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Marshall Plan II

By Kim Knox

They say that there isn't any war there.

We say that there isn't any war there.

The League of Nations says that there isn't any war there.

But the guys getting shot at, says that it's the best imitation that they've seen yet.

Will Rogers

The chain reaction of evil hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to a recent editorial by former senator (and presidential candidate) George McGovern in the SF Chronicle (January 30, 2005), the U.S. is now spending $5 billion a month for the "conflict" in Iraq.

More than 10,000 Iraqi and more than 1,200 U.S. troops have been killed to date in the Iraqi conflict. That is not counting the men and women from other countries who joined the alliance in a war where our president ensured us the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms.

We are still waiting for that to happen.

People are dying from cholera, dysentery, and other diseases and injuries brought by the war conditions. As the sanitary services continue to fail, the number of innocent lives lost will continue to climb.

In an inspiring speech last Tuesday, former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez stated that in this fiscal year, the City and County of San Francisco has been forced to spend $120 million dollars because of indirect costs from the war effort. That sum would eliminate our anticipated deficit of $84 million this year. Multiply the amount by all of the other cities in the country, the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories and we are talking billions of dollars that could be spent on education, health, job training, and other programs.

There is one lesson that we can learn and that comes from former Colonel Harry Truman. A decorated soldier from the First World War, Truman was very mindful of the massive debt that the "victors" imposed on Germany and how it created the massive inflation that brought Hitler to power.

So he, along with retired General George Marshall, created what was later termed the Marshall Plan. The program poured money into rebuilding (and even building) roads, sanitary services, factories, and other infrastructure throughout Europe, for foes and friends alike.

An example would be Greece. After World War II, Greece was a "protectorate" of Great Britain (the Greek king was related to the British royal family). With the change of the country's leadership from Tory to Labor, Great Britain withdrew its support and Greece eventually fell under the protection of the U.S.

The U.S. first started a road-building program, putting the locals to work. Many people had fled from the countryside to Athens in search of jobs. With funds from the U.S., the Greek government continued the program, building more roads to accommodate the growing population of its capital city. U.S. also sent low-interest loans and equipment to retool factories, putting more people to work.

The key to the Marshall Plan was employment, so that economies would stabilize and people would have jobs to go to rather than planning revolutions. For the most part, it worked. The last 50 years have been the most peaceful in the greater European Union in any time in history.

There were problems. Some U.S. contractors took money from the top. The U.S. government was usually heavy-handed (some things never change) and it interfered in free elections. It was not above dismissing governments that it had trouble working with.

Truman also got a lot of flak for spending the money outright, without making loans to our former allies and enemies. Editorials were written, condemning him for taking money from the U.S. to feed hungry children in Europe while there were hungry children at home. But Truman held firmly to his commitment and his (and Marshall's) contribution helped to create the strong European Union that we see today.

George W. Bush isn't Harry Truman. But we as an electorate can demand that money spent in Iraq be spent on building the infrastructure, rather than blowing it up. It should be used to provide medicine and food to children, rather than housing prisoners. It should create construction jobs for locals, rather than giving lucrative contracts to Dick Cheney's buddies at Halliburton and Bechtel.

It worked once before to create long-lasting peace. It could work again.