FOR PEACE, JOBS, AND A PRO-WORKER FOREIGN POLICY

by 

 Adopted at UE's 71st Convention, September 17, 2009

The United States spends more on the military than all other nations combined. It is unjust and unsustainable. When the interest costs of the national debt attributable to past military spending is added to yearly spending, it equals more than half the national budget. With the Department of Defense no longer audited, the problem is worse than many realize. The regressive impact on our economy of a militarized foreign policy is obvious. Military expenditures shift funds from productive uses, resulting in far fewer jobs created and less money spent on education, healthcare, housing, transportation, or any other social need.

While we possess the biggest military in the history of the world, it does not bring real security to the American people.  Our standard of living continues to sink, our jobs are exported, and crime increases.  The corporate media may work tirelessly to blame Social Security, Medicare, or other domestic programs for the federal budget crisis, but it is obvious the military budget is the culprit: $700 billion, 30 percent of the federal budget.

The Bush administration's preemptive invasion of Iraq and the escalating occupation of Afghanistan have condemned our troops to wars without end. The toll on our troops, civilian deaths, massive property destruction, the harm to our nation's reputation are unacceptable. It has cost us more than a trillion dollars. Unlike previous wars, private contractors now comprise a substantial proportion of our military budget, which destabilizes our national economy and undermines our national security, as all too many contractors swindle the government and rob the taxpayers.  One positive byproduct of the movement against the Iraq war was a non-partisan independent voice for U.S. workers on foreign policy. UE was one of the founders of U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), which continues to be the major voice and forum for working people in opposing the occupation of Iraq.

The U.S. military is mind-boggling in its scope; weapons systems are still developed to "defend against" the long-dismantled Soviet Union; more than 100 military bases and a gigantic air force and navy to counter nonexistent foes; nuclear weapons are maintained for a threat which no longer exists; and countries such as Colombia, Pakistan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, and Georgia are the recipients of billions in military aid labeled as "anti-terrorism" or "anti-drug" subsidies.

U.S. military support of many governments is intended to prop up sweatshop production zones. Working people throughout Latin America in recent years have elected a number of progressive, pro-worker governments, including those of Lula De Silva in Brazil, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and many others. The U.S. has, historically, worked to demonize legitimately elected pro-worker (or even modestly progressive) governments, and in some cases actively destabilized them and supported their overthrow. The military coup of June 28, 2009 which ousted the democratically elected president of Honduras, is the latest example of this misuse of U.S. military aid and support. Behind the police state imposed on the Honduran people are business elites who feared growing unrest among the country's workers and the Zelaya administration's calls for a higher minimum wage. 

U.S. workers continue to lose under trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).  These trade deals promote job movement into sweatshop zones.  Our taxes support a military and foreign policy which undermines our ability to earn a decent living, creates harsh conditions for workers in other nations, and causes hatred of our government, and threatens our security.

The Israel/Palestine conflict is an example of U.S. military and economic policy supporting destabilization and repression. U.S. policy is outrageously one-sided towards Israel, perpetuates injustice and conflict, and risks further war in the Middle East. The $3 billion in annual U.S. aid to Israel (by far the richest country receiving U.S. aid) far exceeds aid given to any other country. U.S. policy allows the continued occupation of Palestine, including the construction of an apartheid wall through the West Bank, and the continued military blockade of Gaza.  Although U.S. news coverage is as biased and unbalanced as U.S. policy, influential voices are beginning to question this policy, including the Council for the National Interest, and former President Jimmy Carter in 2007 with his courageous book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."

We recognize the Obama administration has inherited this legacy, but working people are entitled to swift change to these policies. The Obama administration must decide quickly the direction it intends to take to end the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. As Nancy Lessin, a founder of the group Military Families Speak Out and member of USLAW, said in an interview with the New York Times, "There are some who feel that powerful forces are pushing the president to stay on this course and that we have to build a more powerful movement to change that course." History is full of examples of "well intentioned" powerful nations attempting to dominate nations "for their own good." It has always failed, and if not reversed it will sink the Obama presidency.

U.S. military policy should defend the rights of working people, not the wealthy. U.S. policy should not destabilize democracy on behalf of billionaires.  It should promote peace, jobs, and justice for all people. We demand our government build prosperity as the foundation of security for ourselves and others. Only then will we have the respect and friendship of the people of the world.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 71st UE CONVENTION:

1) Calls on the union at all levels to participate in public events, demonstrations, and forums aimed at ending the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as promoting involvement and affiliation with U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) organization;

2) Calls on the union to continue its work to inform and engage the membership on the ramifications of U.S. foreign policy and on the need to change that policy to promote diplomacy, democracy, and workers rights;

3) Demands that the Obama administration invest in peace by building economic security, in particular:

a) A substantial reduction in the military budget and redirecting resources to provide adequate pay and benefits to enlisted personnel;

b) The immediate redeployment of these savings into the nationís transportation system, housing, healthcare, education, environmental protection, renewable resource development, and other peaceful infrastructure;

c) The refocusing of federal research and development on industrial, energy, healthcare, and consumer markets, rather than military technologies;

d) The conversion of defense industries to production for industrial and consumer use, and the creation of a fund to guarantee any worker or military personnel displaced by conversion up to four years' living allowance and educational expenses;

4) Demands that President Obama renounce the Bush "preemptive strike" policy, end the use of the military as the main tool of foreign policy, and work within the boundaries of international law in cooperation with international institutions;

5) Welcomes initiatives by the Congressional Black and Progressive Caucuses to redefine federal budget priorities;

6) Supports legislation by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace within the federal government which would be dedicated to peacemaking and the study of conditions that are conducive to both domestic and international peace;

7) Demands that the U.S. government end incentives for corporations to profit from exporting weapons abroad, and to stop military aid programs to countries that have condemnable human rights records;

8) Demands that Congress immediately cease all funding for the National Missile Defense program and instead support efforts at the United Nations to ban all weapons in space;

9) Further demands that Congress take all steps to reduce the dangers of military conflicts over international economic disputes and rivalries, including:

a) Limiting all current and future military treaties to purely defensive purposes;

b) Working to eliminate international arms trafficking;

c) Ending U.S. efforts to convert the Japanese Self-Defense Force (SDF) to offensive purposes;

10) Supports the goals of Zenroren to close all U.S. military bases in Japan;

11) Calls on the union to support the Nonproliferation Treaty Review Congress of May 2010 in New York City to abolish all nuclear weapons, and to join with Zenroren in this effort;

12) Opposes the use of U.S. military and intelligence agencies in interventions against sovereign nations which pose no immediate threat to the American people, and urges the Obama administration to immediately sever all ties to the police state in Honduras until the coup leaders step down and President Zelaya is reinstated;

13) Calls for replacing the pro-Israel policy of the U.S. with a good faith, even-handed effort to achieve lasting peace between Israel and Palestine based on full justice and mutual respect;

14) Encourages the union at all levels to take part in other campaigns for new federal funding priorities;

15) Demands that the Obama administration provides genuine support to our armed forces and deliver promised care and services to our troops when they come home, especially by properly funding Veterans Administration medical systems.