Wednesday, October 15, 2008

If candidates won't discuss war costs, veterans will

During the final presidential debate, the candidates and the moderator prodded one another to explain how they would pay for particular programs and policies they believe will help the US recover from its economic crisis.

Yet, with all the talk about taxes and scarcity of federal funds for what America needs, the candidates and the moderator avoided discussing the primary reason that funds for education, health care, alternative energy and civic infrastructure are in such short supply: war spending. In fact, even apart from the huge costs of the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the US uses approximately half of it's federal tax revenue, excluding trust funds like Social Security, to fund the military budget.

Whether or not one approves of this federal spending priority -- and I obviously don't -- the fact of its effect on our economic crisis should be faced squarely, not swept under the table.
If candidates won't talk about the war's costs, there are war veterans who will.

Austinites have the opportunity tonight to hear Iraq war veteran, Camilo Mejia speak about his experience, which has been referenced on this blog in previous posts.

And, if you can't make it out to UT, Camilo is coincidentally featured in a film that will be aired tomorrow (Thursday) night at midnight on KLRU's Point of View (POV) program. The film documentary, Soldiers of Conscience is highly recommended.

Here's the info about Camilo's UT appearance as sent by the student group sponsoring his talk, Campus Antiwar Movement to End Occupations (CAMEO):

Camilo Mejia
Thursday, October 16, 7:00 PM
Location: UT Campus, Garrison 0.102

Camilo Mejía grew up in Nicaragua and Costa Rica before moving to the United States in 1994. He joined the military at the age of nineteen, serving as an infantryman in the active-duty army for three years before transferring to the Florida National Guard. After fighting in Iraq for five months, Mejía became the first known Iraq veteran to refuse to continue to fight in Iraq, citing moral concerns about the war and occupation. He was eventually convicted of desertion by a military court and sentenced to a year in prison.

Mejía currently serves as the chair of the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and is the author of Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia: An Iraq War Memoir (new edition, Haymarket Books 2008). In Road from Ar Ramadi, Mejía tells his own story, from his upbringing in Central America and his experience as a working-class immigrant in the United States to his service in Iraq - where he witnessed prisoner abuse and was deployed in the Sunni triangle - and time in prison. In this stirring book, he argues passionately for human rights and the end to an unjust war. Camilo will be introduced by Hart Viges, president of the Central Texas chapter of IVAW.

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