Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ platform is dramatically better than many may realize. It tackles the greatest evil in existence in a way that no other big-2 congressional candidate’s website does and which most do not even mention. And in doing so, it makes serious much of the rest of her socialist platform in a way that even presidential candidate Bernie Sanders did not — a way promoted by the peace movement, the Poor People’s Campaign, and Black Lives Matter.
War and war preparations eat up 60% of the funding that Congress members decide on each year. Most candidates, including most progressives, refuse to mention that, even while (in some cases) proposing to somehow fund massive human and environmental programs. When he ran for president, Bernie Sanders was willing to accept the endlessly repeated label of “Tax Increaser” rather than say he’d cut a small fraction of the military to pay for everything he wanted.
By labeling her foreign policy platform “A Peace Economy,” Ocasio-Cortez, using a phrase popular with the peace movement, makes the financial connection without shying away from the immoral and criminal and counter-productive character of war. The fact is that war endangers rather than protecting, erodes rights, militarizes police and society, destroys the natural environment, directly kills and injures and traumatizes and harms millions, and — on top of that — does the most damage through the diversion of resources from where they could do good. War is the only place where enough money sits with which to try to protect the environment or to guarantee education or retirement or other basic rights. Candidates who do not mention war spending are not serious about the things they do mention. Many, like the incumbent Ocasio-Cortez defeated, are in the pay of weapons makers as well as just about every other corporate interest.
But there are exceptions, you say! There are progressive leaders! There is The Resistance! Is there? Elizabeth Warren’s platform tells us right at the top that some wars are “unavoidable” or in the “national interest.” Her top priority is that wars be paid for up-front rather than creating debt. In the next breath she’s bragging about weapons production in Massachusetts. Warren wants war-plus, that is: militarism AND diplomacy. She moves on to support for imperialism in the Pacific and fear-mongering over North Korea, justifying troop presence because of existing troop presence plus “economic interests.” Offering hypocritical accusations against China as well as North Korea as examples of her desired “diplomacy,” Warren proposes militarism plus diplomacy plus sanctions (a very diplomatic tool, don’t you know) as the three-part answer.
Warren jumps to pushing Russiagate propaganda, declaring that Russia “hacked” Democratic party emails revealing the DNC’s slanting of its primaries against Bernie Sanders (although she doesn’t mention that that is what they revealed) and declaring this action to be (1) fact because “intelligence” agencies say so, and (2) an “attack.” But before you can take in the WWIII significance, Warren is on to demonizing Iran and backing deadly sanctions there, and supporting U.S. wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Despite massive public pressure to improve, Warren’s position on Palestine remains pathetic and delusional, including imagining that some geographic location remains for a second state in a two-state “solution.”
To her credit, Warren supports concrete steps to reduce nuclear weapons. But she concludes her platform with more unproven and hypocritical accusations against Russia and the very dangerous and reckless leveling of threats against anyone engaged in “cyberattacks.”
Well, sure, you say, there are always exceptions. Warren is an outlier, one of those rare progressives who, like the Women’s March, the Climate March, the March for Our Lives, MSNBC, the DNC, and almost every Democratic member of Congress has accidentally missed out on understanding what war and peace are all about. Still, she has the best intentions, and with a little help, and only a small reduction in payoffs from war profiteers, she’d be just as great as, say, Bernie Sanders.
But have you read Bernie Sanders’ platform? He, too, opens by proposing that war is sometimes necessary, which is not true. Then he lists wars he opposed the start of and did little to try to end, and wars he supported the start of, came belatedly to regret, and did little to try to end. His top priority is that wars be fought by and funded by a coalition of countries. To his credit, he proposes a shift of some unspecified degree somewhat away from militarism and somewhat toward peaceful foreign relations. But he views the cost of war through U.S. troops and U.S. dollars, never mentioning the vast majority of the victims of U.S. wars. And he goes on about how attacking Afghanistan was justified as an act of revenge (which is not legal, moral, effective — or consistent, as many places could have been attacked on the same basis). Then he jumps to false accusations against Iran, albeit supporting a written agreement rather than a war. His statement on Palestine is nearly identical to Warren’s. He fear mongers terrorism, but wants war with murder only, no torture, no lawless imprisonment, no erosion of civil liberties. He wants wars that follow the rule of law, despite the unmentionable fact that under the UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact all of these wars are illegal.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you may reply, there are always exceptions, and Sanders has improved on matters of peace and war since his last campaign ended and his possible next campaign has not yet begun. But surely I’m cherry picking. Why don’t I look to an actual peace advocate like Congresswoman Barbara Lee who votes against wars and sometimes tries to end them? Despite her webpage being seven years old, Lee’s position is indeed far superior to, if shorter and less specific than, Warren’s or Sanders’. She focuses on spending and opposes war-making in general. She opposes “preemption,” even while in the end believing it theoretically possible to “exhaust all peaceful diplomatic means.” It isn’t.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ platform is also shorter than Warren’s or Sanders’, but clear enough so that many specific questions have been answered in general. She avoids mealy-mouthed Washingtonian-nazistic terms like “preemption” (which, in fairness, Lee was quoting from Bush) and denounces aggressive wars as “acts of aggression.” Without ever proclaiming herself to be yet another “outsider” in politics, she writes (or approves her staff’s or volunteers’ writing) as someone who actually has yet to be corrupted by the war-making capital of the earth.
“Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003,” she says, “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. Hundreds of thousands of civilians in these countries have been killed either as collateral damage from American strikes or from the instability caused by U.S. interventions. Millions more have fled their broken countries, contributing to the global refugee crisis.”
Already in one paragraph, Ocasio-Cortez has done six previously impossible-post-Kucinich things before breakfast. She’s opposed the wars as a whole. She’s listed them. She’s included Yemen. She’s included Libya. She’s named the primary victims and the guilty party. She’s named the cause of the refugee crisis. She continues:
“This continued action damages America’s legitimacy as a force for good, creates new generations of potential terrorists, and erodes American prosperity. In times when we’re told that there’s not enough money, Republicans and corporate Democrats seem to find the cash to fund a $1.1 trillion fighter jet program or a $1.7 trillion-dollar nuclear weapon “modernization” program. The costs are extreme: the Pentagon’s budget for 2018 is $700 billion dollars: to continue fighting an endless War on Terror and refighting the Cold War with a new arms race that nobody can win.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is here doing what one generally has to retire in order to do: she’s pointing out that the wars create more enemies and hostility and terrorism and danger, rather than more safety and security and peace. The wars are counter-productive on their own terms, on top of everything else wrong with them. She also goes after the “at least they’re job-creators” sociopathic line by pointing out that in fact they damage U.S. prosperity along with U.S. moral authority. This is a candidate from a district with much poverty denouncing in the rarest of ways one of the chief causes of that poverty, in a manner that we don’t tend to see in candidates from Washington, D.C., suburbs, but which we might start to see from some other places if we make it known that Ocasio-Cortez has this platform and wins on it. She goes on:
“According to the Constitution, the right to declare war belongs to the legislative body, and yet many of these global acts of aggression have never once been voted on by Congress. In some cases, we’ve even acted unilaterally, without the backing of the United Nations.”
In fact, there has been no U.N. authorization for any of the wars in her list above. The U.N. authorized a rescue-from-a-fictional-threat in Libya, not an overthrow. And the Kellogg-Briand Pact does not include the loopholes found in the U.N. Charter that is so often imagined must sometimes apply. But for Ocasio-Cortez to even mention the U.N. Charter is a giant leap forward. Watch what happened when I tried to get Senator Tim Kaine to acknowledge the U.N. Charter’s existence. Alexandria goes on:
“America should not be in the business of destabilizing countries. While we may see ourselves as liberators, the world increasingly views us as occupiers and aggressors. Alexandria believes that we must end the ‘forever war’ by bringing our troops home, and ending the air strikes that perpetuate the cycle of terrorism throughout the world.”
Several more breakthroughs here, that is: statements common in the peace movement but unheard of on television or Congressional campaign platforms. She says the U.S. is in the business of destabilizing countries. She cites the world’s opinion. She proposes ending the wars (and foreign basing?). She does NOT mean replacing troops with aerial bombing, because she says the bombing must end. And she points out that the bombing generates terrorism rather than snuffing it out. She concludes:
“By bringing our troops home, we can begin to heal the wounds we’re opening by continuing military engagement. We can begin to repair our image. We can reunite military families, separated by repeated deployments. We can become stronger by building stronger diplomatic and economic ties, and by saving our armed forces only for when they’re truly needed.”
And she blows it in the end by proposing that war is sometimes needed. It is not. Yet how far she has come, or failed to retreat, in comparison with the Congress she hopes to join! And think of the legislative actions she must take if she believes in her platform and has the courage of her convictions. She must reintroduce and lobby for long-unseen economic conversion legislation. She must use the War Powers Act to force a vote on each illegal, immoral, disastrous war she has listed and any others like them, she must seek to reduce military funding — perhaps creating legislation along with her one Congressional backer Ro Khanna along the lines of his recent attempted amendment that would have cut 5%. She must seek to block weapons sales abroad and to local police. She must introduce legislation that would make the U.S. military subject to environmental agreements that everyone else is subject to. She must work to replace military “service” as a means to citizenship with free college as a right of the same. She must support diplomacy even when Trump does it. But she must support impeaching Trump for the reasons she already does plus the reasons included in her “Peace Economy” platform.
One Congress member cannot do any of this without a massive public movement that compels other Congress members to do so too. But part of so moving them must be showing our support for one among them who takes the lead. Right now the future Congress member in the lead is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.