Newly popular Democratic politician hero and nominee for a seat in the U.S. Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used to have these words on her website:
“A Peace Economy
“Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States has entangled itself in war and occupation throughout the Middle East and North Africa. As of 2018, we are currently involved in military action in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. According to the Constitution, the right to declare war belongs to the Legislative body, not the President. Yet, most of these acts of aggression have never once been voted on by Congress. Alex believes that we must end the forever war by bringing our troops home and ending the air strikes and bombings that perpetuate the cycle of terrorism and occupation throughout the world.”
Now they’re gone. Asked about it on Twitter, she replied:
“Hey! Looking into this. Nothing malicious! Site is supporter-run so things happen -we’ll get to the bottom of it.”
A lot of people have been publicly encouraging her to proceed with getting to the bottom of it. One person has even designed a logo for her to use with the above text to match the logos she’s used with other “Issues” sections of her website. Tech-pro volunteers stand ready to help with the task of re-adding the words to the website at a moment’s notice.
Why does this matter? It’s just five pretty vague, non-committal sentences. It gives no indication even within, say, $300 billion what the nominee would like where in the federal budget, what steps she might take to end which wars, or what wars, if any, she considers impeachable offenses, or what initiatives she might undertake to advance peace, diplomacy, the rule of law, or conversion to a peace economy. What’s the big deal?
For one thing, the bar is very low in these matters. I’m not aware of a single candidate for Congress who has so much as hinted at what the federal budget should look like or even been asked to do so. I searched Democratic Congressional campaign websites and found a grand total of eight that mentioned any sort of opposition to war at all. (Most don’t even mention the existence of foreign policy.) Of those eight statements, Ocasio-Cortez’s five sentences are (were) in some ways the strongest. She lists major current wars. She calls them acts of aggression. She says she wants to end the forever war, strongly implying that she wants to end each of the wars she named and any others like them. She says she wants to end bombings, not just troop deployment. And she notes that the bombings are counterproductive on their own terms.
While the obviousness with which these wars are in fact acts of aggression is staggering, it is not possible to hire a political consultant in the United States who would advise you to leave that on your website. Acts of aggression are indisputably illegal, as well as being something that very serious people only accuse non-U.S. governments of when trying to fuel the cycle of violence that Ocasio-Cortez opposes (opposed). If you run for Congress admitting that the U.S. government is engaged in a criminal enterprise, that in fact the majority of what the government does is what was characterized at Nuremberg as the supreme international crime, people should have the right to expect you to do something about it.
Now we’re getting to why this really matters. Some 60% of federal discretionary spending goes to militarism. Most candidates for Congress are only campaigning for 40% of a job. They’re saying literally nothing about foreign policy, and nobody is asking them. So, Ocasio-Cortez is (was) exceptional, but exceptional in even touching fleetingly on the majority of the job for which she is applying. She’s done so in a couple of instances that I’m aware of beyond the now-deleted five sentences. She tweeted opposition to an Israeli massacre of Palestinians, and she spoke in support of the same position in a video interview with Glenn Greenwald. She also tweeted in opposition to an AUMF, including these words:
“War doesn’t bring peace. Alleviating poverty does. Education does. Representative gov does.”
That’s not a Bernie Sanders candidate. That’s a better than Bernie Sanders candidate.
But why does it matter what she says on her website? I’ll tell you why. When people campaign on peace they tend to win, and that fact tends to be erased, either by silence or by the elected official turning toward war after the election. When someone wins a primary campaigning for peace, others need to learn of it. And when they win a general election campaigning for peace, others need to learn of it. This is how you get more candidates to support peace.
The notion that someone will secretly plan to work for peace while going silent or pretending to favor war until they are elected has very few examples to support it and thousands going against it. Very rare is Congressman Ro Khanna whose website is silent on peace but whose career actually works for it. Far more common is one of the other seven candidates with peace on their campaign websites, Pramila Jayapal, an incumbent who has yet to distinguish herself through actions.
While those who campaign on peace may do little for it, those who do anything for it tend to have campaigned on it.
A candidate who surrounds himself or herself with people who delete peace from a website is a candidate hearing bad advice, and a future official likely to go on hearing bad advice.
Now, of course, I’m hoping that Ocasio-Cortez does indeed replace her words on her website. I’m hoping that some of her passionate supporters who have baselessly claimed that she’s preparing a longer better statement on a peace economy turn out to be right. Nothing would please me more. And I would indeed immediately start promoting Ocasio-Cortez for Congress. She is, after all, excellent on many other issues, and her positions on other issues would actually make sense and be achievable with a peace economy.
I hope the new, better statement is on her website by the time I publish this. I hope all of her fans have a chance to call me a fool for mentioning such a thing at all. I hope they accept me as a fellow fan despite my lack of total blind loyalty.
But what’s been revealed during the time that the five sentences have been gone from the website has been quite disturbing, even if typical and predictable. People haven’t just invented excuses. Some have denounced any criticism or questioning as inappropriate. Others have claimed that Ocasio-Cortez should not be held responsible for her own website at all. Others have suggested that she shouldn’t have time to deal with a website until after she’s elected (and has less important work to do than campaigning?). Others have, of course, used the Argumentum Obamatum which proposes that any candidate you like is secretly for peace but wise to pretend otherwise while campaigning (and perhaps even while governing).
So, when I say that others need to hear that a candidate campaigned on peace and won, I don’t just mean other candidates, I mean other people in general. The main reason, bigger even than financial corruption and corporate media, that more candidates don’t win while campaigning for peace is that almost never do any of them try it.