Stop the War has opposed the wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and elsewhere because they will only bring death and destruction to the countries attacked. But the government is spending huge sums on wars at the same time it is cutting at least £80 billion from public expenditure. There is no area of public life that will not be affected, and the tragedy of austerity is already hitting communities up and down the country. But there will be no cuts in the cost of waging wars in foreign lands.
We have now had more than ten years of Britain fighting unjustified wars in other people’s countries. The government insists there is no alternative to the slashing of welfare provision for the most vulnerable in our society, whether it be the bedroom tax (£465 million a year), cuts in disability allowance (£2.2 billion a year) or cuts in the National Health Service (£20 billion by 2015).
But there is an alternative. None of the cuts would be necessary if the huge sums Britain spends on its military and armaments were invested in providing for social need instead of the government’s war machine.
The war machine
Britain spends £43.3 billion a year on its military — the fourth biggest military budget in the world, and by a long way the largest in the EU.
Britain is spending £7 billion building two huge new aircraft carriers, even though it has no planes that will be able to use them. It is estimated that buying planes for these carriers would cost £30 billion. This is not stopping the government spending £15 billion buying 150 F -35 jets, which can’t be used on the carriers, each of which will cost over £100 million.
Syria, Mali and Iran
Britain is spending over £12 million every day on the Afghanistan war. This is a war which was never justified and everyone knows is unwinnable. Successive governments have learned nothing, and now the Tory-led coalition is intervening in the Syrian civil war and supported France’s intervention in Mali. All the while Britain stands with the US in threatening an attack on Iran.
Trident Nuclear Missiles
Britain spends £3 billion a year on maintaining the Trident nuclear weapons system. The supporters of Trident are unable to say who the enemy is that is being “deterred” by these ultimate weapons of mass destruction, which are widely recognised as unusable because of their potential to destroy the whole world.
The arms industry
Britain is one of the biggest arms dealers in the world. The government spends £700 million a year on subsidies to the arms companies — one form of welfare it has no plans to cut.
Britain’s military spends £750 million a year on its campaign in schools and local communities aimed at persuading young people to join the army while hiding the reality that as soldiers they will be trained to kill and be killed in other people countries.
Social costs of war
If Britain stopped sending young men and women to fight in unjustified wars, we would not have the huge costs in supporting the medical and psychological needs of soldiers who have been severely injured — often losing limbs or eyes — or traumatised. Added to this is the cost of jailing ex-soldiers, who are one in 10 of the total prison population. There are more ex-soldiers in prison than there are fighting in Afghanistan. It costs £100,000 a year to keep an ex-soldier locked up.