Washington chooses its wars; Ukraine and Israel have made the cut despite opposition on right and left

Washington chooses its wars; Ukraine and Israel have made the cut despite opposition on right and left
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Washington, D.C., chooses its wars. And, for now, leaders in Washington have decided the U.S. has a vested interest in the war in Ukraine.

After months of consternation, lawmakers eventually approved $62 billion for Ukraine to fight Russia in recent weeks, with most Democrats endorsing American assistance.

But Congress only dislodged the money after a lengthy push by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. President Biden, McConnell and others finally pushed House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to support the aid, even though most House Republicans opposed it. The Senate OK'd a combination foreign aid package a few days later, 79-18. Only 31 of the Senate’s 49 GOP members voted yes.

Tucked into that package was money for Israel, another conflict in which the U.S. has infused itself, thanks to the votes of bipartisan lawmakers.

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Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi holding the Ukrainian flag
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the U.S. Congress as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hold a Ukrainian national flag Zelenskyy gave them at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Dec. 21, 2022.

A not-so-subtle reminder of how Washington immerses itself into overseas conflicts came the other day following the death of Alfonso Chardy. Chardy was a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Miami Herald and helped untangle and expose the Iran-Contra Affair in the mid-1980s. That was a decision by the Reagan administration to involve itself in proxy wars in Central America under the guise of fighting the spread of communism during the Cold War. There was worry about increasing Soviet influence in the Western Hemisphere.

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Leftist Sandinistas grabbed power in Nicaragua in the late 1970s. Congress sent money to the Contra rebels to support them in the civil war. But lawmakers began restricting money to the Contras in the early 1980s before eliminating all funding.

Reagan administration officials found a creative — albeit illegal way — to go around Congress.

The U.S. would covertly sell weapons to Iran in an effort to curry favor with Tehran to release western hostages held in the Middle East. The proceeds from those arms sales benefited the Contras to wage their battles against the Sandinistas.

Congress may have decided against getting involved in Nicaragua. But Washington as a whole picked that particular fight, making sure the U.S. was fighting through a proxy in Central America.

Fast-forward several decades, when the U.S. made a decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003. Congress voted in the fall of 2002 to approve the operation, but few lawmakers defend the entirety of that conflict today.

That was the thesis of a floor speech from Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, perhaps the most ardent opponent in Congress against sending assistance to Ukraine.

"In 2003, I was a high school senior and I had a political position," declared Vance, speaking about his time finishing high school in Middletown, Ohio, and enlisting in the Marine Corps. "Back then, I believed the propaganda of the George W. Bush administration that we needed to invade Iraq."

Vance later said arguments about helping Ukraine "sound familiar."

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"It’s the same exact talking points 20 years later with different names," said Vance. "I saw when I went to Iraq that I had been lied to. That the promises of the foreign policy establishment of this country were a complete joke."

Vance called the push for war in Iraq "perhaps the most shameful period in the Republican Party’s history of the last 40 years."

Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio speaks to reporters
Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, has long been critical of the aid the U.S. has provided to Ukraine.

Vance added that his "excuse" for backing the war in Iraq "is that I was a high school senior. What is the excuse of many people who are in this chamber or in the House of Representatives at the time and are now singing the same song when it comes to Ukraine?"

The answer is that America’s leaders are committed to helping Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.

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History will bear out who is right or wrong on this front. Just the same as history has judged U.S. involvement in Central America against Soviet influences or by seeking war in Iraq. Remember that the foreign aid package includes money for Israel. Congressional Republicans were more comfortable assisting Israel than some liberals.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was one of the most outspoken opponents of sending U.S. dollars to Israel.

"Put simply, we are deeply complicit in what is happening. This is not an Israeli war. This is an Israeli-American war. Most of the bombs and most of the military equipment the Israeli government is using is provided by the United States and subsidized by American taxpayers," said Sanders. "We are aiding and abetting the destruction of the Palestinian people."

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., also opposed the legislation in the House.

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"This bill passed today is a death warrant. A death warrant on Palestinians," said Bush. "Apparently, it means that Palestinians are not as valued. That their lives are not as valuable as Israeli lives. And I have to say this, for those that feel that way, shame on you."

Back on Ukraine, it was clear McConnell prevailed. Perhaps it's one of his last major policy achievements as Republican leader. McConnell didn’t call out Vance by name. But it was clear who he was targeting in an impassioned floor speech.

Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have both backed funding for Ukraine and Israel.

"So much of the hesitation and shortsightedness that has delayed this moment is premised on sheer fiction," said McConnell. "I take no pleasure in rebutting misguided fantasies. I wish sincerely that recognizing the responsible ideas of American leadership was the price of admission for serious conversation about the future of our national security."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., echoed his counterpart.

"Getting this done was one of the greatest achievements the Senate has faced in years. Perhaps decades. A lot of people inside and outside the Congress wanted this package to fail," said Schumer.

"I think we’ve turned the corner on the isolationist movement," observed McConnell. "You could argue that this is a more challenging time right now than it was leading up to World War II. I don’t want it to take something like the Pearl Harbor attack to get our attention."

The U.S. sat on the sidelines as Adolph Hitler ran roughshod through Europe in the 1930s and early 1940s. The U.S. only got involved after the Japanese bombed Pearl Habor and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a plea to America during a Joint Session of Congress just after Christmas in 1941.

America chooses its wars; America has chosen its wars in Ukraine and Israel.

History will judge whether those were the right decisions.


Original article source: Washington chooses its wars; Ukraine and Israel have made the cut despite opposition on right and left