While the planet grows warmer and its climate more deadly, we’re adding to Earth’s refugee crisis by building and transporting more bloodshed.
It’s time to talk about women’s economics with attitude. It’s time to laugh at what is often absurd and call out what is dangerous. By focusing on voices not typically part of mainstream man-to-man economic discourse, Women Unscrewing Screwnomics will bring you news of hopeful and practical changes and celebrate an economy waged as life—not as war.
The last letter of the Greek alphabet, Omega, meaning the end, is also widely known as the symbol for war. Though the Greeks destroyed Troy more than 3,000 years ago, today you’ll find the symbol as part of the name, logo or trademark of scores of tough, masculinist inventions. Look for it in video games like God of War, novels like Heroes of Olympus, the DC comic series Darkseid, Las Vegas’s Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart art experience, or the Omega Charge Management System for electric fleet vehicles.
The symbol appears on the mission patch for the STS-135 mission of the Space Shuttle, and names numerous theories and objects in physics, mathematics, and computer science. Its spirit is embodied in that unforgettable professional wrestler, Kenny Omega.
In case you’ve missed the connections between real men and war, now we have a song, written by male musicians celebrating Ukraine President Zelensky’s balls of iron. Meanwhile, President Biden and high American officials are visibly joining forces with the invaded Ukrainians—not with boots on the ground filled by men with or without balls of iron, but with billions in deadly armaments intended to kill Russians.
Julie Coleman at Business Insider reports the Pentagon has already pledged more than $4 billion just in heavy artillery, while Biden proposed a new late-April aid package that includes $20.4 billion for military aid for Ukraine and NATO allies. That’s on top of the $800 million in weapons and supplies we sent in early April. He promises more, saying the U.S. has the capacity to do so “for a long time.” Take that, bare-chested bare-back-riding Putin.
Promised and delivered armaments have names straight out of a video game: Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, Javelin anti-tank weapons, Switchblade and Kamikazi drones, and other anti-armor systems kept secret—along with Humvees, howitzers, helicopters and 50 million rounds of ammunition, $165 million worth according to Reuters.
That the Pentagon has a revolving golden door linking U.S. Defense Department officials with the arms industry is an old story a Republican president once warned us about. Just as familiar is our two political parties being completely at odds over voter rights, healthcare/reproductive rights and renewable energy—while remaining remarkably bipartisan on the issue of Pentagon spending, a lucrative export business for companies like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.
Last term, even before Ukraine was invaded, Congress outdid itself, upping the ante on Biden’s proposed $753 billion for defense and national security. Thinking that too dinky, Congress increased that to $782 billion. Meanwhile, student loan forgiveness and affordable healthcare remained out of reach for our national budget.
As Sarah Lazar put it in a recent In These Times article, when the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act set the military budget, the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) literally “gushed”—Lazar’s word—reassurances to corporate share-holders in patriotic-sounding war-speak: “The bipartisan votes demonstrate that national defense and support for our service members remain unifying values.” (Unifying values is our cue to salute.) But if NDIA has values, they’re in the goldmine of publicly funded weapons’ supply, points out Lazar.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would agree. In a recent meeting of scores of organizations, many of them peace organizations headed by women like CodePink, WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions), MADRE and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Warren warned activists to be prepared for the defense industry’s arguments about inflation—or in her words, “the time-honored tradition of price-gouging.”
She pointed out that last year the U.S. spent seven and a half times more on Pentagon nukes than we have on global vaccines to curb COVID. The latest defense package calls for $50.9 billion in nuclear weapons, while big defense contractors who profit from their sales have spent $15.5 billion on stock buybacks, according to Warren. Once outlawed, stock buybacks make companies look more valuable for investors than they are—and your bank, your insurance company, your pension, may well be putting your money there, increasing what you’re already risking with your taxes.
Investing in weapons is like trusting in a house of cards, overdue for a universal collapse and destruction that seldom makes headlines, namely the cost of a weapons industry ducking responsibility for damages it creates along with big money. We see the pictures of Ukraine daily now, its fertile food-producing fields and its forests blown up and poisoned—too similar to the pictures of Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, where burn pits and toxic dust and lethal water have led to veterans’ illness and civilian cancers and birth defects.
While the planet grows warmer and its climate more deadly, we’re adding to Earth’s refugee crisis by building and transporting more bloodshed. The U.S. Defense Department is the world’s single largest institutional consumer of oil, according to Brown University’s Costs of War project, which makes DoD the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter. DoD’s own Climate Risk Analysis predicts dire environmental results, analyzed for problems it creates for war-waging.
Frontline’s recent series on big oil makes abysmally clear that performative B.S. is a honed manly skill more widely displayed than in wrestling rings and the Pentagon. Another path of research and development at ExxonMobil underway forty years ago would have made the U.S. a world leader in alternative energy but was regularly dismissed by senior VP for Research and Engineering, Lee Raymond. Why? Because making money with oil was slicker and easier. (Watch the PBS series and hear him for yourself.)
At the moment none of this can matter to the people of Ukraine who are fighting for their lives. President Zelensky does show us what a real leader can be, standing with his people to meet a responsibility to keep them safe. By contrast, you could say the salesmen of the Pentagon, NDIA and big oil, making deals at country clubs like the former president, have golf balls below their fat bellies. You could even say love of money trumps love of country whenever a bro-mance fantasy of greatness by means of war feeds an economy waged as war—a mindset never more visible than now.
While the military industrial complex has been around since Eisenhower, until now its apex was reached by the former administration, which also emptied out girly diplomats at the secretary of state’s office. Money spent there might have prevented this fiasco, along with substantive negotiations and peace incentives with Russia, Ukraine, and NATO. Teaching non-violent resistance might have helped and could still be useful here in the U.S.
But diplomats are out of style in Washington these days, and real men, including Marjorie Taylor Green, are busy at work bluffing their way with a masculinist illusion that tough talk and iron balls on the brain will win—but to what Omega end exactly?