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27 Jun, 2011

An “American Awakening” Looms: U.S.Mayors Blast Wars Costing $2.1 Million A Minute

Much has been read and heard about the Arab spring and the Arab awakening. But yet another spring is emerging that will lead to a geopolitical shift of potentially tectonic proportions – the upcoming American awakening.

Ten years after 9/11, a tired and collapsing America is awakening to the cost of its military adventures, and demanding transparency, accountability and a change  of course. The American people’s frustrations can no longer be kept under wraps, especially with presidential elections coming up.

Accepting the presidency of the U.S. Conference of Mayors after their annual conference between June 17-20, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles invoked the memory of Vietnam War and Nelson Mandela in telling the U.S. administration that Baltimore and Kansas City need more support than Baghdad and Kandahar.

Stressing that many of the American cities had economies bigger than many large countries, he said, “Our mayors know what a double-digit unemployment rate means – and the real pain our families suffer every single day. As mayors, we can see the wreckage of the Great Recession all around us. We have entire cities swamped by the mortgage crisis, whole neighborhoods left high and dry to blight and rot. In community after community, we’ve seen families cut adrift when an anchor employer pulls up stakes for $2-dollar-a-day labor abroad. We know what’s good for Wall Street isn’t necessarily good for Main Street.”

He added, “In too many of our cities, job growth is being choked by traffic and saddled by a sagging infrastructure. We have bus and rail systems at capacity. Our aging roads and bridges are undermining our ability to meet the nation’s future economic output. We need to say now is the time to put millions of people to work by making long overdue investments in our future infrastructure needs.”

He was speaking after the Mayors conference passed an 192-page set of 114 resolutions that make grim reading. Just a few examples:

<> Childhood obesity epidemic is a national health crisis, afflicting one in every three children (31.7%) ages 2-19. Obesity is estimated to cause 112,000 deaths per year in the United States and one-third of all children born in 2000 are expected to develop diabetes in their lifetime. The economic impact of obesity and physical inactivity is estimated at $3 billion each year. Obese adults incur an estimated $1,429 more in direct medical costs than their medically and physically fit counterparts.

<> In 2009, more than 45 million Americans over the age of 18 were suffering from serious mental illness and more than 2 million children aged 12-17 suffering from major depressive disorder. An estimated 23.5 million Americans aged 12 and older were in need of treatment for substance use disorders.

<> Public Housing properties require in excess of $22 billion in repairs, exacerbating the national public housing crisis cities face today. Federal spending of two crucial programs, the Public Housing Operating Subsidy and a Public Housing Capitol Fund, has continued to decrease but the need has not – for 30 percent of the over 1.2 million public housing units in existence are in extremely high poverty neighborhoods.

<> Criminal activity of street gangs and the subsequent problem of gang-related felony crimes remain a pervasive problem for urban, suburban, and rural communities; the National Gang Threat Assessment for 2009 found that approximately one million gang members belonging to more than 20,000 gangs were criminally active within all 50 states and the District of Columbia as of September 2008.

<> The U.S. lost nearly a third of its manufacturing jobs over the past the decade; The pre-recession U.S. growth model driven by highly-leveraged domestic consumption cannot sustain recovery, and the next economy must refocus on production, exports, innovation, and opportunity at all skill levels.

Mayors are saying they have had enough.

Said Mr Villaraigosa, “It’s time for the mayors to pull together and send a message to Washington: It’s time to stop playing politics and start doing the hard work of the American people. It’s time to start investing in our future again. It’s time to put our people back to work. It’s time to bring our troops home.”

He added: “It’s time for Congress to get on with the serious business of legislating short and long-term solutions to our jobs crisis…. We need to stand for a new world order in federal spending. It’s time to bring our investments back home. We can’t be building roads and bridges in Baghdad and Kandahar, and not Baltimore and Kansas City. Not when we spend $2.1 million on defense every single minute. Not after nearly $1.2 trillion spent and over 6,000 lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

In one of the most powerful comments in his entire speech, Mayor Villaraigosa said, “In 1971, the US Conference of Mayors proudly went on record calling for a withdrawal of US forces from Vietnam. It’s time for mayors to once again speak up and join the call for an end to the war in Afghanistan. We support our men and women in uniform. These brave soldiers have served our country proudly. Now we must honor them by addressing our pressing needs at home! We must invest in our own economy and create jobs for them to come home to.”

Seeking to pump up the mayoral spirit, Mr Villaraigosa said, “Mayors have done it before. And mayors can – and must – do it again. We can do it if we remember our history. The year was 1932. 14 million Americans were unemployed. Veterans were marching on Washington. Homeowners everywhere were under water. Responding to the call of the nation’s mayors, Congress enacted a $300 million federal assistance program, the first in the nation’s history. A few months later, they came together to write the charter for the US Conference of Mayors.

“Mayors led us out of the Great Depression. Mayors led on civil rights Mayors led when the AIDS epidemic hit. Mayors stood with Mandela when it wasn’t popular. There is a magic when mayors stand together. Let’s unleash that magic.”

Mr Villaraigosa’s speech was made on June 20. Exactly two days later, Obama announced his plans to bring the surge troops home and “focus on nation building here at home.”

But wars don’t end so easily. According to Bobby Muller, President, Veterans for America, “We are facing a massive mental health problem as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a country we have not responded adequately to the problem. Unless we act urgently and wisely, we will be dealing with an epidemic of service related psychological wounds for years to come.”

Thousands of these veterans will return home with severe physical injuries and mental trauma. Their families will suffer from drug abuse, domestic violence and suicide. One day, they will awaken to the fact that their mission in Iraq was to seek weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. Their government and their leaders lied to them.

The U.S. media will awaken to the fact that it once played a major role in ending wars such as in Vietnam but today plays a major role in starting and supporting wars, effectively becoming an “embedded” tool of the state apparatus.

The mayors have realised the price and the costs of the wars waged by the U.S. in the first decade of the 21st century. The rest of the country will soon follow. Then will come an awakening that will make the Arab awakening pale by comparison.

Also read: The U.S. Metro Economies Report. Pace of Economic Recovery: GMP and Economic Forecasts.