a summer of heat waves, wildfires and droughts — all forms of extreme weather that the Global South has borne the brunt of, but are now, undeniably, the new ​“normal” in the United States.

The U.S. government has turned the whole globe into a potential battlefield, chasing some ill-defined danger ​“out there,” when, in reality, the danger is right here — and is partially of the U.S. government’s own creation. Plotting out the connections between this open-ended war and the climate crisis is a grim exercise, but an important one. It’s critical to examine how the War on Terror not only took up all of the oxygen when we should have been engaged in all-out effort to curb emissions, but also made the climate crisis far worse, by foreclosing on other potential frameworks under which the United States could relate with the rest of the world. Such bitter lessons are not academic: There is still time to stave off the worst climate scenarios, a goal that, if attained, would likely save hundreds of millions of lives, and prevent entire countries from being swallowed into the sea.

One of the most obvious lessons is financial: We should have been putting every resource toward stopping climate disaster, rather than pouring public goods into the war effort. According to a recent report by the ​​National Priorities Project, which provides research about the federal budget, the United States has spent $21 trillion over the last 20 years on ​“foreign and domestic militarization.” Of that amount, $16 trillion went directly to the U.S. military — including $7.2 trillion that went directly to military contracts. This figure also includes $732 billion for federal law enforcement, ​“because counterterrorism and border security are part of their core mission, and because the militarization of police and the proliferation of mass incarceration both owe much to the activities and influences of federal law enforcement.” ...
Read full report at In These Times