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About four months ago, I organized over 100 scholars, intellectuals, and activists to publish an open letter to Senator Bernie Sanders, which was then signed by over 10,000 more people, several of whom volunteered to deliver it to Senator Sanders. So, we know he received it.
Before publishing the letter, I only changed the text slightly from my original draft of it. The change was that, as published, it didn't indicate that we had all refused to support his campaign last time around, or promise that we would support his campaign this time around if he did what we were asking. The reason for the change was that some signers had supported him last time despite the significant shortcoming mentioned in our letter, and some might still not support him this time even if he mended his ways. But as for me, I meant the letter the way I had originally written it. I didn't get out and campaign for Sanders last time, but I was promising to do so this time, if he came through.
He has now come through, and I think we should all support him as long as he continues to. Before I explain that, here's what the Open Letter said:
We write to you as U.S. residents with great respect for your domestic policies.
We support the position of more than 25,000 people who signed a petition during your presidential campaign urging you to take on militarism.
We believe that Dr. King was correct to assert that racism, extreme materialism, and militarism needed to be challenged together rather than separately, and that this remains true.
We believe this is not only practical advice, but a moral imperative, and not coincidentally good electoral politics.
During your presidential campaign, you were asked repeatedly how you would pay for human and environmental needs that could be paid for with small fractions of military spending. Your answer was consistently complicated and involved raising taxes. We believe it would be more effective to more often mention the existence of the military and its price tag. "I would cut 4% of spending on the never-audited Pentagon" is a superior answer in every way to any explanation of any tax plan.
Much of the case that we believe ought to be made is made in a video posted on your Facebook page in early 2018. But it is generally absent from your public comments and policy proposals. Your recent 10-point plan omits any mention of foreign policy whatsoever.
We believe this omission is not just a shortcoming. We believe it renders what does get included incoherent. Military spending is well over 60% of discretionary spending. A public policy that avoids mentioning its existence is not a public policy at all. Should military spending go up or down or remain unchanged? This is the very first question. We are dealing here with an amount of money at least comparable to what could be obtained by taxing the wealthy and corporations (something we are certainly in favor of as well).
A tiny fraction of U.S. military spending could end starvation, the lack of clean water, and various diseases worldwide. No humanitarian policy can avoid the existence of the military. No discussion of free college or clean energy or public transit should omit mention of the place where a trillion dollars a year is going.
Militarism is the top source of the erosion of liberties, and top justification for government secrecy, top creator of refugees, top saboteur of the rule of law, top facilitator of xenophobia and bigotry, and top reason we are at risk of nuclear apocalypse. There is no area of our social life that is untouched by what Eisenhower called the military industrial complex.
The U.S. public favors cutting military spending.
Even candidate Trump declared the wars since 2001 to have been counterproductive, a statement that appears not to have hurt him on election day.