S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Of swords and plowshares

If the 2008 presidential election goes as many of us would prefer the power and influence of the military will be rebalanced with the forces of peace by the next U.S. President. Even though the military currently inspires more respect than other institutions, according to a recent leadership survey, it is not always the armed forces that need to be taking care of our most urgent non-military matters.

"Swords to plowshares,"at Wikipedia refers to the phrase's biblical origins. The Free Dictionary defines the title of this post as an idiom that refers to, quote:

"beat/turn swords into ploughshares(formal)

to stop preparing for war and to start using the money you previously spent on weapons to improve people's lives.
" It would have been unrealistic to expect a country like the United States to turn swords into ploughshares the moment the Cold War ended."

During the current administration the nation became acclimated to the military taking care of us, particularly during domestic disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. It is no accident that NOLA hero, Admiral Thad W. Allen, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, was recently chosen as one of our most admired leaders. He is very deserving of the honor. If memory serves me, he was the man who demanded that guns be put away as he walked down the soggy New Orleans streets upon his arrival there. Interestingly enough the U.S. Coast Guard had dual missions. The service is part of the military as well as having a major civilian law enforcement role and rescue along our coasts.

Controversy has raged for the past few months over the current administration's blurring of military and civilian functions. Military intelligence gobbles up a huge portion of the national intelligence budget. The CIA was tasked with torture duties because they were not bound by the same strictures as the military. The head of the CIA wears a uniform. It was proposed at one point that U.S. military spy satellites be trained on our own citizens. The State Department turned most of its work over to the military in Iraq.

The military-industrial complex is ubiquitous. I have often posted about the issue here at S/SW. But the idea does have a lighter side. National Guard soldiers eventually get back to their civilian jobs, if they live long enough. Generals retire and find their voices in order to speak out about the wrongs.

The perfect metaphor for turning swords into plowshares -- "Missile base on sale as ideal home," trumpets this BBC News September headline. To quote:

A former US intercontinental ballistic missile base - with a network of underground tunnels and silos, but no nuclear warheads - is on sale on eBay for $1.5m (£750,000, 1.06m euros).

Located in a remote corner of Washington state and still ringed by its original barbed-wire-topped fence, the 56-acre site is being marketed as a "gorgeous" property and potential resort.

Bari Hotchkiss bought the former base 10 years ago from owners who obtained the property in the 1970s, after the US government deemed obsolete the Titan missiles it was built to launch.

A number of other former US missile bases are also on the market. The website describes the buildings as "castles of the 20th century". Designed to withstand nuclear attack, these unique properties "bring new meaning to the word 'shelter'," it says.

And we can be very thankful that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is civilian run in the pursuit of the peaceful and international use of space.Take a minute to send the astronauts your holiday good wishes: NASA - NASA Invites Public send personal greetings to the crew of the International Space Station. I quote their news release:

News Releases

Katherine Trinidad
Headquarters, Washington

Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters
Johnson Space Center, Houston

Dec. 13, 2007
NASA Invites Public to Send Holiday Greetings to Space Station
HOUSTON - Many people will travel for the holidays, but no one will be farther from home than the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. With that in mind, NASA invites the public to send personal holiday greetings to the orbiting crew.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, the first female to command the station, and her crewmates are circling Earth at 17,500 mph, orbiting 16 times each day. Whitson and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko, a Russian cosmonaut, have been on the station since Oct. 12. Flight Engineer Dan Tani, a U.S. astronaut, joined them Oct. 25. Together, they make up the 16th resident crew of the orbiting outpost.

The crew members share their thoughts about the holidays and provide a peek at some of their orbital decorations in a special video message airing on NASA Television beginning at 1 p.m. CST Friday and available on the NASA Web site. The crew will have some off-duty time for the holidays and share a special meal. On Dec. 26, a Russian Progress cargo ship will arrive with a special holiday delivery, including fresh food, supplies and gifts.

To send a personalized message to the crew, visit:

Once your message is submitted, visitors also may select a NASA-themed e-postcard to send to a friend. For more about the Expedition 16 mission and crew, visit:

For NASA TV streaming video, scheduling and downlink information, visit:

My reference links:

  1. "A DOE Program Is Turning Swords Into Plowshares" (8/21/00) Re: Russia
  2. "China and the United States Turn Swords into Plowshares in Africa" (1/31/07)
  3. THE FIN PROJECT: FROM SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES - A Sculpture by John T. Young. (Seattle, Washington, 1998; Miami, Florida, 2002)

View my current slide show about the Bush years, "Millennium," at the bottom of this column.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today at Making Good Mondays is about homeless veterans.

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