Updated: Sep 12
The Democratic controlled Congress-- like Republican controlled Congresses-- keeps increasing a war budget that needs to be slashed. Today San Fernando Valley progressive congressional candidate, Shervin Aazami-- who is running for the seat of Military-Industrial Complex ally Brad Sherman-- had some suggestions. "[O]ur imperialist foreign policy in Afghanistan," he wrote, "didn’t start in 2001, but more than twenty years earlier, in 1979. After the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence agencies began financing and militarily equipping Islamic mujahideen fighters, creating the political vacuum and turmoil that allowed for the emergence of the Taliban. Over a third of the Afghan civilian population was displaced during this proxy war in the 1980s. Our financing of militant and separatist groups in the Middle East created the destabilized environment that allowed for the creation of Al-Qaeda. We must dismantle the narrative that argues for endless wars in the name of public safety when decades of evidence have proven otherwise." The bolded parts are Shervin's:
Over forty years later, we ended the longest war and occupation in U.S. history, and one of our most disastrous foreign policy blunders. The $2 trillion wasted on this war lined the pockets of defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing-- who control over 50% of the Pentagon budget - while draining resources from critical needs here at home, from housing to education to climate action. War hawks like Brad Sherman-- who has taken over $250,000 from weapons makers-- are directly responsible for propping up the military-industrial complex and financing our endless wars in the Middle East.
As a public health advocate and community organizer, I’ve long since stood up and spoke out against our endless wars, and the brutal War in Afghanistan in particular. And on August 29th, I was proud to stand in solidarity with our Afghan community members outside Rep. Sherman’s office and speak about why we must ensure maximum asylum for Afghan civilians, and finally end the brutal legacy of U.S imperialism.
I believe we need a new foreign policy grounded in diplomacy, human rights, and public health-- not imperialism and militarism. That means policies like:
Fully divesting from the U.S. war machine
Repealing the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs and restore Congress’s constitutional authority over declaring war
Ending the War on Drugs
Repealing the PATRIOT Act
Re-entering the Iran Deal
The United States has launched countless failed and costly efforts across the Middle East and South Asia to counter “terrorism”, often leaving devastation and destruction in their wake. It’s time for a different approach. You can read more about where I stand on foreign policy issues by visiting www.shervin4thevalley.com/foreign-policy.
Bryan Osorio, Mayor of Delano in the Central Valley is running against David Valadao, a notorious a tax-and-spend Republican-- tax-and-spend when it comes to the military, never when it comes to American families. Osorio will make very different kind of congressman. "Every year," he told me this afternoon, "we continue growing the defense budget by billions. The recent tragedies in Afghanistan highlight reckless decisions and this affirms the need to reevaluate military spending. Members of Congress can no longer ignore negligent spending and must ensure taxpayer money is used properly to meet community needs. However, many congressional leaders benefit from our military-industrial complex and profit from military investments. It is no longer a concern of safety when profit is at play. As a congressman, I will advocate to evaluate the military budget and propose reallocating funds to fill gaps in social services and education, while ensuring the services and wages of our military services members are protected and better funded. I will push for legislation that ensures congress discloses for-profit investments gain and will keep my colleagues accountable to ensure that military decisions are made in the best interest of the American people, our service members, and the international community-- not for the personal profit of shareholders."
Christine Olivo is running for Congress against a do-nothing, go-along-to-get-along garden variety Democrat in southeast Florida's 24th congressional district. Wonder how passionate she is about peace and domestic progress? This evening she told me that "When I am in office, I will stand firm in cutting the military spending by 75%. I will also advocate for the passing of the Audit of the Pentagon Act introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders. It's time for the American people to know where all of our money is going to."
On Friday, the Daily Beast published a OpEd-- a letter addressed to Wall Street-- by the progressive candidate for the open Missouri Senate seat, Lucas Kunce. He began by reminding Wall Street that "When America was attacked and New York was attacked, you were attacked and we stood with you." In Kunce's own case, he enlisted in the Marine Corp and served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. "But then, Wall Street, you spent 20 years undermining our national security and betraying us, the very people who spent the last 20 years risking our lives in the War on Terror."
"Wall Street," he wrote flatly, having served for 13 years, including 4 in the Pentagon, "sold out our men and women in uniform for profit... The American people had just come to your rescue, bailing you out after you gambled away our economy. Yet, again and again, the same Marines and soldiers who had signed up to defend you in the wake of 9/11 came to me begging for help as you illegally foreclosed on them in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. You didn’t care. You threw the people who put their lives on the line out onto the street in the middle of a war, in violation of the law. I had to fight you every step of the way as you squeezed them for profit. You put money over Marines."
Wall Street has preached a set of practices that have fundamentally changed our national security for the worse. Rich executives’ deadly focus on profits above all else has actively contributed to the deaths of American service members. They have proven time and time again over these last twenty years that they don’t care about us.
So here’s my message to you, Wall Street:
Stop putting money over Marines and profit over patriotism. Stop killing our troops.
If you give a single damn about the service members who joined in your honor, to defend you, now would be the time to show it.
Alan Grayson, who represented Orlando in Congress and is now running for the Senate seat held by warmonger Marco Rubio, has always-- every single race-- campaigned on "Justice, Equality, Peace." This morning, he told me, based on his experience in Congress that "The real question, for military spending, is what does it cost to protect the country? Whatever the answer is, it’s not $700 billion." He suggested that what Congress needs to do is "cut the 'top line' on the budget, and then you let the Department of Defense reallocate liberally within it. One of the little secrets of the military-industrial complex is that Congress micromanages the military budget, and stuffs certain parts of it with some things that DoD doesn’t want or need. DoD can live with the cuts as long as it can protect the areas that it actually cares about."
Grayson once introduced "The War is Making You Poor Act" which called for abolishing the OSO (Overseas Contingency Operations)-- a separate war budget-- on top of the defense appropriations. It was a $100 billion add-on and it was finally abolished last year. He added, in a conversation I had with him today that "we should be spending no more than 3% of our GDP on the military during peacetime. The world average is 2.4% (which includes our swollen spending), so it’s reasonable to move toward that, especially in peacetime. We currently outspend China by more than three to one."
In 1962-- just two years after Eisenhower's unheeded warning about the Military Industrial Complex-- we were spending 9.3317% of GDP. It grew to 9.4178% in 1967 during the war against Vietnam. It started coming down and Bill Clinton's "peace dividend" after the collapse of the Soviet Union, brought it close to the 3% of GDP Grayson is advocating-- 3.0857 (1999). And then it started creeping up again every year as high as 4.8402% ($752,288,000,000) in 2011 when Biden managed to turn the growth down a bit. Trump turned the increases up a little-- to 3.4131% in 2019. Four months ago, for fiscal year 2022, Biden requested $715, up 10 billion from 2021. At the end of July, the Democratic-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee tacked on another $25 billion on top of what Biden asked for.
By the way, there are two hot-linked Blue America thermometers above, one where you can contribute to pro-peace House candidates and one where you can contribute to pro-peace Senate candidates. Please... don't be shy.
UPDATE With Steven Holden
This is right in the wheelhouse of StevenHolden, veteran, first time candidate and Central New York progressive. This evening he told me "As someone who has spent 20 years in DoD spending its money, I have a unique understanding of the Federal Budget process, especially the DoD process called the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution System (PPBES). It is how DoD determines requirements. This process is only semi-streamlined and has yet to pass an audit. In fact, DoD has never passed an audit and is the only part of the Federal Government yet to do so. Why is that? Because there needs to be acquisition reform. All too often, poor planning leads to large-scale cost reimbursement contracts that routinely have about 10% overrun. By scaling back cost-reimbursement contracts to more firm-fixed price contracts, even by 5%, it would create a net savings large enough to fund Healthcare for All and fund college for this first two years. This is a project of mine that I have been working for the past ten years. If elected, I will require DoD to follow these new fiscal guidelines, or they will receive an automatic 5% cut to their overall topline.