Four Antiwar Congress Members — Maybe

Ayanna Pressley just won a Democratic Primary in a Democratic Congressional District in Massachusetts.

While most candidates for Congress have websites completely devoid of any mention of foreign policy whatsoever, Pressley has one with a substantive position on foreign policy.

“Foreign Policy
“My approach to foreign policy is grounded in the same values that inform my domestic priorities – empathy, inclusiveness, and a belief that the solutions to our most important challenges should be informed by the people most impacted. The people closest to the pain, should be closest to the power, driving and informing the policy making.
“When it comes to foreign policy, my goals are to:

  • Focus on a people-centered approach to global affairs. America must serve as an example, by lifting up the voices and experiences of different communities – especially women and girls – as part of the development of foreign policy.
  • Re-establish America as a compassionate leader in the international community. America has a critical role to play as an international leader, and it is unconscionable that the Trump Administration has chosen antagonism and isolation. We must be committed to using our economic and political strength to globally affiirm human rights and democratic values.
  • Prioritize diplomacy and promote peace. I believe it is imperative that we reframe our approach to international affairs to promote foreign aid and strategies that will prevent conflict in the long-term, rather than relying on military might.”

Pretty vague, but it gets better:

“Military Spending
“The United States spends more on its military than the next seven countries with the largest military budgets combined, and over the last 21 months Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress have increased military spending by more than $200 billion dollars. The administration’s policy to significantly increase military spending while pushing forward massive tax cuts will have a devastating impact on America’s ability to fund domestic priorities like healthcare, infrastructure, education, and housing. In Congress, I will:

  • Support cutting the US defense budget by 25 percent, resulting in nearly $180 billion in savings that could be used to better support our domestic priorities.
  • Prioritize spending on updated training protocols and equipment, including investments in a hardened election and cyber defense system, and expanded intelligence and information sharing capabilities with our allies.
  • Advocate for greater oversight and accountability of how defense funding is distributed across the military and in active conflict zones.
  • Significantly increase our spending on foreign aid, with a particular emphasis on programs that benefit women and girls, who are essential to the health of communities around the world. Increasing foreign aid will not only benefit the international community, but help ensure the long-term security of the United States.”

This is almost unheard of. I’m not aware of a single other candidate for Congress who has named a percentage by which they would cut military spending. It seems absolutely essential and unavoidable, but is almost always avoided.

“Iran
“The Iran Nuclear Deal – the JCPOA – represented a significant step towards understanding and limiting Iran’s nuclear program. The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from it is a reckless and short-sighted approach to foreign policy. By pulling out of the deal, the administration threatens to upend critical relationships with key US allies in Europe, endanger prospects for stability of the Middle East, and open the door for Iran to restart its nuclear weapons program. In Congress, I would advocate for re-starting the JCPOA, while remaining committed to holding Iran accountable for other bad actions carried out by the regime.”

This is typical poorly informed nonsense that blindly accepts the notion that Iran had a nuclear weapons program. But it arrives at the better of the two choices generally understood to be available.

“North Korea
“Any potential avenue to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula is a welcome opportunity, especially if it leads to meaningful progress. However, Donald Trump has demonstrated time and again that he is erratic and unfit for office, so Congress and the American people should hold him accountable when it comes to his actions towards North Korea. So far, the President’s efforts seem to have yielded little in the way of positive progress, while serving to elevate a dictator who undermines the rights of his own people. The President should not be embracing North Korean leadership while turning a blind eye to human rights violations that deny basic liberties, punish dissent, and commit gross abuses on women and children.”

Again, this is typical partisan blather. She’s for peace unless Trump is involved or a dictator is involved, in which case war doesn’t look so bad.

“NATO
“NATO has been essential to collective peace and stability since its creation in the wake of World War II, yet Donald Trump has been openly hostile towards the alliance – recklessly endangering our relationships with allies, particularly in light of renewed Russian aggression. While all member nations should pay their fair share to support NATO, President Trump has repeatedly distorted the facts, needlessly antagonizing our allies. I believe we should reaffirm our commitment to engaging and supporting strategic alliances with our closest allies, and I believe the president should be required to receive Congressional approval prior to withdrawing from NATO or similar, long-standing alliances.”

This is tragically misguided bullshit. “Russian aggression”? “NATO for peace”! Complete insanity.

“Russia
“Russia represents a significant threat to national security and international stability. As an adversary, the country has interfered in our elections and allowing them to go uncheck is a threat to liberal democracy. American intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that Russia worked intentionally to influence the 2016 election. Russia has acted aggressively and undemocratically internally and in its sphere of influence, including the annexation of Crimea. We must hold Russia accountable for their action rather than promoting their disrespect to our country’s sovereignty. Trump should be standing with our intelligence agencies and our European allies against Putin’s aggression. In Congress, I will support increased funding to harden our election system, like the Secure Elections Act, and impose economic sanctions on Russia to prevent future attacks.”

This is familiar and frustratingly old and dangerous lying. It links to a report from handpicked members of three agencies out of 18, and those three did not all sign on with “confidence” in the swill being lapped up.

“War & Congressional Oversight
“I believe our involvement in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan – like Vietnam before them – have taught us devastating lessons about the commitment of American military resources without sufficient forethought, planning, or international support. Thousands of lost and wounded American service members, and civilians tell the story of the consequences of our decisions to go to war. I would strongly support any efforts to quickly end U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. It’s time to end the wars and the monetary incentives that perpetuate them.

“I also think it is essential to engage our international partners before making any long-term decision about our approach to conflict overseas. Unilateral U.S. military support should only be used as a last resort to defend the nation. It is important that Congress have significant oversight of U.S. involvement in international conflicts; I would support repealing the 2001 AUMF that gave the Executive wide ranging authority to commit military resources in the War on Terror, and I believe that Congress must have final approval on any commitment of US military resources overseas.”

The rhetoric is again delusional: a war can work if properly planned and internationalized. But the decisions are the right ones. She names three of the current U.S. wars as ones she wants to end. That’s extremely rare.

“Global Environment & Climate Change
“Climate change is clearly a matter of national security. Despite the current administration’s attempts to say otherwise, scientists around the world agree that the earth is getting warmer, sea levels are rising, weather patterns are changing, and our countries are becoming increasingly susceptible to flooding and natural disasters. Responding appropriately to the threat of climate change will require partnership with the international community – like that enshrined by the Paris Climate Accords. In Congress, I will push for America to rejoin the accords and reverse our currently policy of withdrawing from the international community on issues of climate change, while simultaneously advocating for domestic policies that will decrease our carbon footprint.”

Got that one right, as far as it goes.

“Israel/Palestine
“I have dedicated my life to working on issues of violence and trauma, and it is that experience that informs my approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Far too many Israelis and Palestinians have been, and continue to be, victimized by the ongoing conflict, and it is incumbent on the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, the United States, and the international community to work towards a resolution that ends the suffering, violence, and hostility. I steadfastly support a two-state solution that will safeguard Israel’s future as a Jewish and Democratic state, and establish a sovereign and independent Palestinian While there is no perfect plan to solve this enormously complex conflict and address the many legitimate historic and moral claims of both Israelis and Palestinians, a two-state solution is the only resolution that recognizes the right of all people to self-determination, and ensures a peaceful future where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side with mutual dignity, respect, and recognition.

“Historically, the United States has played a critical role in advancing engagement between Israeli and Palestinian leadership, and working to ease tensions in the region. It remains vital for the United States, along with the broader international community, to continue to bring both parties to the negotiating table. We must avoid efforts to unilaterally blame and deny legitimacy to either side, and should instead work towards building a just solution that recognizes the trauma suffered by both populations. We should hold both Israelis and Palestinians accountable when they take actions in bad faith that cause each other harm, and should encourage actions that build trust and demonstrate a real willingness to make peace. I do not support BDS as a means to achieve a two-state solution because I believe it does not acknowledge the efforts of those on the ground who are deeply committed to bringing peaceful coexistence to the region, and pushes Israelis and Palestinians farther away from the meaningful engagement and dialogue needed to empathize with each other’s struggle and acknowledge each other’s humanity. At the same time, I believe that others should be free to advocate it and that their 1st amendment rights should be respected.”

This is nuts. A Democratic Israel? Two states? The United States as a force for good? Sorry, but this crap sounds exactly as bad whether a white male or a black female says it.

That being said, the willingness to cut 1/4 of U.S. militay spending and redirect it to useful purposes outweighs everything else.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may have turned a lot of stomachs when she praised John McCain so very grotesquely. But when she tells TV news readers that she’ll pay for human needs by cutting the military, she upends their whole debate framework.

Rashida Tlaib has nothing about war or peace on her website. And she’s going to be elected to the seat held by Congressman John Conyers, famous for giving speeches for things like impeaching George W. Bush while telling reporters and colleagues that impeaching Bush needed to be avoided. So, take statements for what they’re worth (very little until followed by action). But action rarely follows silence, and Tlaib just said this:

“I don’t support military operations. If you go to the Department of Defense website, every day, Monday through Friday, there is an area called ‘contracts.’ Go there. You want to pay for college? Medicare for All? Pay to take care of Americans dying from famine to basic human rights abuses? Look at those contracts. I’m floored at how much money [they’re spending].”

When asked “Do you want to divert the DOD budget into social services?” Tlaib replied:
“Yes. We can build safer and more vibrant communities. I am tired of the earmarks for corporations. They aren’t going to Americans. They’re going to private companies. Not only have we made prisons into private corporations, wars are a for-profit industry. The [DoD is] a cesspool for corporations to make money.”

Those in the pay or hoping to be in the pay of the war profiteers don’t talk like this. This is socialism with seriousness, not the nonsense shell game where you claim you’ll provide decent services but refuse to mention the place where all the money is. (I’m looking at you, Senator Sanders.)

Congress members do not talk like Rashida Tlaib, or Ilhan Omar, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,  or Ayanna Pressley. Omar’s predecessor never talked this way. Even John Conyers never talked this way, with or without meaning it. Yet these four women are very likely to be in Congress, and if they at all act on their better professed positions, we need to demand that their colleagues join them.

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