It’s long past time that you spoke up for genuine diplomacy to bring an end to the horrible war and human suffering in Ukraine. Russia’s invasion was criminal. Now, the war is stalemated and neither side can “win.” As many analysts including Noam Chomsky and Gen. Mark Milley have said, the war will end only through a negotiated peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine.
When the Congressional Progressive Caucus launched in 1991, a major goal was the shifting of federal resources from the Pentagon and military contractors to programs of social uplift and social justice. Yet today, it seems that some CPC members are fighting harder for weapons to Ukraine than for healthcare to Americans.
It’s time for you to break your enabling silence over the Ukraine War, as Martin Luther King Jr. bravely did in 1967 when a Democratic president was invoking “defense of democracy” as a rationale for sending ever more weapons and troops into the stalemated Vietnam War. King referred to war spending as “a demonic, destructive suction tube” that siphoned resources away from crucial anti-poverty programs. In the mid-1960s, some Democrats in Congress spoke out on the war against a president of their own party; they demanded answers, an accounting of costs, and a negotiated end to the war. We look back at them – including Senators Wayne Morse, Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy – as Democratic heroes of that era.
Today, progressives in Congress have been far from heroic – as you’ve failed to demand answers of a Democratic White House that seems to have no plan beyond shipping more weaponry to Ukraine. A year ago, it was worse than embarrassing to see you sheepishly withdraw a moderately-worded letter to the president that sensibly called for “a proactive diplomatic push” toward a negotiated settlement.
Many of your constituents are sickened to see right-wing Republicans in Congress filling the vacuum created by your silence, demanding Ukraine War accountability through their “Define The Mission Act.” If you don’t want to support their legislation, why haven’t you introduced your own bill toward Ukraine accountability? With regards to a war that heightens the risk of nuclear war, what action have you taken since the ill-advised withdrawal of the push-for-diplomacy letter a year ago?
As Ukrainian people continue to suffer, there have been disturbing reports that the U.S. and its allies have actually obstructed diplomatic initiatives. So far, Congress has approved well over $100 billion in Ukraine War-related spending since Russia’s invasion, mostly military aid – with $76.8 billion directly to Ukraine. And the White House is now seeking more weapons funding, with no objection – and much encouragement – from progressives in Congress.
Unlike “America-First” isolationists, progressives are internationalists. We care about the Ukrainian people; we support substantial humanitarian aid to Ukraine now and for reconstruction in the future. We are appalled by supporters of Biden’s Ukraine policy who downplay Ukrainian hardship as they hail prolonged war as a victory for U.S. geo-political interests.
Progressives in Congress should be carrying on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm and many others to shift the federal government’s focus from militarism – now costing nearly $1 trillion per year, with 750 overseas military bases – to social justice at home. It’s about time you broke ranks from the lockstep of open-ended war:
1. Start asking questions about the Biden administration’s Ukraine policy, including how billions of tax dollars for weapons of war could instead be spent on pressing domestic needs.
2. If you don’t want to support a Republican-initiated bill seeking accountability on the Ukraine War, introduce your own.
3. Demand wide-ranging Congressional hearings on Ukraine that include progressive experts who’ve criticized U.S. failures to work toward a ceasefire and negotiations to end the war.
4. Insist that the Biden administration engages in genuine diplomacy to end the horrors of war in Ukraine.
Jeff Cohen is co-founder of RootsAction.org, a retired journalism professor at Ithaca College and author of “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.” In 1986, he founded the media watch group FAIR.
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