The Progressive Caucus and Ukraine

By Robert Fantina, World BEYOND War, October 27, 2022

Democratic Congress member Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Progressive Caucus, has retracted a statement recently issued by members of the caucus, and signed by thirty members of the House of Representatives. The initial statement caused great weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth among many members of the Democratic Party, necessitating its quick retraction.

What, one might reasonably ask, did the Progressive Caucus say that caused such angst among the rank-and-file Congressional Democrats? What outrageous, leftist suggestion was made in the statement that caused such controversy?

Well, this is what the caucus had the temerity to suggest: the Progressive Caucus called on President Joe Biden to engage in talks with the Russian government to end its war against Ukraine.  Here is the main part of the offensive letter:

“Given the destruction created by this war for Ukraine and the world, as well as the risk of catastrophic escalation, we also believe it is in the interests of Ukraine, the United States, and the world to avoid a prolonged conflict. For this reason, we urge you to pair the military and economic support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire.”

One can understand the outrage: why engage in that odious practice – diplomacy – when bombs will get the job done? And for the progressive caucus to suggest such a thing so close to the midterm elections is unforgivable! With the Republicans balking at the billions being sent to Ukraine, the idea of diplomacy plays right into their hands! And we must always remember that the ultimate goal, the holy grail of any election, is the maintenance of the status quo, wherein the party in power stays in power.

In response to the Progressive Caucus’ letter, a CNN analysis blared the headline: ‘Putin has been watching and waiting for this moment in Washington.’ This ridiculous article states that Putin has been watching and hoping for a fracture in  “…the remarkable Washington consensus built by President Joe Biden on the need to do everything it takes to defend democracy in Ukraine.” Now, according to this ‘analysis’, that fracture has appeared. (The topic of ‘democracy in Ukraine’ is one for another essay).

Please note that the statement by the Progressive Caucus didn’t suggest withdrawing U.S. military support (as it should have). It merely encouraged the U.S. government to couple that support with diplomatic efforts to end the war. But no, that was simply too radical an idea and it had to be withdrawn, with duplicitous statements about it being sent out ‘by accident’.

Let’s consider for a minute the ‘havoc’ the Progressive Caucus’s suggestion, if enacted, might cause:

  • The number of deaths of innocent men, women and children might be reduced. If U.S. government officials negotiated with their counterparts in Russia, the carnage might end.
  • The infrastructure of Ukraine might be spared further damage. Roads, houses, bridges and other vital structures that remain standing and functional might continue to be so.
  • The threat of nuclear war might be greatly reduced. While the current war is limited to Russia and Ukraine, a nuclear war would engulf much of the world. It must be remembered that talk of a ‘limited’ nuclear war is nonsense. Any nuclear war would cause unprecedented environmental destruction, and death and suffering unknown since the U.S. bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • NATO’s power could be contained, rendering it a somewhat reduced threat to peace around the world. Its expansion, now moving to additional countries, might be stopped, reducing the ability for war to be quickly launched almost anywhere on the planet.

But no, the Democrats must not appear to be ‘weak’ on Russia, especially so close to the midterm elections.

We might look at what the $17 billion that the U.S. has sent to Ukraine for war-making hardware might do within the borders of the U.S.

  • About 10% of the U.S. population lives below the poverty line, which is an absurd, U.S.-created standard. The poverty level for a family of four is slightly under $35,000 annually. Any family of four with that income will require rent subsidies, food assistance, financial assistance with utilities, transportation, medical care, etc. Elected officials are always saying that ‘entitlement’ programs must be cut to balance the budget. Perhaps military expenditures should be cut to allow people to live at some level of dignity in the U.S.
  • Many inner-city schools throughout the country lack such things as heat in the winter, running water, and other such ‘luxuries’. The money sent to Ukraine could go a long way to providing these necessities.
  • The residents of many cities in the U.S. cannot drink the water that flows from their taps. It would take less than $17 billion to rectify that problems.

One must ask why the U.S. Congress, even in 2022, disdains the concept of diplomacy. Its first response to any international ‘crisis’ – often either caused or invented by the U.S. – is threats: threats of sanctions, threats of war. In the 1830’s, during the Mexican-American War, it was said of President Polk that he “held the niceties of diplomacy in contempt.” This hasn’t changed in nearly 200 years.

One recognizes the need for compromise in any government, but it is sadly lacking in the convoluted workings of what passes for legislative action in the U.S. But by its very name, the Progressive Caucus should introduce progressive bills and issue progressive statements. The statement quoted in part above is hardly a stunning, drastic concept, one that might set Congress on its collective ear. It simply states that the U.S., due to its international (and, this writer might add, misused) power and influence, should at least attempt to work with the Russian government to bring an end to the current hostilities. The fact that Putin, and every other world leader, has no reason to trust the words or actions of the U.S. is, unfortunately, beside the point. The Progressive Caucus made the suggestion, and undercut any influence or credibility it may have had by withdrawing it.

This is ‘governance’ in the U.S: no need to do what is reasonable and right, but there is every reason to say and do what pleases the base. This is how to get re-elected and, after all, for most members of Congress, that is what it’s all about.

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