The U.S. military budget continues to soar out of control with bipartisan support. The war in Afghanistan is now by far the longest in U.S. history. Threats or use of military force are still a regular feature of U.S. foreign policy. All of this is done at the expense of the needs of working people in the U.S. and throughout the world.
At $716 billion, the U.S. military budget is already larger than those of the next ten nations combined. Yet the argument between the Trump administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress is on whether to raise it by $34 billion or $17 billion. A top executive from Boeing has been running the Pentagon. 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. President Trump is establishing a so-called “Space Force” as the latest boondoggle to justify even more military spending. He canceled a nuclear missile treaty with Russia in order to buy a whole new set of expensive armaments.
Fortunately a new coalition has arisen with a “People Over Pentagon” agenda calling for the military budget to be cut by $200 billion a year as well as a commitment that the U.S. never go to war again without congressional authorization. They are attempting to insert these long-overdue demands into the 2020 presidential campaign.
Our government’s involvement in wars and destabilization in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America and elsewhere makes us less safe. The two major U.S. wars of the past decade, 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.
In the Middle East, the U.S. is involved in a tangled, contradictory web of alliances and wars. The U.S. 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.
In addition, Trump seems almost as intent on going to war with Iran as the Bush-Cheney administration was with Iraq. Trump canceled the nuclear arms control treaty we had with Iran and has clamped on severe economic sanctions that are themselves a form of warfare. In recent months, as the Trump administration has piled on a string of provocations and unsupported accusations, our European allies have been trying to tamp down the tensions since they recognize how much greater calamity a war with Iran would cause. But Trump seems happy to throw fuel on the fire, perhaps following a typical playbook of keeping enough tension to drive prices up for the benefit of Big Oil.
Meanwhile the situation of the Palestinians has been getting steadily worse. 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, but Israel is now doing so with the full-throated support of the Trump administration.
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. U.S. sanctions have largely crippled the country’s economy but have not yet caused the elected government of President Nicolás Maduro to fall, so the world watched as Washington tried to anoint a weakly-supported opposition politician as the president of the country in early 2019, only to see the charade fall flat on its face when the Venezuelan military refused to rise up and install into power this representative of the rich elite.
Cuba poses no economic or military threat to the U.S. Our government has no justification for the economic blockade of Cuba. 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, this was destroyed by the Trump Administration, which suspended diplomatic relations once again in 2017. Congress has continued to fail to lift the economic embargo.
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. We are proud to be a founder of US Labor Against the War, which advances such a policy. 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 76th UE CONVENTION:
- Calls on the union at all levels to:
- Promote involvement with US Labor Against the War (USLAW) and support About Face, formerly known as Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW);
- Inform and engage members on the need to change U.S. foreign policy to promote diplomacy, democracy, and workers rights;
- Demands the U.S. government invest in peace and build economic security by:
- Reducing the military budget while improving wages, healthcare, and pensions of soldiers and veterans;
- Reappropriating defense savings into transportation, housing, healthcare, education, renewable resource development, or other peaceful infrastructure;
- 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;
- Further demands the U.S. government:
- End incentives for corporations to profit from exporting weapons abroad;
- Cease military aid to countries with disgraceful human rights records;
- Cease all funding for the National Missile Defense program, cancel plans for a U.S. Space Force, and support efforts at the United Nations to ban all weapons in space;
- Cease using U.S. military and intelligence agencies in interventions against sovereign nations which pose no threat to the American people;
- End the use of taxpayer money for further militarization of Latin America;
- Cease all harassment of the democratically-elected government of Venezuela;
- Cease the use of drones to attack foreign nationals or U.S. citizens;
- Reinstate the agreement negotiated with Iran which prevents its development of nuclear weapons;
- Welcomes initiatives by the Congressional Black and Progressive Caucuses to redefine federal budget priorities;
- Demands the U.S. government end all military aid to Israel and pressure Israel to:
- End the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza;
- 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;
- 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;
- Opposes all efforts to outlaw BDS and otherwise punish non-violent critics of Israeli policies;
- 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;
- Demands Congress and the President:
- Normalize relations with the Cuban government;
- End the blockade on trade and travel for Americans;
- End pressure against countries that wish to trade freely with Cuba;
- Cease funding and support for Cuban-exile terrorist groups.