The cost of just one Storm Shadow missile used by the RAF to bomb Libya -- at £1 million each -- would be enough to take 222 people in Britain out of poverty for a year.
By Robin Beste
Stop the War Coalition
11 October 2011
There are 2.2 million children and two million working age adults living in poverty, according to a new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
People are living below the poverty line if their household income falls below 60% of the median national income, which presently would mean a family of two adults and two children living off less than £350 a week for all their needs – housing, clothing, food etc.
What this means for children is going to school hungry in the morning, not wearing the right school uniform or dressed tattily because the family can't afford anything better, doing school homework in the evenings in a cramped home and shared bedroom – all conducive to a child falling behind at school and seriously impacting on life chances.
As the government's savage cuts in public services continue, many more people will fall into poverty. By 2013, the IFS says, there will be 3.1 million children living in poverty.
But there is a simple way to reduce by two million the number living in poverty.
The wars in Afghanistan and Libya will cost this year £7 billion, to which we can add the £2 billion a year wasted on maintaining the absurd Trident nuclear missile system, which serves no military purpose whatever.
That £9 billion is enough to take two million people out of poverty.
One glaring example of what we could do if money spent on war abroad was use to support people living in deprivation at home can be seen in the current bombing campaign in Libya, where RAF Tornado jets have been firing Storm Shadow missiles, at a cost of £1 million each.
The cost of keeping a Tornado jet in the air for just one hour is £35,000 -- enough to lift two families of four above the poverty line for a year. The one million spent on just one Storm Shadow missile is enough to take 222 people out of poverty for a year.
Added to the £5 billion being wasted on the war in Afghanistan are the huge costs in supporting the medical and psychological needs of soldiers who have been severely injured – often losing limbs or eyes – or who have been traumatised by being sent to fight in unjustified wars.
We can also add to this the cost of jailing ex-soldiers, who it is estimated are one in 10 of the prison population. There are almost as many ex-soldiers in prison as there are soldiers in Afghanistan, with 8,500 behind bars. An additional 12,000 are on probation or on parole.
The majority of veterans in the criminal justice system have chronic alcohol or drug problems, and nearly half are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as a result of their wartime experiences on active service.
It costs £45,000 a year to keep someone in prison. That means it's costing £383 million a year to lock up 8,500 ex-soldiers, in prison largely as a result of being psychologically damaged by the effects of war.
Stopping sending soldiers to fight in unjustified, immoral and futile wars, which ends with them in prison, would -- at today's figures -- enable 84,000 people to be taken out of poverty.
The logic is simple. The wars that are opposed by the majority of people in Britain should be ended, the troops should all come home now, and the vast sums this would release should be directed towards supporting the most deprived and vulnerable in our society.
But as Brian Eno wrote recently, "We're constantly being told that these are hard times and we have to tighten our belts, but as far as I can see the belts round the biggest bellies aren't tightening at all. As usual, it's the people at the bottom who suffer - both here and in Afghanistan."
And one belly above all is protected from any belt-tightening: spending on war.