I am part of a local Missoula Advocacy Team - a group of concerned citizens working with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) to urge Congress to use our tax dollars for peace and prosperity instead of war.

So many people in this country are struggling for basic needs; for adequate health care, jobs and economic assistance. And yet, our military budget consumes a disproportionately large share of our tax dollars while these critical needs go underfunded.

It seems clear to us that that Congress has approved such high levels of military spending without adequate provision for oversight or analysis of their potential effectiveness. For example, our past actions and continued presence in Afghanistan and Iraq have failed to bring peace and stability to those countries.

Furthermore, recent actions by the administration have made a dangerous and costly war with Iran more likely by withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal, ending the suspension of U.N. sanctions, authorizing the assassination of a top Iranian official and vetoing the bipartisan Iran War Powers Resolution.

Congress is not without options in keeping us from war and the accompanying drain on tax dollars and resources that maintaining a large military entails. The House of Representatives recently passed its version of the Defense Spending Bill that contained two vital amendments: one forbidding war with Iran without express permission by Congress, and another repealing the 2002 Iraq Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), both of which are steps in the right direction.

While we are based in Missoula and affiliated with the FCNL, a non-partisan educational and lobbying non-profit in Washington D.C., our “Team” is comprised of a diverse set of individuals from surrounding small towns and rural areas as well as Missoula.

We have reached out to all of our congressional delegates and are grateful to Senator Tester and Representative Gianforte for being responsive and taking the time to meet with us. We plan to continue to engage in dialogues aimed at diplomacy rather than war and we welcome others from the area who want to join us (just message us via the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center).

Next month, we will honor our veterans. Many of them men and women who served in combat zones in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s make sure we truly honor them and their sacrifices and don’t put those now serving unnecessarily in harms way by using our tax dollars for more effective diplomacy and other vital needs instead of using them to perpetuate more ineffective wars and military actions around the globe.

Betsy Mulligan-Dague and the Missoula Advocacy Team