Intervening in Uncle Sam’s Addiction to War

September 1, 2016
By Paul Dordal

Over twenty years ago I took my last drink. I didn’t do it on my own. There was an intervention. I’m grateful today to be sober. Nevertheless, each day I have to humble myself and admit that I am an addict, and engage in specific behaviors (steps) that help me stay free from my addiction; I also meet regularly with a recovery group.

As a recovering addict I can easily recognize the signs and symptoms of addictions in others. And as I look at the U.S., I have come to the conclusion that Uncle Sam is severely addicted to war. Just as I had to first admit my addiction to drugs and alcohol to become free, so too, the U.S. has to admit its addiction to war. And just as I had to cease from my addictive behaviors, take a personal moral inventory, and make amends to all I had wronged, the U.S. has to take these steps as well.

Signs of the U.S.’s Addiction To War

So, what are the signs I recognize in the U.S.’s habit? First, I see that the country cannot go long without falling back into its addiction. The latest war binge has been going on now for over 15 years. But the real sign of the acute nature of America’s war addiction is that it has been at war for 222 out of its 239 years of its existence. The U.S. has been at war for 93% of its life!

Another sign of the U.S.’s addiction to war is the amount of money it spends on its habit. Every hour of every day the U.S. spends $8,360,000 on war. Over the last 15 years, U.S. taxpayers have spent more than $1,700,000,000,000 on Uncle Sam’s addiction to war. The percentage of discretionary tax dollars spent on war in 2015 was 54% of the total budget or $598.5 billion dollars. And because Americans enable their government to spend so much of their hard earned money on war, there is precious little left for the basic needs of food, housing, education, transportation, and healthcare for its most at-risk citizens.

The cost of this addiction is not just money. Since 1945 more than 160,000 Americans and more than 20 million people from other countries have died in over seventy-five U.S. wars or military interventions. We need to make amends to all those we have wronged, to the vets who fought in these wars, and to the millions of innocent civilians who were immorally killed by our country.

Today, the U.S. has military troops stationed in more than 150 foreign countries — the most in its history. Worse yet, the U.S. is not just a war addict, the U.S. is also the leading pusher of the drugs (weapons) of war. Last year the U.S. sold $30,000,000,000 in weapons to over 75 countries.

Recovery Steps from War Addiction

What steps can we take to intervene?

First, we will each admit that we enabled this addiction. Maybe you are in denial; you don’t want to admit you have a problem. I know you are afraid; so was I. Taking my first step in actual sobriety was hard, and so was my first step in becoming a peacemaker.

Second, we will humbly seek repentance and forgiveness. This includes making amends and reparations to all those we have harmed.

Third, we will reach out to other peacemakers and get involved. We can begin our own recovery process from our addiction to war by joining a local peace group.

Fourth, we can engage our elected leaders and tell them that we will not be supporting war anymore and holding them accountable.

Fifth, we can tell our family and friends that we are in a “violence recovery program.” We will use social media and other means to carry the message of nonviolence. Hopefully, others will join us in our new freedom from addiction to war.

Finally, we will pray daily for courage to bring peace to our world, and wisdom to work smart — not growing weary in being peacemakers. We can pray to our higher power, saying, “Thy will be done, thy peace come on earth as it is in heaven.”

Fr. Paul Dordal is an active member of the Thomas Merton Center’s Anti-War Committee, Veterans for Peace, and Iraq Veterans Against the War. He served in the U.S. Army as a chaplain in Iraq (09-10), but is now committed to being a peacemaker.


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