Ilhan Omar for Peace

Ilhan Omar is the second person this year to win a Democratic Party nomination for Congress in a Democratic Party district with a platform advocating peace in a way not seen inside the Beltway. The first was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York City, whose advocacy for peace I wrote about. Ilhan Omar has just won the nomination from Minnesota’s Fifth District.

I am making zero predictions as to whether having peace on a campaign website will, in the case of Ocasio-Cortez or the case of Ilhan Omar, translate into serious advocacy and action for peace in office. I’m well aware that our choices for Congress are usually either lifelong mediocrities or promising candidates who immediately become dedicated mediocrities. Omar’s predecessor in that seat, after all, is Keith Ellison, who wanted to impeach George W. Bush until the very moment he was elected and became Captain Humanitarian Wars. I’m also aware that any good cause in Congress would require a couple of hundred Congress members, not two.

But the evidence is overwhelming that you are more likely to get decent behavior out of someone who campaigned on it than someone who did not. Almost nobody now in or running for Congress has ever campaigned on the sort of platform put forward by Ocasio-Cortez or Omar. The two of them ought to hear our support and encouragement, our preferences for where they put emphasis. And other candidates ought to see that support every time they raise their eyes from their donor call lists.

Here’s Ilhan Omar’s platform:

Promote Peace & Prosperity

We must end the state of continuous war, as these wars have made us less safe. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed, entire countries have been destabilized, and we are currently in the midst of an extreme global migration crisis. Meanwhile at home, there have been increasingly cuts to spending on healthcare, infrastructure, education, and housing. We must scale back U.S. military activities, and reinvest our expansive military budget back into our communities. Once this happens, we can begin to repair the harm done, repair America’s broken image, and invest in diplomatic relationships.

She points out that the wars are counterproductive on their own terms, endangering rather than protecting. Servants of the weapons dealers do not do that, no matter how they vote on legislation. She begins with the central evil, the mass killing, and she gets the numbers right. And she cites the wars as a cause of the refugee crisis. That’s all almost unheard of, even in the peace movement completely outside of electoral campaigning, where the habit is to focus on financial cost or harm to U.S. troops. She notes the financial tradeoffs as well. I wish she didn’t say the money all needed to go to U.S. domestic spending. I don’t think she’ll see the sense in saying that once she finds out how much money it really is.

  • We spend by far the most on our military budget, and more than the next seven countries on the list of top spenders combined

  • In 2017, the United States spent over $700 billion dollars—well over half the country’s discretionary budget

  • The Pentagon has spent $400 billion dollars on the F-35 fighter jet program, and will eventually spend over 1 trillion dollars in costs and maintenance

  • American intervention in democratically-elected governments has contributed to the migration crisis

  • The executive branch has escalated U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, with no authorization from Congress

That’s as close to accurate on the money as I’ve seen from any candidate. She also names a particular war, that on Yemen. The focus on Congressional “authorization” rather than immorality or illegality is disappointing from someone from the hometown of Frank Kellogg of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. But it’s a start. Now read this:

Vision and Policy Priorities

End funding for perpetual war and military aggression

We are currently engaged in a number of wars that have no end in sight—Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. These wars have destabilized regions, created massive humanitarian crises, and continue to hurt our image across the world. We must end these wars, and we must avoid military-use as a last resort in the future.

She just named six of the United States’ current wars and advocated ending all of them. And for serious honest moral reasons. That’s unheard of. One can tolerate the delusion that there can be such a thing as “military use as a last resort” from someone willing to help end its use in six actual current cases.

  • Reduce total spending on the military from its projected FY 2019 levels of $886 billion and reinvest that money into healthcare, education, housing, jobs, clean energy, and infrastructure

  • Cut the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) that has been called the Pentagon’s ‘slush fund’. In 2017, the OCO budget increased by 41% to $82.4 billion.

  • Eliminate wasteful military programs like the F-35 fighter jet program, saving taxpayers $1 trillion dollars total

  • Scale back the number of US military bases across the world

She’s got the right focus: cut the military funding. Just saying that is the rarest of rarities. It’d be nice if she’d say by how much, but it’s a heck of a start. Naming one particular weapon to eliminate is much more than most candidates offer. And proposing to close foreign bases is a terrific place to begin.

Repeal harmful sanctions and oppose all U.S. intervention into democratically-elected governments

Sanctions and economic blockades have been used to hurt the economies of countries outside of the U.S. sphere of influence. These measures hurt working people in other countries and foster animosity towards our government.

  • End sanctions and embargoes against countries, which ultimately only hurt the working families of those countries

  • Support diplomatic solutions to the conflicts in both North Korea and Iran, and avoid military conflict at all costs

  • Support the JCPOA, and advocate for a deal that does not disproportionately impose economic sanctions on the people of Iran.

This sounds like a Congress member willing to back some of the obvious steps to avoid new wars.

Renegotiate harmful free trade agreements

Free trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) were passed on the promise that they would help workers across the continent. However, the opposite happened. Jobs have left the United States, multinational corporations exploit working people and lobby against any labor and environmental protections.

  • Invest in a robust Trade Adjustment Assistance program that provides support for workers who have lost their jobs due to the impact of trade
  • Eliminate NAFTA’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) that empower corporations to attack environmental and public health protections
  • Add strong, enforceable environmental and labor standards to the core text of NAFTA’s agreement
  • Require governments to prioritize policies that minimize climate pollution by including a “climate impact test” for policy making

Fully fund programs to care for our veteran population

We must ensure that veterans who have returned home from conflict-zones are taken care of. It is unacceptable that politicians have send soldiers to fight in wars, and refuse to fund the programs they need when returning home. We must ensure that all veterans are housed, have access to healthcare, and mental health care services.

  • Eliminate homelessness among veterans by expanding the HUD-VASH program and Supportive Services for Veterans Families
  • Oppose the privatization of the Veterans Affairs healthcare system and expand funding for physical and mental healthcare for veterans

Support a peace that affirms the safety and rights of both Palestinians and Israelis

Stability in the Middle East depends on the establishment of a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis. But without justice, there will never be peace. The United States must work with the international community, and not unilaterally, to work towards a solution. I will use my voice in Congress and work with communities on the ground to center the ultimate goal of self-determination and peace.

  • Fight against efforts from the Trump administration to undermine the peace process, and support the autonomy for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to define what a solution looks like

  • Uplift the voices of Palestinians demanding an end to the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and end the siege of Gaza

  • Oppose the killing of civilians in Gaza and the expansion of settlements into the West Bank

If that last position survives the first month in Washington D.C. we’ll know this is an incorruptible advocate for peace. I’m not predicting it. I’m not holding my breath. I’m suggesting that we do anything we can to try to help make it happen.

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