Leslie Cockburn’s 8-Minute View of the World

Our VA-05 Democratic Party nominee for Congress Leslie Cockburn has a website that does not admit to the existence of the world, mention foreign policy, outline a basic budget, oppose or support any wars, or propose or denounce any treaties, international bodies, acts of diplomacy or aid. Her campaign has declined to answer any questions related to the 60% or so of the budget she wants to oversee that currently goes to militarism.

But she spoke publicly on Tuesday, together with Larry Wilkerson, and someone has posted video of 48 minutes from him and 8 from her. Did she really speak for only 8 minutes at an event where she was listed as one of the two speakers? Who knows. I’m told by someone who attended that she didn’t speak much (if at all) more than that, and that she left the event shortly after speaking. But we now know 8-minutes worth of information from her and her campaign and her supporters. This is the sum total of the foreign-policy knowledge on which we’re supposed to decide whether or not she should be sent to Congress. So it’s worth looking closely at these 8 minutes.

Cockburn denounced John Bolton as a “warmonger” who wants war with Iran and North Korea, strongly implying that she wants neither. She says the military budget is too big and notes that a fraction of it could make college free in the United States, implying that she wants to reduce military spending by some unstated amount and that she might want to fund free college. She does not make any concrete proposals or lay out any legislation she might introduce.

Cockburn mentions U.S. wars in Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. She speaks of the U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen as the worst disaster in the world, seeming to imply that she would end U.S. involvement and perhaps even U.S. support for Saudi Arabia. But she doesn’t say so. The one case in which she explicitly names a policy she favors is Afghanistan, where she favors either sitting down and talking or withdrawing. What she would count as sitting down and talking and how long she would support continuing it before withdrawing we can’t be sure.

Cockburn makes a number of arguments against a U.S. war on Iran, strongly implying that she’s against one. She says she favored keeping the Iran agreement. She says that Bolton needs to be “checked,” and she credits James Mattis with being more reasonable.

Cockburn closes with a highly vague and muddled comment about war or Congressional war powers. She sees the AUMF(s) as a facilitation of endless war and wants it/them “changed.” However, she cites Senator Tim Kaine as working in the right direction, despite the fact that Kaine has been trying to expand the AUMF to further facilitate presidential wars.

Cockburn says that after every war people get together and sign something that says they don’t want any more wars. She suggests three examples of this: the U.N. Charter after World War II, an unnamed document after World War I (presumably the Kellogg-Briand Pact), and an unnamed document after the war on Vietnam (she seems to mean the War Powers Act). And she suggests that all of these were somehow sort-of related to Congressional war powers.

In reality, of course, while the War Powers Act relates to Congressional war powers, the other two documents are international treaties that ban war, one with narrow loop holes, the other without. This is actually slightly important, because Senator Kaine and others have also been advancing legislation to essentially undo the War Powers Act, while rhetorically maintaining the pretense of doing the opposite, but at the same time advancing the idea that war is legal as long as it is Congressional. For Cockburn to mention the existence of the U.N. Charter and the (unnamed) Kellogg-Briand Pact would seem encouraging, except that it’s unclear whether she knows what they say.

Happy voting!

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