Grosscup challenges Sen. Kerry (D-MA) over war funding

On February 19 ISE Board member Ben Grosscup joined a reported crowd of over 250 at a “town-hall-style” meeting with Senator John Kerry. The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported on the event where Ben challenged Sen. Kerry about his support for war funding in Afghanistan during a question and answer period. Here’s Ben’s question posed to Sen. Kerry followed by his statement on Kerry’s response:

“I’m Ben Grosscup and I’m an elected member of Amherst Town Meeting. We passed the Bring the War Dollars Home Resolution last November, calling for an end to any funding for wars that the U.S. is pursuing in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. These immoral wars are killing innocents and degrading our own country morally. Senator Kerry, you have supported funding for these wars.

Meanwhile we’re told that we don’t have money to keep teacher and programs benefiting the public good. Obama — and not just Bush — and the rest of the Republicans agree on tax cuts for the rich and austerity for the rest.

I believe the Amherst Town Meeting passed this Resolution because many of us believe that Democracy is in crisis, and the choice of many Democrats like yourself to enable the military spells doom for the future of democracy.

How do you defend your record of supporting war funding?
And how can the peace-loving people of Massachusetts rely on you to stop the extreme right-wing that you spoke about when you have failed to stand up to the central reactionary institution of our society — the U.S. Military.”

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Kerry’s Justification of War Spending: Morally Bankrupt & Absurd

The essence of Kerry’s reply to the question I posed to him at the meeting, which can also be heard on WFCR’s piece was that the reason justifying a continued American occupation of Afghanistan is to stop terrorism. Specifically, he said that if U.S. troops were to withdraw and end the occupation, the Karzai government, which by the way is totally corrupt and illegitimate (Kerry did not say this), would fall, and the Taliban would come back to power and Afghanistan would return to being a place where terrorists could operate freely.

First of all, liberal defenders of Empire such as Kerry are morally bankrupt. They argue essentially that things could be worse, so we have to support essentially evil military pursuits, because if we don’t, even greater evils await us. This is a sure ticket to moral nihilism.

Moreover, on the surface, Kerry’s argument is absurd, because it presupposes that it is an acceptable policy to militarily occupy entire countries if threatening terrorist organizations are operating there. By that logic, it would be justifiable for Cuba to militarily occupy Florida as a means of stemming the massive U.S.-sponsored terrorism against Cuba that has been carried out by right-wing Cuban ex-patriots, including Luis Posada Carriles.

Looking deeper, Kerry’s argument is even more absurd. How can he make such claims about Afghanistan without suggesting in the same breath that the U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia, be confronted as a much more important safe-haven for Al Qaida? Of course, we don’t militarily occupy that country. Indeed, Saudi Arabia is the U.S.’s biggest customer of weapons.

Lastly, we must look at the most obvious reason why the U.S. is occupying Afghanistan, namely because of its geostrategic importance for transporting oil from the Central Asian Republics to Pakistan and then the Indian Ocean. It is the drive for strategic control over world oil resources that drives the U.S. to carry out its brutal occupations in Afghanistan. We already knew that was the case in Iraq.

Ben Grosscup – Amherst Town Meeting Member, precinct 9

Click below listen to Grosscup’s question and part of Kerry’s response to it (sorry the recorder was stopped before Kerry finished answering, but this gives you the gist of it:

BEN GROSSCUP KERRY TOWN MEETING

A WFCR public radio audio report of the “town-hall-style” meeting, including an interview with Ben, is available here.

A local ABC-affiliate also did a story available here. Finally, another report from The Republic is available here.

4 Responses to Grosscup challenges Sen. Kerry (D-MA) over war funding

  1. Jesse Benn February 28, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Ben,

    Perhaps we could use this opportunity to elaborate somewhat further the relationships between Social Ecology, military organization, and the movement towards peace, at and from all levels of world society.

    One view, which appears to my mind to bear at least some measure of truth, is that the establishment of democratically-accountable militaries in the Middle East could be at least partially responsible for the freedom of security which has enabled or inspired the people in those regions to have demonstrated against their governments in recent months, and that it this process and result, rather than oil interests, or simply the terrorist threat itself in general, which have motivated the United States military, in the far-reaching scheme of political evolution, to have entered into and sustained their involvement in these areas of conflict.

  2. Jesse Benn March 1, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    For clarification: my argument here is not necessarily that you, or your community, should be forced to fund the action of a military with which you do not agree, but that, in this instance, perhaps, you should not necessarily be opposed outright to the entirety of its efforts.

    Even so, in the broader sense, a system of independent or voluntary taxation, while enabling each community to directly decide which programs to support, would, nevertheless, through the balance of resources, indirectly reimburse those communities which choose to contribute to the majority political decision.

  3. Ben Grosscup March 4, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    There are two questions here: 1) What forms of military organization (if any) would be appropriate in the process of bringing to fruition a free society? 2) What is the right position to take in the context of U.S. militarism today?

    One the first, I would agree that some sort of means of self defense is necessary for any revolutionary movement, as we can see clearly in North Africa and the Mid-East today, despite the vast contradictions within the revolutionary movements that are active there. As soon as people declare their political independence and the right to self govern, the question arises, how shall they defend these rights against a centralized state that scorns any power opposed to it.

    On the second question, the issue of war funding in the current context of U.S. wars in the Mid-East is that there is no way to stop the wars without actually stopping the war funding. At one level, this is a purely practical question of what concrete steps would have to occur in order to stop the immoral horrors that the Unites States has been unleashing against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

    The war funding issue is also an important entry point by which social ecologists and other radicals could carry out what social ecologist Chaia Heller calls “Illustrative Opposition,” which is essentially a way of analyzing particular oppressions and injustices in a way that illustrates broader problems of hierarchy and domination in general, and ultimately poses a reconstructive vision for a free society. The war funding issue gives room for radicals to talk about how the investment in military expenditure is inextricably connected with the immiseration of working people and the wanton failure of this society to respond to urgent crises like climate disruption. The Bring The War Dollars Home movement, such as it is today, could still develop itself further, I think, by more consciously incorporating the strategy of illustrative opposition into our organizing, but the process is already underway. The demand to bring home the war dollars, audacious as it sounds to a public so used to being politically dis-empowered, is raising the question of democratic rights to decide on what are the moral ends and means that justify public expenditures and what are not.

    This returns us to the first question. I would argue that in a free society, decisions about what kind of military organization were appropriate would be decided upon democratically with full participation and debate from the society as a whole. However, there would inevitably be minorities, and I don’t think that the minorities would necessarily have a right to simply deny that common resources be used for the common defense, if indeed these decisions were made democratically.

    The troublesome thing about any military that would have to be guarded against in a free society, and is so obvious about our own society, is that when you empower a group of people with weapons there are new problems of political corruption that enter the picture. Militaries must not be centralized, I would argue, for this very reason.

    I think that the anti-war minority in the contemporary United States is in a qualitatively different situation than a political minority in a free society, which does not want to provide resources for the common defense of itself and its neighbors. We are so far beyond the pale of providing for our own common defense, because the U.S. has political goals of global political and military hegemony of the entire world.

  4. Jesse Benn March 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    What I, and I think Ben here now, are suggesting, with respect to the concept of “Illustrative Opposition”, is that there is a deeper reality to this agenda which should be brought forth and addressed in the interest of reconciling and acknowledging the actual mind-set and inner motives compelling these separate camps to their priorities of action and ultimate solution which each considers for its aims. With this in mind, I submit the following thoughts in regards to empathizing with and ultimately abolishing the function of war in the mediation of human relations and upliftment of global society:

    From the origins of the military, certain elements within the government have taken it upon themselves to control the force of arms, vital resources, and information. Those within the general population with the education and initiative to parallel these objectives of security and defense would typically seek to qualify or integrate themselves within the formal structure of these institutions, being consistent with the goal of unity among themselves and one’s national purpose and identity, so far as there remains a threat and instability in the world and the population remains content with the source and form of the economy, the quality of social services, and general dispensation of mass media concerns.

    This military, working in conjunction with its allies to accomplish and maintain stability in the world and to avoid the spread of totalitarian regimes and the hoarding, blockages, and exploitation of resources, while required to foster and maintain the technological and logistical supremacy over all potential threats – to the extent, and in the time-frame and trajectory in which, this remains a viable historical, economic, and developmental possibility -, should, nonetheless, naturally strive to limit its maximum demands and to overturn or reconcile the causes and foundations of all adversity among the civilizations of the Earth.

    Whersoever they may have failed or neglected to further this ambition of ultimate armistice, equitable distribution and development, and public accountability, it returns to the population to somehow fiscally or politically restrict or oppose the scope and scale of military action, often to the extent of denying the primary and honorable, if unfortunate, function of its prior and initial motivation, for which those who are for peace and social freedom must carry their cause unanimously with and to every military of the world, along with the corresponding changes in societal consumption patterns and distribution policies and trends, in order to eliminate or minimize the threat these forces yet pose to themselves and to the survival of all humanity.

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