By David Swanson
Democratic-Party-based activist groups are urging each other to praise and support Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat, Connecticut) for laying out a better-than-average foreign policy and setting up a website at http://chanceforpeace.org.
Murphy’s position would be considered militarist in the extreme outside of the United States, but advocates point out how much worse most other U.S. senators’ are.
This is in the context, of course, of Democratic activists having failed to nominate Elizabeth Warren for President (despite her awful foreign policy), cheering for Bernie Sanders (despite his virtual avoidance of the whole topic of militarism; urging proper budgetary procedures but not morally decent reductions or restraint), and pretty well ignoring Lincoln Chaffee (the only candidate for president from either mega-party to thus far mention peace or military budget cutting, but who seems, as a former Republican, to just be in with the wrong clique).
Murphy has attempted to block any funding for any major new U.S. ground war in Iraq. That’s certainly better than nothing, although an air war or a proxy war or a secret and limited and illegal war can be just as deadly and destructive. Murphy and two other Democratic senators have laid out their vision here.
They begin thus: “[T]errorist groups such as Islamic State (also called ISIS) and al Qaeda present a grave threat to U.S. national security.” Now, this is obvious nonsense that has been admitted to be obvious nonsense by the U.S. “intelligence” agencies, who say ISIS is no threat. Our Senate heroes are in agreement on the ISIS threat, rather, with this former Navy SEAL who also wants every mosque on earth attacked.
Their next claim is just as dangerous and false: “Traditional powers such as Russia and China are challenging international norms and pushing the boundaries of their influence.” WHAT? This from members of a government building bases and deploying weapons and troops to the borders of those two countries, spending vastly more on militarism than the pair of them combined, and facilitating a coup in Ukraine that could yet kick off WWIII.
Then our three senators distinguish themselves from their most rightwing colleagues. They recognize climate change as a problem. They advocate something other than only militarism, something they call non-kinetic statecraft, which seems to by a synonym for non-lethal actions. Then they lay out eight proposals.
First, a Marshall plan. This should be a warning (along with the actual history of the Marshall Plan) to peace activists against using the term themselves. These senators understand it as including “military protection” and aid aimed at bringing countries “under the American banner.” Of course any humanitarian aid, in any combination with propaganda and political sabotage, may be preferable to purely “kinetic” killing, but there’s a reason the USAID is distrusted, and these guys don’t seem to get it. The version of this proposal on Murphy’s own website reads: “Military spending shouldn’t be 10 times our foreign aid budget. We need a new Marshall Plan for at risk regions.” But military spending is some $1.2 trillion a year, while foreign aid is $23 billion. So, military spending also shouldn’t be 52 times the foreign aid budget. And, one might ask, “at risk” of what?
Second, coalitions of the killing.
Third, exit strategies before entering new slaughters.
Fourth, plans for post-killing politics.
These are tweaks to militarism, not a redirection.
Ideas five, six, and eight are where praise is really warranted. First, look at idea seven: “How can the United States preach economic empowerment overseas if millions of Americans feel economically hopeless? If Washington is to maintain credible U.S. global leadership, the United States need significant new investments in infrastructure and education, and new policies to address the stagnant incomes and rising costs that are crippling too many American families.” Since when does the United States preach or seriously act on such proposals for the poor nations of earth? Why would it be hypocritical for a rich nation to help a poor nation? Shouldn’t the U.S. help both its own and the world by cutting military spending and giveaways to billionaires and, for the first time, really investing in people seriously both at home and abroad? How is the U.S. engaging in global leadership? And who asked it to?
Now, these proposals deserve our attention:
“Fifth, we believe that covert actions such as mass surveillance and large-scale CIA lethal operations must be constrained.” The version on Murphy’s website hints at something a little stronger: “It’s time to reign in the massive covert operations and intelligence apparatus that has emerged since 9-11. Mass surveillance and drone strikes, unchecked, steal moral authority from America.” What is an appropriately small-scale CIA lethal (“kinetic”?) operation? What’s involved in “checking” a drone strike? When you dig into this, there’s nothing concrete there, but there’s the hinting at it.
“Sixth, we believe that the United States should practice what it preaches regarding civil and human rights, and defend its values internationally. . . . Actions abroad that are illegal under U.S. law and out of step with American values, such as torture, must be prohibited.” Of course, torture is already prohibited, as is any other action that is illegal under U.S. law (and also international law, incidentally) — that’s what it means for something to be illegal: it’s prohibited. Congress doesn’t need to keep prohibiting it time and again. The version on Murphy’s own website is better: “We need to practice what we preach on international human rights. No more secret detention centers. A categorical rejection of torture.” Since torture is illegal, a rejection of it would seem to suggest enforcing the laws against it through prosecutions. And “no more” secret prisons would seem to suggest similar enforcement of a complete ban. These points are the closest to concrete proposals and should be pursued. There is no reason Congress cannot interrogate, impeach, and try any attorney general failing to enforce the law.
“Finally, we believe climate change presents an immediate threat to the world, and the United States must invest time, money, and global political capital to address this crisis.” And from Murphy’s website: “Climate change is a national security threat. Combating this threat should be interwoven into every aspect of American foreign policy.” This could mean a couple of very useful things: 1) A major effort to cease subsidizing fossil fuels and begin investing in renewables at home and abroad. 2) If a war will increase climate change — as any war will — it cannot be launched. Now, that I’d cheer for.