US Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is among the Democratic Party members who have voted in favor funding the Ukraine war. Image: Twitter

Last May a remarkable column by Stephen Kinzer appeared in The Boston Globe. It was headlined: “Republicans return to their roots as the anti-war party.”  

More significantly, the subheading ran: “Since the Vietnam era, Americans have come to expect anti-war rhetoric from liberal Democrats. Cancel that.”

The column began: “With Americans now engulfed in passion for Ukraine, it wasn’t surprising that President Biden proposed sending $33 billion worth of weaponry and other aid to Ukraine’s beleaguered military. Nor was it surprising that Congress raised the number to $40 billion, or that both the Senate and House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor.

“Hidden within that lopsided vote, though, was a shocker: Every single ‘no’ vote – 11 in the Senate and 57 in the House – came from a Republican.

“Since the Vietnam era, Americans have come to expect antiwar rhetoric from liberal Democrats. Cancel that. This month’s votes in Washington signal a dramatic role reversal. Suddenly it is conservative Republicans who oppose US involvement in foreign wars.”

Strikingly, not only did the “conservative” Democrats vote for the $40 billion that included more weapons of death and destruction for Joe Biden’s cruel proxy war against Russia to the last Ukrainian. All the “progressives” did so, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and The Squad, Bernie Sanders, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee and all the rest. It was a clean sweep.

Second, this was not a one-off event. There is another vote coming up in the next few weeks for another $13.7 billion for Ukraine, with more than $7 billion for weapons. What is the response of the 100 Democrats to this request by Biden? The answer came during the September 11 Week of Action called for by Code Pink and the progressive Peace in Ukraine Coalition reported here, as follows:

“In the nation’s capital, Code Pink co-founders Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, together with Colonel Ann Wright and other activists, kicked off the Week of Action, going door to door to the offices of the House Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC)….

“While some members of the caucus call for much-needed diplomacy and raise concerns about the risk of nuclear war – either through a miscalculation or an intentional first strike – not one member of the nearly 100-member CPC will commit to voting against more weapons for Ukraine.” (Emphasis mine.)

This was also acknowledged in a very dispiriting interview by The Grayzone with prominent activists after the lobbying effort.

The pro-war mentality among the progressive Democratic politicians is not limited to Biden’s proxy war to the last Ukrainian. It extends to a second proxy war now being ginned up in Taiwan. 

When Nancy Pelosi recently visited the island to stir up secessionist sentiment, not a single progressive Democrat in Congress made so much as a peep of protest. In fact, Representative Ro Khanna, co-chairman of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, boosted it in rants on CNN and Twitter.  

Both of these proxy wars bring the US into conflict with two other major global nuclear powers. If the progressive politicians cannot be against military escalation in cases like this, it is hard to see that they have any claim to be for peace. And yet all too many activists in the progressive anti-war movement are loyal to them. 

In fact, some peace organizations have gone so far as to endorse them for election in 2022, even after their vote for the $40 billion to Ukraine, for example here.  

Moreover, this support for the proxy war in Ukraine shows up among rank-and-file  Democrats as well. By every measure in a recent Ipsos poll taken after six months of war, support for intervention in Ukraine was higher among Democrats than among Republicans or Independents. 

If the roots of this are partisan in nature, that is deeply disturbing, because it means that Democrats will follow war hawks simply because they are Democrats. Biden may be a case in point for such misplaced loyalty.

Let me end on a personal note. Working in peace organizations and coalitions, I find that many activists who labor mightily for the cause of peace also maintain loyalty to the Democratic Party. And that loyalty extends especially to the “progressive” Democratic politicians. 

This is most disturbing because on the most important issues of war and peace, these peace activists get nothing in return. And since there is no price to pay for their hawkish votes, these politicians will simply ignore such activists. This is an abusive relationship and ought to be terminated forthwith.  

The minimal policy of those who work for peace should be quite simple: no votes for politicians who vote to fund war in Ukraine – no matter the party. Otherwise those who support war and US unipolarity will continue to ignore those who work for peace.

John V Walsh, formerly a professor of physiology at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, writes on international relations and health care.