BANGOR, Maine — Mainers are sending the federal government tax dollars that are being spent on war instead of right here at home where it is desperately needed, peace activist and University of Maine professor Douglas Allen said Saturday during a “bring our war dollars home” rally.
“We have been told we face this economic crisis and have to make drastic cuts” but “we have the largest military budget in the history of the United States,” he said to around 100 people who gathered for the peace rally at Paul Bunyan Park.
The U.S. is expected to spend $170 billion on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya this year, Allen said, adding that if the money were redirected it could eliminate state debts for all 50 states.
“We have plenty of money,” he said. “It’s the policies and priorities that are the problem.”
He ended his time in front of the enthusiastic crowd, many of whom held peace or other anti-war signs, by saying, “We have to bring our war dollars home. We have to invest in real human needs” in the U.S.
The rally was sponsored by regional Peace and Justice groups, Veterans for Peace groups and others from across Maine, and included musical performances.
Maryalice Horrigan, a Gold Star Mother from Dedham who lost her son, U.S. Army Master Sgt. Robert Horrigan, in Iraq on June 16, 2005, was one of the seven speakers.
Horrigan spoke about the millions and millions of dollars being spent annually on the war effort and called for an end to the killing.
Ryan Tipping-Spitz, of the Maine People’s Alliance, said the cost to Maine taxpayers for our country’s involvement in Iraq alone is staggering.
“The price tag in Iraq has risen while our programs here in Maine continue to struggle for even basic levels of funding,” he said. “Taxpayers in the state of Maine have paid $2.2 billion” since 2003.
If that money had stayed in the U.S., “we could be ensuring a safe, healthy and prosperous America at home with secure safety nets and assistance programs to any and all that need them in these uncertain times,” Tipping-Spitz said.
Saturday’s rally was held in support of a busload of Mainers who traveled to an End the Wars at Home and Abroad rally in New York, said Ilze Petersons, Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine program coordinator.
It also was to spotlight “the connections between the state’s financial crisis and the loss of federal funding as we continue spending nearly half of our discretionary budget on weapons and war,” she said.
The other speakers included Glenburn resident William Murphy, Bureau of Labor Education, University of Maine; Deer Isle resident Dud Hendrick, Veterans for Peace Chapter 001; Winterport resident Mary Ellen Quinn, Pax Christi, Maine; and Bangor resident Dennis Chinoy of Dignity Campaign.