On November 28, 2018, over 100 U.S. scholars, intellectuals, and activists published the open letter to Senator Bernie Sanders below and invited others to add their names to it. Sanders was working to force a new Senate vote on ending, or at least reducing, U.S. participation in the war on Yemen. Signers of the letter below wished to encourage such steps and, in fact, to urge Sanders toward far greater opposition to militarism and support for peace.
On November 27th, Senator Sanders had published a new book, Where We Go from Here: Two Years in the Resistance. The book contains 38 sections, of which one addresses foreign policy but lays out no concrete proposals. On the evening of November 27th Sanders spoke for an hour at George Washington University, aired live on C-Span 2. He discussed a variety of topics, but never mentioned foreign policy — until a questioner asked him for a progressive foreign policy, and Senator Sanders gave a 2-minute response focused on Yemen, for which he received possibly the loudest applause of the evening.
TEXT OF LETTER:
We write to you as U.S. residents with great respect for your domestic policies.
We support the position of more than 25,000 people who signed a petition during your presidential campaign urging you to take on militarism.
We believe that Dr. King was correct to assert that racism, extreme materialism, and militarism needed to be challenged together rather than separately, and that this remains true.
We believe this is not only practical advice, but a moral imperative, and — not coincidentally — good electoral politics.
During your presidential campaign, you were asked repeatedly how you would pay for human and environmental needs that could be paid for with small fractions of military spending. Your answer was consistently complicated and involved raising taxes. We believe it would be more effective to more often mention the existence of the military and its price tag. “I would cut 4% of spending on the never-audited Pentagon” is a superior answer in every way to any explanation of any tax plan.
Much of the case that we believe ought to be made is made in a video posted on your Facebook page in early 2018. But it is generally absent from your public comments and policy proposals. Your recent 10-point plan omits any mention of foreign policy whatsoever.
We believe this omission is not just a shortcoming. We believe it renders what does get included incoherent. Military spending is well over 60% of discretionary spending. A public policy that avoids mentioning its existence is not a public policy at all. Should military spending go up or down or remain unchanged? This is the very first question. We are dealing here with an amount of money at least comparable to what could be obtained by taxing the wealthy and corporations (something we are certainly in favor of as well).
A tiny fraction of U.S. military spending could end starvation, the lack of clean water, and various diseases worldwide. No humanitarian policy can avoid the existence of the military. No discussion of free college or clean energy or public transit should omit mention of the place where a trillion dollars a year is going.
War and preparations for war are among the top destroyers, if not the top destroyer, of our natural environment. No environmental policy can ignore them.
Militarism is the top source of the erosion of liberties, and top justification for government secrecy, top creator of refugees, top saboteur of the rule of law, top facilitator of xenophobia and bigotry, and top reason we are at risk of nuclear apocalypse. There is no area of our social life that is untouched by what Eisenhower called the military industrial complex.
The U.S. public favors cutting military spending.
Even candidate Trump declared the wars since 2001 to have been counterproductive, a statement that appears not to have hurt him on election day.
A December 2014 Gallup poll of 65 nations found the United States to be far and away the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world, and a Pew poll in 2017 found majorities in most countries polled viewing the United States as a threat. A United States responsible for providing clean drinking water, schools, medicine, and solar panels to others would be more secure and face far less hostility around the world; that result would cost a fraction of what is invested in making the United States resented and disliked.
Economists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have documented that military spending is an economic drain rather than a jobs program.
We compliment you on your domestic policies. We recognize that the presidential primaries were rigged against you, and we do not wish to advance the baseless idea that you were fairly defeated. We offer our advice in a spirit of friendship. Some of us worked in support of your presidential campaign. Others of us would have worked, and worked hard, for your nomination had you been a candidate for peace.
Elliott Adams, Chair, Meta Peace Team, Training Team, and former President, Veterans For Peace
Christine Ahn, International Coordinator, Women Cross DMZ
Shireen Al-Adeimi, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University
Hisham Ashur, Amnesty International of Charlottesville, VA
Medea Benjamin, Cofounder, CODEPINK for Peace
Karen Bernal, Chair, Progressive Caucus, California Democratic Party
Leah Bolger, Chair of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War; former President, Veterans For Peace
James Bradley, author
Philip Brenner, Professor, American University
Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation; National Co-convener, United for Peace and Justice
Leslie Cagan, peace and justice organizer
James Carroll, author of House of War
Noam Chomsky, Professor, University of Arizona; Professor (emeritus), MIT
Helena Cobban, President, Just World Educational
Jeff Cohen, Founder of FAIR and co-founder of RootsAction.org
Marjorie Cohn, activist scholar; former President, National Lawyers Guild
Gerry Condon, President, Veterans For Peace
Nicolas J.S. Davies, author, journalist
John Dear, author, Campaign Nonviolence
Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, author
Mel Duncan, Founding Director, Nonviolent Peaceforce
Carolyn Eisenberg, Professor of History and American Foreign Policy, Hofstra University
Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator Emeritus, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)
Pat Elder, Member of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War
Daniel Ellsberg, author, whistleblower
Representative Jeffrey Evangelos, Maine House of Representatives, Friendship, Maine
Jodie Evans, co-founder CODEPINK
Rory Fanning, author
Robert Fantina, Member of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War
Mike Ferner, Former President, Veterans For Peace
Margaret Flowers, Co-Director, Popular Resistance
Carolyn Forché, University Professor, Georgetown University
Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
Pia Gallegos, Former Chair, Adelante Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party of New Mexico
Lila Garrett, radio host
Ann Garrison, Black Agenda Report
Joseph Gerson (PhD), President, Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security
Chip Gibbons, Journalist; Policy & Legislative Counsel, Defending Rights & Dissent
Charles Glass, author of They Fought Alone: The True Story of the Starr Brothers, British Secret Agents in Nazi-Occupied France
Van Gosse, Professor, Franklin & Marshall College
Arun Gupta, Independent Journalist
Hugh Gusterson, Professor of anthropology and international affairs, George Washington University
David Hartsough, Co-Founder, World BEYOND War
Patrick T. Hiller, Ph.D., Executive Director, War Prevention Initiative, Jubitz Family Foundation
Matthew Hoh, Senior Fellow, Center for International Policy
Odile Hugonot Haber, Member of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War
Sam Husseini, Senior Analyst, Institute for Public Accuracy
Helen Jaccard, member, Veterans For Peace
Dahr Jamail, author, journalist
Tony Jenkins, Education Director, World BEYOND War
Jeff Johnson, President, Washington State Labor Council
Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H., columnist, author of The 15% Solution
Rob Kall, host, Bottom-Up Radio; publisher, OpEdnews.com
Tarak Kauff, member, Veterans For Peace; Managing Editor, Peace in Our Times
Kathy Kelly, Co-Coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
John Kiriakou, CIA torture whistleblower and former senior investigator, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Michael D. Knox, PhD, Chair, U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation
David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Jeremy Kuzmarov, lecturer, Tulsa Community College; author of The Russians Are Coming Again
Peter Kuznick, Professor, American University
George Lakey, author; Co-Founder, Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT)
Sarah Lanzman, activist
Joe Lauria, Editor-in-Chief, Consortium News
Hyun Lee, U.S. National Organizer, Women Cross DMZ
Bruce E. Levine, psychologist; author of Resisting Illegitimate Authority
Nelson Lichtenstein, Professor, UC Santa Barbara
Dave Lindorff, journalist
John Lindsay-Poland, Coordinator, Project to Stop U.S. Arms to Mexico
David Lotto, Psychoanalyst, Editor of the Journal of Psychohistory
Catherine Lutz, Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies, The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and Department of Anthropology, Brown University
Chase Madar, author and journalist
Eli McCarthy, Professor of Justice and Peace Studies, Georgetown University
Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst and presidential briefer
Myra MacPherson, author and journalist
Bill Moyer, Executive Director, Backbone Campaign
Elizabeth Murray, member, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Michael Nagler, Founder and President, the Metta Center for Nonviolence
Dave Norris, Former Mayor, Charlottesville, VA
Carol A. Paris, MD, Immediate Past President, Physicians for a National Health Program
Miko Peled, author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine
Gareth Porter, author, journalist, historian
Margaret Power, Professor, Illinois Tech
Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus, Brown University; Veteran, United States Army
Ted Rall, cartoonist, author of Bernie
Betty Reardon, Founder, International Institute on Peace Education
John Reuwer, Member of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War
Mark Selden, Senior Researcher, Cornell University
Martin J. Sherwin, University Professor of History, George Mason University
Tim Shorrock, author and journalist
Alice Slater, Member of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War; UN NGO Rep., Nuclear Age Peace Fdn
Donna Smith, National Advisory Board Chair, Progressive Democrats of America
Gar Smith, Director, Environmentalists Against War
Norman Solomon, National Coordinator, RootsAction.org; Executive Director, Institute for Public Accuracy
Jeffrey St. Clair, Co-author, The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink
Rick Sterling, activist and journalist
Oliver Stone, filmmaker
Rivera Sun, Author and Nonviolence Strategy Trainer
David Swanson, Director, World BEYOND War; Advisory Board Member, Veterans For Peace; author of War Is A Lie
Brian Terrell, Co-Coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Brian Trautman, National Board Member, Veterans For Peace
Sue Udry, Executive Director, Defending Rights & Dissent
David Vine, Professor, Department of Anthropology, American University
Donnal Walter, Member of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War
Rick Wayman, Deputy Director, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Barbara Wien, Professor, American University
Jan R. Weiberg, Show Up! America
Ann Wright, Retired U.S. Army Colonel and former U.S. diplomat who resigned in opposition to U.S. war on Iraq
Greta Zarro, Organizing Director, World BEYOND War
Kevin Zeese, Co-Director, Popular Resistance
Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics, University of San Francisco