For Jobs, Peace and a Pro-Worker Foreign Policy

The U.S. military budget — at over $750 billion, larger than those of the next ten nations combined — continues to soar out of control with bipartisan support. Threats or use of military force are still a regular feature of U.S. foreign policy, under presidents of both major parties. All of this is done at the expense of the needs of working people in the U.S. and throughout the world.

More than half of the military budget goes, not to the frontline servicemen and women who put their lives on the line, but to private, for-profit contractors. During the Trump administration, a top executive from Boeing was in charge of the Pentagon, and just this summer, senators with ties to defense contractors proposed giving them an additional $50 billion. An attempted audit of the military budget couldn’t be completed due to the huge sums that could not be accounted for. Congress appointed a commission to look at defense spending levels but most of the commission members had ties to the defense industry.

The war in Afghanistan, by far the longest in U.S. history, finally came to an end this year. It has cost over $1 trillion, and has resulted in the deaths of almost a quarter of a million people, including over 2,400 U.S. soldiers and more than 71,000 Afghani civilians. The U.S. foreign policy establishment thought it could use American military force and Western non-governmental organizations to impose a Western-friendly government without giving the Afghani people real control over their own country. The result was a corrupt kleptocracy widely resented by ordinary Afghanis, which collapsed as soon as U.S. troops were withdrawn.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, initiated by the Trump Administration and completed by Biden, was carried out in order to refocus U.S. military and diplomatic resources on efforts to “contain” China and Russia. Rather than working with China, the world’s most populous country and second-largest economy, on urgent global issues like climate change, Biden is continuing Trump’s escalation of economic and military tensions.

In the Middle East, the U.S. is involved in a tangled, contradictory web of alliances and wars. Biden has been slow to revive the nuclear agreement with Iran, keeping in place the severe economic sanctions imposed by Trump, that are themselves a form of warfare. He has also continued a policy of confrontation with regional militias aligned with Iran.

In 2019, Congress actually found the fortitude to invoke the War Powers Act for the first time, directing the Trump administration to end U.S. support for the brutal Saudi Arabian intervention in the Yemeni civil war. Trump, however, vetoed the resolution, ensuring more profits for bombmakers at the cost of continuing large-scale civilian deaths in Yemen. This year, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced sweeping bipartisan legislation, the National Security Powers Act, to reclaim Congress’ role in national security matters. However, the bill has yet to attract additional co-sponsors.

Meanwhile the situation of the Palestinians has been getting steadily worse. In the most recent violent attack by Israel, in May of this year, Israeli armed forces killed over 100 people, injured close to a thousand, and destroyed more than 200 Palestinian homes and 24 schools in Gaza. In the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the right-wing Israeli government continues to confiscate homes and land to expand Israeli settlements. Since 1967 Israel has settled more than 750,000 of its citizens in the West Bank, and has been building a wall that separates neighboring towns. Farmers are being cut off from their fields and water supplies, which could soon wipe out Palestinian agriculture in the Jordan River Valley. At the same time Israel is treating Gaza as the world’s largest prison, with its residents trapped in abysmal economic and social conditions. All of this is illegal under international law.

Palestinian trade unions and civil society organizations have called for a worldwide campaign of boycotts to pressure Israel to end its apartheid rule over the Palestinians. The movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is modeled after the 1980s international solidarity campaign that put economic pressure on South Africa’s government and helped end apartheid.

In recent years, working people throughout Latin America elected a number of pro-worker governments, many of which then came under attack from big business forces supported by U.S. administrations, including in Venezuela and Bolivia. U.S. sanctions have largely crippled Venezuela’s economy, but have not brought down the elected government of President Nicolás Maduro — yet the U.S. government and media continue to vilify his government as a “dictatorship.” In November 2019, Bolivia’s elected president, union leader Evo Morales, was overthrown in a coup — and the U.S. immediately recognized a new right-wing government led by wealthy elites. In October 2020, in an election held only after a general strike demanding the restoration of democratic rights, the Bolivian people roundly rejected the coup leaders, giving a solid majority to Morales’s party.

Cuba poses no economic or military threat to the U.S. Our government has no justification for the economic blockade of Cuba, which makes it more difficult for Cubans to access medicine, food, and essential life-giving supplies. The blockade hurts workers in both countries. Jobs are lost, while U.S. manufacturers are denied a major market just 90 miles offshore. Although Obama had finally reestablished diplomatic relations between the two countries, the Trump Administration suspended diplomatic relations once again in 2017. Instead of restoring diplomatic relationships and lifting the economic embargo, President Biden has seized on relatively small protests, sparked by the very hardships caused by the embargo, to demand “regime change” in Cuba.

In Colombia, by contrast, widespread protests and strikes over the past year and a half have been met with violence by the U.S.-backed government. At least three dozen people have been killed in the most recent round of protests, with many more reported missing.

The U.S. government has increasingly supported autocratic rule in Haiti that contributed to the chaos that erupted with the recent assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the resulting leadership void and current scramble for power.

Our government’s involvement in wars and destabilization campaigns around the world makes us less, not more, safe. The two major U.S. wars of the past two decades, Iraq and Afghanistan, while costing us billions of dollars and the lives of thousands of our young soldiers, have produced more extremism, more war, more instability, and more danger. And the escalation of tensions with China and Russia raise the specter of nuclear war, which would be catastrophic for human life.

UE has long warned of the danger of nuclear weapons, a position only strengthened by our close relationship over the past three decades with the militant Japanese union federation Zenroren. As workers from the only nation that has suffered a nuclear attack, Zenroren has a deep commitment to the abolition of nuclear weapons as absolutely necessary to winning a decent life for working people.

Foreign and military policies should defend the interests of working people, not the wealthy. UE has long supported the labor movement promoting its own foreign policy ideas based on diplomacy and labor solidarity. Our government should not destabilize democracy on behalf of billionaires. It should promote peace, jobs, and justice for all.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 77th UE CONVENTION:

  1. 1. Calls on the union at all levels to: 
    1. Inform and engage members on the need to change U.S. foreign policy to promote diplomacy, democracy, and workers rights; 
    2. Promote involvement in labor-based efforts to effectively create that change;
    3. Support About Face, formerly known as Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW);
  2. Demands the U.S. government invest in peace and build economic security by:
    1. Reducing the military budget while improving wages, healthcare, and pensions of soldiers and veterans;
    2. Reappropriating defense savings into transportation, housing, healthcare, education, renewable resource development, or other peaceful infrastructure;
    3. The creation of a fund to guarantee any worker or soldier displaced by conversion from a war economy to a peace economy up to four years’ living allowance and educational expenses; 
  3. Further demands the U.S. government:
    1. End incentives for corporations to profit from exporting weapons abroad;
    2. Cease military aid to countries with disgraceful human rights records;
    3. Cease all funding for the National Missile Defense program and the U.S. Space Force, and support efforts at the United Nations to ban all weapons in space;
    4. Cease using U.S. military and intelligence agencies in interventions against sovereign nations which pose no threat to the American people;
    5. End the use of taxpayer money for further militarization of Latin America;
    6. Cease all harassment of the democratically-elected government of Venezuela;
    7. Cease the use of drones to attack foreign nationals or U.S. citizens;
    8. Reinstate the agreement negotiated with Iran which prevents its development of nuclear weapons;
  4. Endorses S. 2391, the National Security Powers Act of 2021;
  5. Demands the U.S. government end all military aid to Israel and pressure Israel to: 
    1. End the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza;
    2. Negotiate a peace agreement on the basis of equality, democracy, and human rights for the Palestinian and Israeli people, including Palestinian self-determination and the right of return for refugees;
  6. Endorses the BDS movement and urges the union at all levels to become engaged in BDS and the movement for peace, justice and equality between the Palestinians and Israelis;
  7. Opposes all efforts to outlaw BDS and otherwise punish non-violent critics of Israeli policies;
  8. Supports the struggle of our sister union Zenroren to halt the repeal of Article 9 of Japan’s constitution, to close all U.S. military bases in Japan, and to halt all U.S. efforts to convert the Japanese Self-Defense Force to offensive purposes;
  9. Welcomes the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by the United Nations, and demands that the U.S. government take all necessary steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons;
  10. Calls on the corporate media and the U.S. government to end its campaign of misinformation, fraud, and manipulation against the interests of our working-class sisters, brothers, and comrades abroad;
  11. Supports the United Nations call for an end to the inhumane 60-year Cuban embargo, and demands that Congress and the President:
    1. Normalize relations with the Cuban government; 
    2. End the blockade on trade and travel for Americans; 
    3. End pressure against countries that wish to trade freely with Cuba; 
    4. Cease funding and support for Cuban-exile terrorist groups.