We Need to End the Pentagon's "Forever Wars" and Create a Peace Economy
December 7, 2018
Commentary: We are currently involved in military action in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed either as collateral damage from US strikes or from the instability caused by our interventions. Millions have fled, adding to the global refugee crisis. America should not be in the business of destabilizing foreign countries. We must end the "forever war," bring our troops home, and end our terrorist air strikes.
A Peace Economy
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States has entangled itself in war and occupation throughout the Middle East and North Africa. As of 2018, we are currently involved in military action in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Hundreds of thousands of civilians in these countries have been killed either as collateral damage from American strikes or from the instability caused by US interventions. Millions more have fled their broken countries, contributing to the global refugee crisis.
This continued action damages America's legitimacy as a force for good, creates new generations of potential terrorists, and erodes American prosperity. In times when we're told that there's not enough money, Republicans and corporate Democrats seem to find the cash to fund a $1.1 trillion fighter jet program or a $1.7 trillion-dollar nuclear weapon "modernization" program.
The costs are extreme: the Pentagon's budget for 2018 is $700 billion dollars, all to continue fighting an endless War on Terror and re-fighting the Cold War with a new arms race that nobody can win.
According to the Constitution, the right to declare war belongs to the legislative body, and yet many of these global acts of aggression have never once been voted on by Congress. In some cases, we've even acted unilaterally, without the backing of the United Nations.
America should not be in the business of destabilizing countries. While we may see ourselves as liberators, the world increasingly views us as occupiers and aggressors. Alexandria believes that we must end the "forever war" by bringing our troops home, and ending the air strikes that perpetuate the cycle of terrorism throughout the world.
By bringing our troops home, we can begin to heal the wounds we're opening by continuing military engagement. We can begin to repair our image. We can reunite military families, separated by repeated deployments. We can become stronger by building stronger diplomatic and economic ties, and by saving our armed forces only for when they're truly needed.
Gun Control / Assault Weapons Ban
School shootings have become all too routine in America, and in urban areas like the Bronx and Queens, gun violence is a regular reality in many communities. In some states, it's easier for teenagers to buy assault weapons than it is for families to get health insurance. Every year, more than 15,000 Americans die due to gun violence, excluding suicides. In America, gun violence is occurring at a rate 10 times higher than in other high-income countries.
With every mass shooting, we see lots of thoughts and prayers from our politicians, but continue to see no action. Republicans ban studying gun violence and write legislation designed to help gun stores that break the law.
The NRA, a vehicle for gun manufacturers that disguises itself as a civil rights organization, is run by a man who helped arm narco-terrorists in what became the Iran-Contra scandal. Instead of fighting to save American lives, politicians bend over backwards to protect the billionaire-backed gun lobby and propose measures that would actually increase gun sales, such as the incredulous proposal to arm teachers.
Alexandria knows that it doesn't have to be this way. Even in the United States, cities and states with strong gun laws have managed to cut gun violence significantly without running afoul of the Second Amendment. Thanks in part to New York City's tough gun laws, gun crimes here are at historic lows. But New York -- and the rest of the country -- has the potential to be much safer. Alexandria believes that supporting common-sense gun legislation is necessary for any politician who claims to care about the lives of constituents. She understands that gun control can save lives and make communities and schools safer.
Ban Assault Weapons, High-Capacity Magazines, and Bump Stocks
It's clear that the Founding Fathers did not have assault weapons in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment. These machines of war were brought over to the civilian market in the 1980s, alongside high-capacity magazines, and dramatically increase the death toll of mass shootings where used. Alexandria believes that the Federal Assault Weapons Ban should be reinstated, strengthened, and made permanent.
Require Domestic Abusers and Stalkers to Surrender Their Firearms
The availability of guns heightens the stakes of intimate partner violence and domestic abuse. On average, more than 760 Americans are shot to death by current or former partners each year. Yet federal laws meant to block domestic abusers from obtaining guns do not close the "intimate partner gap," in which a partner convicted of abuse can buy a gun if they don't live with, or have a child with, the victim of abuse. Federal laws also fail to prevent convicted stalkers or subjects of restraining orders from buying guns.
Worst of all, once convicted of domestic abuse, abusers can keep any firearms they currently possess -- and then continue to commit crimes with guns they would fail the background check for. Alexandria believes that anyone convicted of relationship violence has no right to own a weapon of any kind, and that stalkers or subjects of restraining orders should never be armed.
Mandate Universal and Improved Background Checks for Firearm Purchases
The federal background check system has a dangerous loophole: felons, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill can buy guns off of the internet or at gun shows without going through a background check.
These cases are not rare: 1 in 5 gun owners obtained their most recent gun without a background check. And unsurprisingly, those barred from buying guns gravitate towards a "private sale"—another dangerous loophole in the background check system where firearm offenders are overwhelmingly likely to obtain weapons.
Alexandria knows that closing background check loopholes will save thousands of lives, as will changing regulations to prevent gun sales from proceeding without sufficient background checks.
Require Congresspeople to take no money from the gun lobby or private equity companies that invest in the firearms industry
Gun lobby money is the number one barrier to getting any meaningful action on guns accomplished in Congress.
The NRA has invested millions of dollars to make sure our politicians keep our gun laws weak and our children at risk. This is also not just a Republican problem -- many Democrats take millions of dollars from private equity companies that own large stakes in gun companies and stand to lose millions of dollars if gun laws are made stricter.
We need to make sure our Congresspeople are making laws to protect Americans and not the gun lobby, and until we take away the financial incentive for our elected officials, we will continue to have Republicans blocking any gun regulations and Democrats not having the will to fight hard enough against it.
Alexandria will work with the Democrats in Washington to overcome Republican resistance to life-saving, common sense gun reform, and ensure that policies are made for the American people -- not the NRA. She will fight to end America's gun violence epidemic caused by weak gun laws, NRA-controlled politicians, and the apathy preventing progress on addressing this issue.
Mobilizing Against Climate Change
In order to address runaway global climate change, Alexandria strongly supports transitioning the United States to a carbon-free, 100% renewable energy system and a fully modernized electrical grid by 2035. She believes renewable fuels must be produced in a way that achieves our environmental and energy security goals, so we can move beyond oil responsibly in the fight against climate change.
By encouraging the electrification of vehicles, sustainable home heating, distributed rooftop solar generation, and the conversion of the power grid to zero-emissions energy sources, Alexandria believes we can be 100% free of fossil fuels by 2035.
Furthermore, Alex believes in recognizing the relationship between economic stability and environmental sustainability. It's time to shift course and implement a Green New Deal – a transformation that implements structural changes to our political and financial systems in order to alter the trajectory of our environment.
Right now, the economy is controlled by big corporations whose profits are dependent on the continuation of climate change. This arrangement benefits few, but comes at the detriment of our planet and all its inhabitants. Its effects are life-threatening, and are especially already felt by low-income communities, both in the US and globally.
Even in NY-14, areas like Throgs Neck, College Point, and City Island are being affected by erosion and rising sea levels. Rather than continue a dependency on this system that posits climate change as inherent to economic life, the Green New Deal believes that radically addressing climate change is a potential path towards a more equitable economy with increased employment and widespread financial security for all.
Climate change is the single biggest national security threat for the United States and the single biggest threat to worldwide industrialized civilization, and the effects of warming can be hard to predict and self-reinforcing. We need to avoid a worldwide refugee crisis by waging a war for climate justice through the mobilization of our population and our government. This starts with the United States being a leader on the actions we take both globally and locally.
Clean Campaign Finance
Alexandria believes that the only way for real reform to happen in Washington is for the means by which elections are funded to be overhauled from the bottom up. In 2010, as a result of a disastrous Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. FEC, 5 out of the 9 Justices gave the wealthiest people in this country the opportunity to purchase the US Government, the White House, the US Senate, the US House, Governors' seats, State legislatures, and State judicial branches with unaccountable dark money.
The Citizens United ruling is centered around the notion that money is speech and that corporations are people. This idea is far from any reasonable interpretation of the Constitution, and is deeply harmful to the institutions of social democracy. Not only does this situation favor those with extreme wealth, but also discourages those who are less privileged from even considering a run.
After growing up in a working-class family and working in Senator Ted Kennedy's office as college student, Alexandria left thinking there wasn't a place in politics for someone like her. As someone unable to fund her own campaign and without the connections to wealthy individuals willing to invest, she felt as though her party, the Democratic Party, had no place for her.
The first pledge Alexandria made to voters in this election was to commit herself to clean campaign finance. As a candidate, Alexandria recognizes the corrupting influence of corporate fundraising on legislative policy. Where she stands farthest apart from her primary opponent Joe Crowley is in her steadfast refusal to allow her campaign to be underwritten by lobbyist contributions.
If elected, Alexandria vows to reform campaign finance laws that undermine democracy for the benefit of corporate interests. This is not a progressive or a conservative issue. It is an issue that should concern all Americans, regardless of their political point of view, who wish to preserve the longest standing democracy in the world, and a government that represents all of the people and not a handful of powerful and wealthy special interests.
Campaign finance reform can't happen soon enough. That is why Alexandria is supportive of big ideas like the overturning, through a constitutional amendment, of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, along with other disruptive rulings such as the Buckley v. Valeo decision and SpeechNOW.org v. FEC. Sweeping legislation that moves us toward the public funding of elections is the ultimate goal.
However, Alexandria knows that constitutional amendments and the overturning of Supreme Court decisions are a long process. In the meantime, Alexandria will insist on legislation to require wealthy individuals and corporations who make large campaign contributions to disclose where their money is going.
This will be enforced via legislation, action by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Election Commission, and Federal Communication Commission, and federal legislation requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending.
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