This morning I was invited by some colleagues to join the March for the Alternative on Saturday. It is a TUC (Trades Union Congress) initiative against the UK government’s response to tackling the financial deficit faced by the country; extreme cuts at the cost of services and jobs. The rights and wrongs of this I do not want to discuss, as views differ so widely.
Whilst thinking about this I was also listening to the radio. The BBC presenter was interviewing a defence analyst about the recent involvement in Libya. He was asked about how much the military intervention costs. Apparently, the planes used on the first bombing raid, launched from an RAF base in Norfolk, cost in the region of £35,000 per plane per hour in the air. The round trip to Libya takes about six hours, which makes a total in the region of £200k per plane. I do not know how many aircraft were involved, but I seem to remember it was three.
I pondered the number of libraries we have under threat of closure and began balancing planes, bombs and books in my head. The interview, however, was still going on. “But that doesn’t include the bombs” the analyst added. So how much does a Tomahawk Cruise missile cost? He continued “Somewhere in the region of £750k each and possibly up to £1.1m”. I do remember that on day one of the ‘conflict’ 104 missiles were launched. Anyone with a minimal mathematical knowledge could reckon that a total expenditure of £100m would not be out of the question. I became aware that I was standing with my mouth open. I was no longer balancing books, but thinking about global debt, world poverty and equality. The perennial problem for societies – the cost of war.
This figure was day one in Libya and I know the cost was split between the UK, France and the USA. Today is day five, are we now talking about half a billion pounds, possibly! And yes, Germany, Denmark and Yemen and involved, too. What I wonder have the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan cost in hard currency alone, not even thinking about the human tragedy. It is mind-boggling and scary and makes me wonder about financial insecurity and global recession. Money going up in smoke – I cannot think of a more pertinent use of language. Should we still be blaming bankers and the financial institutions for their misdemeanours, or perhaps question our western governments about their military expenditure.
I did a bit of research “The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated the cost of prosecuting a war against Iraq at up to $9 billion per month, on top of an initial outlay of up to $13 billion for the deployment of troops to the Persian Gulf region” Is that the cost to US or to the allies? Either way it works out at over $100 billion a year. That’s a lot of money!
So if I choose to March for the Alternative on Saturday, I will do so not just as a statement against cuts but also to ask our government to think about how it allocated the money it is spending – much of which goes up in smoke.
Local and global poverty is a major equality issue and is perhaps about balancing choices. No-one chooses poverty, but those who make decisions about going to war will probably not see the financial impact on their lives.