Virginia’s Fifth District: Hold Your Nose and Stay Home

Democratic candidates for Congress Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez all say Americans should have higher living standards, closer to those in other wealthy countries, including guaranteed Medicare for All, better schools, etc. Leslie Cockburn, the Democratic nominee here in Virginia’s Fifth, says the same. But there’s a huge difference. Cockburn doesn’t so much as hint at how she would pay for anything.

Each of those other three candidates proposes to move money from military spending to human and environmental needs. Cockburn has never directly acknowledged that military spending exists, despite the fact that it makes up 60% of the money she hopes to vote on each year in Congress. Cockburn is running for Congress with no hint on her website at what she’d like the federal budget to look like. Is 60% of discretionary spending for militarism too much or too little or just perfect? Who knows! Does she want more wars, fewer wars, diplomacy, joining onto human rights treaties, nuclear holocaust? Does she know that 96% of humanity even exists? Is she aware that the U.S. Congress votes on and funds whatever foreign policy the United States has? Who knows!

One percent of U.S. military spending could end the lack of clean drinking water on earth, three percent could end starvation, 10 percent could make public college free in the United States, 20 percent could tackle climate change in a way no environmentalist groups in the United States have ever even dreamed of. These tradeoffs are nowhere to be found in Cockburn’s agenda. The City of Charlottesville has passed numerous resolutions urging Congress to move money from militarism to human and environmental needs, but — as far as I know — never asked candidates for Congress to indicate their positions. Neither of course has any corporate media outlet.

Of course, Cockburn has always indicated some awareness that the military exists by trumpeting her support for veterans. On Thursday she sent out a fundraising email expressing her support for Obamacare on the grounds that undoing it would hurt veterans. It would, needless to say, have the identical effects on non-veterans, but Cockburn does not expect you to care about them. She writes, in bold font: “When Donald Trump tries to destroy the ACA and play politics with our health system, he’s attacking the men and women who defend our freedom.” Here Cockburn comes out against doing things people might support as “playing politics.” And she claims that wars “defend our freedom,” a completely ridiculous piece of war propaganda.

Cockburn’s website still has no general view of the federal budget and no general position on foreign policy. But she did add a statement on Israel, which includes one on Iran, as if an Iran policy were a subcategory of an Israeli policy. No other nation’s existence is acknowledged. Here’s what she says about Israel:

“The intelligence agencies and military establishments of both countries are profoundly intertwined. As a member of Congress, I will respect that relationship and do everything in my power to encourage its most productive and creative use to promote peace in the region and a two-state solution. The United States Congress is committed to supporting Israel’s security both militarily and financially.”

She goes on to list the usual positions: support for the Iran agreement and diplomacy, even while funneling billions of dollars worth of free weapons to Israel and pretending that the results are not disastrous.

In contrast to anything you can find on Cockburn’s website or in her campaign materials, and in contrast to the “defend our freedom” nonsense noted above, there’s the 8 minutes she spoke at an event in June.

Cockburn denounced John Bolton as a “warmonger” who wants war with Iran and North Korea, strongly implying that she wants neither. She said the military budget is too big and noted 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.

In the same 8-minute video, 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.

In the 8-minute video, 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.

Yet she refuses to state any of these positions straightforwardly or on her website. Are we supposed to imagine that what she will only mention at a small event that she departed after 8 minutes, she will actually act on if elected? I don’t believe it. And I will not support her unless she gets a foreign policy and puts it on her website.

Yes, I am aware both that the sky is blue and that she is running against a Republican. That Republican has a foreign policy on his website. It’s 113 words and just says he likes war. He has another 191 words on Israel that mostly echo Cockburn, although he slanders Iran more and supports putting the U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem.

Don’t vote for that idiot. But don’t vote for his Democratic opponent either, unless she can do better than what she’s done so far.

2 thoughts on “Virginia’s Fifth District: Hold Your Nose and Stay Home”

  1. David,
    I must respectfully and strongly disagree with you here. Not voting for the Democratic candidate, as potentially flawed as she may be, could lead to the far, far worse Republican being elected and that in turn putting us being even further behind in our goal of reducing the military. Most Dem’s are at least open to reducing the military in favor of more domestic spending; with enough pressure many, if not most, will come around. Republicans are hopelessly lost and beyond any hope. The comparison is not even close. I really think you should reconsider your thinking in this regard. Sincerely,

    1. Thanks — you don’t really imagine I’ve lived over a week — in fact a whole life — in this country and not heard this? It is simply untrue of Democrats in general, and it sees differences as mattering enought that do not. This is no moment for fooling around, but is one for taking a risk to achieve a level of change that might make survival possible.

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