The U.S. House of Representatives just approved another massive military “aid” package for the Ukraine War. The Biden administration had initially requested $33 billion in new money for the war, but leaders of both parties in Congress, eager to support the war, quickly said this was not enough, and raised the total for this package to $40 billion, a truly staggering total. The administration had already spent $14 billion before this latest weapons package. The latest spending spree (at a time when many Americans are struggling with crushing debt loads, lack of baby formula and other key supplies, and skyrocketing inflation) brings the total spent in Ukraine in 3 months to $54 billion on the books (not counting all the dark money for the spy agencies). The official annual budget for the War in Afghanistan averaged $46 billion… The sum the U.S. has already spent on this war in a few months is quickly approaching the annual military budget of the entire Russian military.
This money goes to companies like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, etc. These merchants of death make up the military industrial complex; they promote the permanent war economy, and have a vested interest in ensuring the U.S. continues to engage in and support devastating wars abroad that destroy whole countries and societies, lead to millions of deaths and untold horrors like what we have seen in Yemen over the past few years. These same corporate and state ghouls are salivating over the profits to be made in a new cold war with China. In this conflict for global dominance they see a shining opportunity to bleed the taxpayers of this country dry, looking to get blood from a stone in our country where the rich pay and big corporations no real taxes, but the middle class and poor are bled dry, being pushed deeper and deeper into debt-peonage and wage slavery by rising tax rates, shrinking paychecks, and red hot inflation (itself a result of the Federal Reserve’s reckless money printing to bailout the banks numerous times since 2008).
And yet not one of the so-called progressive Democrats could find a spine to stand against this weapons package. Not AOC, not Ilhan Omar, not any of them. This is not so surprising when one considers their spinelessness on Yemen (introducing a War Powers Resolution under Trump, knowing he would veto it, bur refusing to do so now that Biden is president), their posturing around Palestine (where they consistently rotate turns supporting more military funding for Israel), and countless other betrayals and hypocrisies.
Of all the “squad” only Cori Bush has released a statement justifying her vote for the bill. The others have remained silent and refused to respond to requests for comment on why they voted to fund the war machine after so many promises (clearly hollow) to end “the forever war.” Bush’s statement, like the entire legacy of the Squad, is a pathetic excuse for progressive politics. First, she claims that this $40 billion in military funding is about “strengthen[ing] the Ukrainian people’s fight against oppression and tyranny.” She makes no mention of the fact that key U.S. leaders from Hillary Clinton to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs have made it clear that they want this war to drag out as long as possible to bleed Russia. In the course of such a prolonged conflict, we can only imagine the cost the people of Ukraine will pay. In short, this bill is both about padding the pockets of the military industrial complex and also about sacrificing Ukraine to weaken Russia as a rival to the U.S. and NATO. As many have noted, the U.S. elite are more than happy to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian.
At the end of her statement, Bush includes a hollow note that “The sheer size of the package given an already inflated Pentagon budget should not go without critique. I remain concerned about the increased risks of direct war and the potential for direct military confrontation.” This is akin to helping someone pour gasoline on a fire, and then saying that one remains concerned about the risk of the fire spreading! This is what we can expect from Bush, the squad, and the entire so-called progressive wing of the democratic party.
With “allies” like this in Congress, who needs enemies? Chris Hedges–a great American public intellectual who was forced out of his job as the Middle East Bureau Chief at New York Times for his opposition to the Iraq War–has often emphasized that the only way to get any meaningful change in this country is not by lobbying/begging the Democrats or the Republicans, but through mass movements, protests, and acts of civil disobedience which scare the elite. From the powerful movement of the Bonus Marchers (WWI veterans protesting the government’s refusal to pay them their bonuses) in the 1930s, to the great coal strikes, and acts of civil disobedience in the Civil Rights Movement, change in this country has always been driven by the common people, the salt of the earth, not the decadent and corrupt elite in Washington.
The time has come to cast aside illusions about our so-called representatives in Washington, to stop believing in the lie of the Democratic Party as the supposed lesser of two evils, and to redouble our efforts to build up a renewed antiwar movement. Likewise, while a few dozen Republicans voted against the $40 billion, this is no reason for optimism that the Republican Party can be a vehicle for real change. During the Iraq War, once the protests swelled in size, many Democrats made court theater by feigning opposition to the war when Bush was president, only to support continued escalations and drone strikes once Obama was elected. As Howard Zinn notes over and over again in A People’s History of the United States, the two parties are part of one unified system of corporate monopoly rule. They exist to co-opt, mislead, and ultimate destroy movements that seek to change this system of oligarchical control of nearly every aspect of our country.
As long as we remain beholden to the Democrat or Republican Party politics, our movements will be gobbled up, defanged, and spat back out; regurgitated as pliant pawns of the corporate state and the military industrial complex, able to offer only the mildest of criticisms, and utterly impotent and unable to stand against the machinations of the megalomaniacs who run this country and are driving us all towards the brink of WWIII.
Ryan Costello is an organizer in New York City with United Against War and Militarism and a member of the Yemen Peace Vigil.