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Sanders, Warren, Ocasio-Cortez, & other progressives demand an end to America's forever wars

Common Defense, a group of veterans and military families advocating for the scale-back of overseas military commitments, wrote and organized the pledge.

Sanders, Warren, Ocasio-Cortez, & other progressives demand an end to America's forever wars
Image Source: Elizabeth Warren Holds Press Conference Opposing Supreme Court Nominee Kavanaugh. WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 24. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

As the United States officially pulls out of Afghanistan, lawmakers in Congress have taken a pledge to bring the country's ongoing imperialist military conflicts to a "responsible and expedient" end. The pledge is a result of lobbying efforts by military veterans on Capitol Hill. Common Defense, a group made up of veterans and military families advocating for the scale-back of overseas military commitments, wrote and organized the pledge. Signed by progressives such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the lobbying effort is one-of-a-kind, as it stands in stark contrast to other protest-based endeavors by anti-war and peace circles, The Intercept reports.



 

In addition to Sanders, Warren, and Ocasio-Cortez, other members of the Democratic caucus have also expressed their support as signatories. These include other freshmen Representatives such as Ilhan Omar, Ro Khanna, and Rashida Tlaib; and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan. "War has been so much a part of the American culture," Omar affirmed. "We only talk about vets when we talk about the kind of resources they need; we never really have a conversation with vets on what defense should look like, and where our engagements are appropriate, and when they’re not. And the ones we often talk to are people who might have led and might not be the ones getting shot at every day."



 

Nonetheless, Common Defense hopes to receive backing from more moderate policymakers. Thus far, Montana Senator Jon Tester has signed on. He was first elected in the heavily Republican state in 2006 and has a history of running a populist campaign that condemned the Iraq War. He now joins a group of "progressive insurgents" in Congress who have previously been outspoken against endless US military interventions. However, for members of Common Defense, the fight is just as personal as it is political.



 

Alexander McCoy, political director for Common Defense, stated, "We’re watching the Taliban govern areas [in Afghanistan] where we deployed, and where our friends died. We’re watching Trump destabilize entire regions. We’re watching our friends who we served with now on their eighth and ninth deployments. We’re seeing our kids now will be old enough to enlist and having to have hard conversations about that." During the dozens of meetings the group held with the offices of Democratic lawmakers, organizers were able to resonate with those who had served themselves. Representatives Jason Crow, a freshman from Colorado and a former Army Ranger, for example, told the veterans he understood their point of view. Jason Hurd, a 10-year combat medic in the Army who lives in Western Massachusetts, said of the interaction, "He certainly agrees that this forever war needs to be wrapped up, and that dialog is very important."



 

While Common Defense's pledge is a starting point for the discussion on ending America's forever wars abroad, shifting the country's foreign policy will take more. "There are a lot of people here who need to have the engagement, they need to have the conversation," said Representative Omar, who immigrated to the US as a refugee of the war in her native Somalia. "Our view on war really is driven by muscle memory, and there has to be a lot of unteaching that needs to take place. For the majority of members of Congress, these are people who are wealthy, who’ve led a life that is comfortable and privileged, or people who have never really left this country. What they know is what they see in the movies or what they read in the briefings and they don’t ever really get to have a conversation that is rooted in peace and justice."



 

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