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  • Published in Opinion

Nine weeks of war in Libya will cost £200 million -- the same amount the government aims to "save" by making changes to housing benefit which could force 11,000 disabled people into homelessness.

We are told by David Cameron and Nick Clegg that the financial crisis means there is no alternative to cutting benefits for the most deprived and vulnerable people in Britain.

65,500 people are facing an average weekly cut of £41 due to changes in housing benefit, which the government says will "save" in total £200 million.

The homeless charity Crisis says this could force 11,000 disabled people out of their homes. "We are deeply concerned that some of the disabled people affected by this will end up homeless, and in the worst cases rough-sleeping."

But there is an obvious alternative to the cutting of housing benefit: stop waging war in Libya.

We were told the cost of the war would be "tens of millions, not hundreds", but the government admits that over £100 million has been spent already. It is anticipated that by October over £1 billion pounds will have been spent waging war on a country which poses no threat whatever to Britain.

Now, in a clear escalation of the war, Britain has deployed four Apache attack helicopters. Each one of these costs £30 million pounds. They have already begun airstrikes firing Hellfire missiles, at a cost of £61,000 each. Seven of these were fired by the first Apache attacks on 4 June, costing in total £427,000, enough to fund for one year the planned cut in housing benefit for almost all of those 11,000 disabled people threatened with losing their homes.

This cost of the latest Hellfire missiles is in addition to the dozens of Tomahawk missiles ( £500,000 each) and Storm Shadow missiles ( £800,000 each) which have been fired in the past three months. These are fired from Tornado jets, which cost £35,000 an hour to keep in the air, or Typhoon jets, costing £70,000 an hour.

The cost of one Tomahawk missile would protect the housing benefit of 234 disabled people for a year. One Storm Shadow missile would fund another 375 people.

It is costing over £2 million a week to station Britain's warships and submarines in the Mediterranean. In total, Britain is spending £3 million a day on the war in Libya. Which means that in the next nine weeks the war will cost the £200 million the government says it has to cut through changes to housing benefit.

The logic is simple. Cut war not welfare.

The war on Libya is Britain's third against a Muslim country in the past ten years. It is opposed by the majority of the British public, and it is no more justifiable than were the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. However dressed up Nato's war may be as a "humanitarian intervention" to "protect the Libyan people", it is in truth a conventional act of imperialism, aimed at controlling Libya's oil industry and re-asserting western domination of the region, following the Arab Spring uprisings which swept away tyrants and despots supported by the US and its allies for decades.

As with the Afghan and Iraqi people, the cost will be high for Libyans, both in lives and destruction of the country.

And it will be high also for James, who is autistic, has mobility difficulties and a number of disabling medical conditions. He faces a £42 a week cut to his housing benefit, and says,: "I think it's going to be horrific. I just won't have the money to stay where I am."

The cost of just one Hellfire missile fired from an Apache helicopter in Libya would be enough to prevent the cut to James's housing benefit for the next 27 years.

From Stop the War Coalition

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