In contrast to the “pink-washing” of defense contractors, progressive voices that question militarism — e.g., Sanders, Omar, Gabbard — are hectored, harried and condemned.
WASHINGTON — With March 19 marking 16 years of continuous war in Iraq, there is a distinct feeling of deja vu in Washington, as neocon figures like John Bolton and Elliot Abrams beat the drum for war in Venezuela. Liberals and progressives have traditionally been more critical of war and militarism than their conservative counterparts. But in the age of Trump, everything seems up for debate, and the media is trying to sell the military industrial complex to a more discerning, liberal audience.
A case in point is a recent Bloomberg article from Hal Brands, the Henry Kissinger Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University and Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, entitled “Progressives Should Learn to Love the Pentagon Budget.” It argues that leftists like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are “misguided” in criticizing defense spending, as the military bolsters the middle class by creating jobs, provides healthcare to its employees, and “spreads liberal values.”
It claims that military spending is a “huge jobs program” open to Americans who would otherwise not have access to a middle-class lifestyle, and further that the Pentagon “supports key parts of the progressive agenda” and military spending “serves progressive ends.” Undisclosed is that the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments is directly funded by the U.S. military and by weapons corps such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, a fact that highlights the increasing connection between the state and the media.
This is just the latest example of a long trend of trying to sell war to those with liberal values. There has also been a glut of articles hailing the supposedly progressive achievement that women head most of the top military firms in the U.S. For example, Time wrote how “a new group of women leaders” in defense contractors are “proving that one’s gender doesn’t matter;…in the process, they are shaping the world.” Meanwhile missile manufacturer Raytheon has made much of its association with the Girl Scouts of America and received praise in the media for its program to get girls more interested in STEM subjects.
These efforts are an attempt to appeal to the values of the more liberal side of America and deflect attention away from the devastating consequences of Raytheon’s products — on display in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and many other countries around the world.
Trim the military? Not on our watch!
The continued growth of the world’s largest military budget – already greater than those of the next 12 largest countries combined – appears to be a top priority for the establishment. When it was rumored late last year that President Donald Trump was considering cutting America’s “crazy” arms budget, something close to hysteria broke out. The Washington Post described any cut to the world’s largest military as “suicide.” Forbes Magazine claimed “the security and well-being of the United States are at greater risk than at any time in decades,” claiming the only “sensible” option was to increase the budget. Bloomberg concurred, recommending an increase of 3 percent above inflation for a decade. The message is clear: do not challenge the military industrial complex.
In contrast to the “pink-washing” of defense contractors, progressive voices that question militarism are hectored, harried and condemned. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was mercilessly attacked in the press for his refusal to endorse a military venture in Venezuela. The Wall Street Journal claimed he was “siding with a dictator” while Politico labeled him “disgusting,” “clueless,” and unworthy of the Democratic nomination. And for many in the establishment, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) highlighting Elliot Abrams’ history of supporting massacres and regime change in Central America was further proof she was an anti-Semite.
Another prominent Democrat and presidential hopeful, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), has been constantly smeared for her opposition to military intervention and war. The Hawaiian congresswoman has promised to “stop wasting trillions of dollars on wasteful, counterproductive wars and dedicate them to taking care of the urgent needs of communities across this country,” and noted that short-sighted politicians and media pundits who spent the last two years accusing Trump of being a Kremlin puppet have brought us to a new Cold War arms race, as Trump will do anything to prove he is not Putin’s man, including bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war.
“So you ask what I will change? I will change our priorities so we stop wasting trillions of our dollars on wasteful counterproductive wars and dedicate them to taking care of the urgent needs of our communities across this country.” #ServiceBeforeSelf #PeaceDvidend pic.twitter.com/kZ6QKmfMeq
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) March 19, 2019
For taking this anti-war stance, Gabbard has been attacked as an “Assad apologist” by many, including Meghan McCain. Criticisms of her revolve around her supposed support for the enemy, rather than her policies. The establishment is not interested in critiquing her for positions such as her questionable support of the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi in India. Rather, they reserve their ire for her opposition to foreign wars and interventions such as Iraq, which she (rightly) points out was built upon lies and false information.
The constant wave of military propaganda aimed at liberals in the era of Trump has led to a situation in which corporate Democrats have become arguably more hawkish on foreign policy than most Republicans. Almost twice as many Democrats see Russia as a threat as do Republicans, while Hillary Clinton and others of her party have proposed more aggressive lines of action with regards to Ukraine and Syria. It appears that many liberals, suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome, have lost their heads and learned to love the military industrial complex.
Top Photo | President Donald Trump turns to House speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence watches, Feb. 5, 2019. Doug Mills | The New York Times via AP
Alan MacLeod is an academic and writer for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. His book, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting was published in April.