Bringing War Home

When we talk about war tax resistance and why we do it, we tend to focus on the Pentagon and its warmongering abroad.

Recently I was doing research for the back of the WRL pie chart and the true horror of weapons of war-come-home really hit me. Doesn’t this picture say it all? The police department in a little Florida town (pop. 5,350) is equipped with an 18-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, designed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military doesn’t know what to do with its war surplus (how about beating them into plowshares?) so lucky us!

This largesse is in part thanks to the Department of Homeland Security, a “second defense department,” and just as wasteful as the first one. DHS has been handing out grants from their budget (= tax dollars) over the last decade, so that your city, town, county, state, and campus (see Ohio State’s MRAP) can purchase weapons of war at a shockingly low price (at least initially; an MRAP gets 5 miles to the gallon and is too heavy for most U.S. roads besides).

Customs and Border Protection (CPB) is an agency of DHS also. They operate the largest law enforcement agency in the U.S. and have plenty of military equipment, including 10 drones patrolling the borders at a cost of about $3,200 per hour plus about an hour of maintenance for each hour of flight. But it’s not just the equipment. This radio podcast “Secrecy at the Border” tells the real life stories of innocent people stopped at the border and the brick wall that met efforts for an explanation from DHS.

The militarization of the police is not a new topic. The drug war landed in low income communities a long time ago, but the creation in 2003 of the Department of Homeland Security has ramped up access to all manner of military equipment and trainings for an “enemy” that could be your neighbor or you at your next protest. Most of the budget for the Department of Homeland Security is included in the “current military” slice of the WRL pie chart.

There’s tons of information on the internet about the militarization of the police — and the more you read the scarier it gets. There’s tons of opposition and action to oppose it also. Those of us who refuse to pay for war have 18-tons of reasons to be better allies to those who have been fighting the wars at home.

 —Ruth Benn