Senator Bernie Sanders taped a PBS show at the University of Virginia on Monday. I had corresponded with the host Doug Blackmon beforehand, and offered him ideas for questions on military spending and war, questions like these:
1. People want to tax the rich and cut military spending, which is 54% of federal discretionary spending according to National Priorities Project, but you only ever mention taxing the rich. Why not do both? What — give or take $100 billion — is an appropriate level of military spending?
2. Do you agree with Eisenhower that military spending creates wars?
3. Can you possibly be serious about wanting to keep the wars going but have Saudi Arabia play a bigger role? Do you approve of Saudi Arabia dropping U.S. cluster bombs on Yemen?
4. Would you approve of John Kerry promising Israel $45 billion of free weapons over the next decade?
5. Jeremy Corbyn was just elected leader of the Labour Party. He wants to pull out of NATO. Do you? He wants to unilaterally disarm of nuclear weapons? Do you? He wants to end drone murders and wars. Do you? Are you both socialists?
Blackmon at the very end asked Sanders to say something about foreign policy. Sanders replied with the 2002 Iraq vote. Then Blackmon mentioned Saudi Arabia, including its slaughter in Yemen, but rambled on until it became an unrelated softball. Sanders nonetheless brought it back to Saudi Arabia and insisted that Saudi Arabia should “get their hands dirty” and take a much bigger role in a war against ISIS and generally lead the wars with U.S. support.
Who has dirtier hands than Saudi Arabia? Is this some kind of a sick joke?
After the taping of the show, a member of the audience asked “But how will you pay for it?” What the “it” was went unstated, but presumably it wasn’t the military which is considered cost-free in such discussions. Sanders answered with progressive taxation. No mention of the military.
Later in the audience Q&A, Sanders brought up Eisenhower without mentioning the military.
Here are tips for future interviewers of Bernie Sanders:
As you know, Bernie Sanders focuses on money issues, taxing the rich, spending on the poor, but has thus far been permitted to engage in the general practice of speaking only about the 46% of federal discretionary spending that it not military.
Nobody has asked him about the 54% that by the calculation of National Priorities Project is military. Nobody has asked him if Eisenhower was right that military spending produces wars. Here are 25,000 people who want to know whether and how much Sanders would want to cut military spending.
He’s silent on the public support for two, not one, great sources of revenue: taxing the rich (which he’s all over) and cutting the military (which he avoids).
When he is asked about wars and says Saudi Arabia should pay for and lead them, nobody has followed up by asking whether the wars are themselves good or not or how the theocratic murderous regime in Saudi Arabia which openly seeks to overthrow other governments and is dropping US cluster bombs on Yemen will transform the wars into forces for good. Since when is THAT “socialism”?
If you go to Bernie’s website and click on ISSUES and search for foreign policy it’s just not there. He recently added the Iran agreement, after the fact, in which statement he says that war should “always be on the table” even though the U.N. Charter ban on threatening war makes no exception for candidate websites.
If Senator Sanders were to add anything about war in general to his website, judging by his standard response when asked, it would be this:
The military wastes money and its contractors routinely engage in fraud. The Department of Defense should be audited. Some weapons that I won’t name should be eliminated. Some cuts that I won’t even vaguely estimate should be made. All the wars in the Middle East should continue, but Saudi Arabia should lead the way with the U.S. assisting, because Saudi Arabia has plenty of weapons — and if Saudi Arabia has murdered lots of its own citizens and countless little babies in Yemen and has the goal of overthrowing a number of governments and slaughtering people of the wrong sect and dominating the area for the ideology of its fanatical dictatorial regime, who cares, better that than the U.S. funding all the wars, and the idea of actually ending any wars should be effectively brushed aside by changing the subject to how unfair it is for Saudi Arabia not to carry more of the militarized man’s burden. Oh, and veterans, U.S. veterans, are owed the deepest gratitude imaginable for the generous and beneficial service they have performed by killing so many people in the wars I’ve voted against and the ones I’ve voted for alike.
He’s silent on how much he’d cut the military, even within a range of $100 billion. He’s silent on alternatives to war. He’s usually silent on U.S. subservience to Israel. (Does he favor $45 billion in more free weapons for Israel paid for by the U.S. public whom he usually wants to spare lesser expenses than that?)
Jeremy Corbyn just won leadership of the Labour Party in England by promoting socialism at home and actively opposing wars and seeking peace. What is Bernie afraid of?
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
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