The U.S. military budget — at over $877 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. The U.S. could make substantial reductions to military spending without compromising national security.
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. President Biden continues the long held practice of awarding lavish contracts to politically well-connected defense contractors. 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 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 has continued Trump’s escalation of economic and military tensions.
NATO’s policy of aggressively encircling Russia helped set the stage for the current conflict in Ukraine. With U.S. backing, NATO has spent more than $100 billion arming Ukraine since February 2022, with more than $75 billion coming from the U.S. The Pentagon documents leaked in April 2023 by Jack Teixeira of the Massachusetts Air National Guard made it clear that the U.S. military does not consider the war in Ukraine winnable. It is now obvious that the tens of billions of dollars that our government has pumped into the conflict were never meant to secure victory for Ukraine, but merely to wear down Russia and feed the U.S. military-industrial complex, at the expense of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian and Russian lives.
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. Simultaneously, the U.S. has maintained its close relationship with Saudi Arabia, a dictatorship with a human rights record far worse than Iran. The U.S.-Saudi alliance has prolonged the nine-year Yemeni Civil War, which has resulted in nearly 400,000 deaths, including the starvation of 85,000 children.
Meanwhile the situation of the Palestinians has steadily deteriorated. 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 open-air 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.
Cuba poses no economic or military threat to the United States. 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. 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.
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, cost us billions of dollars and the lives of thousands of our young soldiers, while producing more extremism, more war, more instability, and more danger. 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.
The biggest threats to the people of the U.S. are not military invasions from other countries, but rather:
- The failure to provide living wage jobs, affordable healthcare, education, housing, and necessary social services as human rights;
- The climate crisis, which is causing massive floods, severe droughts, heat waves, increasingly destructive storms, and health-threatening air quality, with disproportionate impacts on frontline communities and people of color;
- The threat of a possible nuclear war; and
- Systemic racism and gender discrimination.
Foreign and military policies should defend the interests of working people, not the wealthy. UE has long believed that the labor movement should promote 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 78th UE CONVENTION:
- Calls on the union at all levels to:
- Inform and engage members on the need to change U.S. foreign policy to promote diplomacy, democracy, and workers rights;
- Promote involvement in labor-based efforts to effectively create that change;
- Support About Face, formerly known as Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW);
- 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:
- Seek an immediate, negotiated end to the conflict in Ukraine;
- 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 and the 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 and economic sanctions on 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;
- Deescalate tensions with China;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- Supports the United Nations call for an end to the inhumane 60-year Cuban embargo, and demands that 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;
- Supports legislation that significantly reduces the bloated Pentagon budget without cutting pay or benefits of those serving in the US military; One such bill is H.R. 1134, the People Over the Pentagon Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Mark Pocan, which would reduce the Pentagon budget by $100 billion.