The One Thing We Can Agree on Is Peace

By David Swanson

Anna Janek is a Republican candidate for Congress from West Bloomfield, Mich. She says: “Socialism, Communism, Welfare-ism, Globalism, Fascism, Obama-ism…it’s all the same: State control of the Human Spirit under the guise of benevolence.”

Marcy Winograd is a Democratic candidate for Congress from Los Angeles, Calif. She promises to “establish a new federal agency to employ millions of Americans building rapid transit and repairing bridges, ports, water treatment plants and other infrastructure.”

What could Janek and Winograd possibly agree on?

Winograd on healthcare, says: “We need Medicare for All – or a single-payer system that pays doctors, nurses, and other health care providers from a single fund.”

Nick Coons, a Libertarian candidate for Congress from Tempe, Ariz., disagrees: “Wherever government is most involved, we see skyrocketing prices and decreased quality. Years ago, our free-market health care system was the envy of the world . . . government involvement was nowhere to be found.”

Dan La Botz, a Socialist candidate for the U.S. Senate from Ohio, might not go along with that. According to him, “The capitalist economy of the United States, dominated by the big banks and multinational corporations, fosters growing disparities between rich and poor, encourages social inequalities such as racism, exploits workers and neglects and abuses the poor.”

What could all of these candidates for federal office possibly have in common?

They all oppose spending another dime on maintaining, or escalating, our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In fact, 63 congressional candidates and 23 activist organizations have signed a statement at opposing any more funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and inviting more candidates, incumbents, and organizations to join them. The 63 candidates, from 25 different states, include 21 Greens, 19 Democrats, 18 Libertarians, 2 Independents, 1 Republican, 1 Socialist, and 1 Peace and Freedom Party member (and more may be added to the website by the time you read this). Fifty-three are candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, and 10 for the Senate.

They do not all agree with each other on many topics, including their reasons for opposing war spending. But they all back this short statement:

“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost Americans over $1 trillion in direct costs, and over $3 trillion altogether. At a time when our national debt exceeds $13 trillion, we can no longer afford these wars. It’s time for Congress to reject any funding except to bring all our troops safely home.”

Some of the candidates who support this statement do so because they hate spending money, others because they hate killing people, others because they want to constrain government power, others because they realize the wars are making Americans less safe, and still others because they actually wish to comply with the law. Even that last category includes those who respect the UN Charter and those who view the UN Charter as illegitimate but believe the US Constitution forbids such wars. Some of the members of this Coalition Against War Spending want to defund wars in order to invest in jobs or education or renewable energy. Some of them want to cut taxes. Others want to reduce the deficit. Many of these divergent policies grow out of the same basic concerns for human well-being, and they re-converge on the widespread agreement that these wars should no longer be funded.

I don’t mean to suggest a moral equivalence between all of these different perspectives. I think socialism will save us, and libertarianism will quickly destroy the world. My point is that someone with a virulently opposed perspective, someone who considers what I just wrote to be satanic or treasonous or, worse, liberal, will more likely than not agree with me on opposing any more war funding for the current wars.

After all, a majority of Americans tell pollsters they think the war in Afghanistan is not worth waging. As Congress votes on funding to escalate it, there ought to be a few candidates for elected office who agree with the majority of the people on something this central to safety, foreign relations, energy policy, and the public budget.

But you’d never know a majority of Americans opposed these wars from the way they’re discussed on television or from the way they’re hardly mentioned at all by members of Congress. Since announcing this new coalition a couple of days ago, I’ve been on lots of progressive radio shows but not heard any interest from the major media cartel.

The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up a bill Thursday evening that would dump $33.5 billion into escalating the war in Afghanistan. The committee is chaired by Congressman David Obey who maintains that he passionately opposes the wars, and passionately opposes the funding of them outside the normal budget using so-called “emergency” supplemental bills year after year. Obey will bring the bill up for a vote in committee and maintain that he is powerless to do otherwise. But what does he think would be done to him if he refused to bring it up? Waterboarding? Loss of citizenship? A drone attack? An electoral challenge, when he’s retiring this year? I think the accurate answer is probably closer to this: a few disappointed words from Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel, and Barack Obama.

Dozens of congress members claim to be “opponents” and “critics” of the wars. But almost none of them are publicly expressing their opposition to the war escalation funding. Almost none of them have written “Dear Colleague” letters, released press statements, or asked people to lobby their colleagues. None of them have signed onto the statement agreed to by 63 challengers. If the Republicans vote yes, because reckless spending for education and things that don’t kill anyone is left out of the bill, then some Democrats will vote No when the bill reaches the floor after Memorial Day. But few if any of them will spend the next week in their districts speaking out against it.

And what will that majority of us who oppose the wars do, while our congress members are home for a week? Some of us may be willing to nudge them a little, unless they belong to whichever of the two parties we have sworn our loyalty to. In that case, we will preface our protests by assuring them that we will help them get reelected no matter what they do. I think this is a moment in which to reconsider that position. Because these wars make us less safe and in fact gravely endanger our country, because these wars siphon off all the resources we need so that teachers will be laid off in all of our schools, because preventing the ongoing mass murder that is war must be a top priority, I would urge you to connect with the campaigns of candidates in your district and around the country who have committed to not voting another dime. Yes, we have a winner-take-all system, and a challenger can become a spoiler, leading to the election of somebody even worse than what you’ve got now. But they cannot be much worse, that’s no longer possible. And only by using the leverage of threatening to throw them out can we compel incumbents to represent us.

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