DeFazio The Dove?

Representative DeFazio recently defended his record of opposing war in his Eugene Weekly letter to the editor, “DeFazio The Dove.” DeFazio presents a selective review of his record being “a consistent opponent of war” that he claims “even the least bit of research into my career would clearly show.” Let’s see what else the least bit of research shows.

DeFazio points out that he voted against the Iraq War but ignores that he voted “to remove the Saddam Hussein regime from power in Iraq” with his vote for the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. Voting for regime change instead of war hardly qualifies one as “a consistent opponent of war.” How did DeFazio envision this regime change would happen if not militarily?  Perhaps sanctions? DeFazio voted for sanctions against Iraq in 1990. Six years later Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had said “the price is worth it” when responding to claims that 500,000 children had died from the sanctions.

DeFazio then explains his vote for the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force after 9/11, which he says has “disturbingly been used beyond its original intent to justify endless wars the US is still engaged in worldwide.” Should DeFazio be so surprised? DeFazio’s vote came after serving in Congress for 14 years, and after seeing what DeFazio calls “Bush’s original draft, which gave him limitless authorization to use US forces as he pleased.” Why is DeFazio then surprised that Bush “used US forces as he pleased?”  A “consistent opponent of war” might have predicted what Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were going to do or might have worried that the AUMF would be abused by ensuing administrations. Even in 2019 the White House is arguing that the 2001 AUMF authorizes war with Iran. 

A “consistent opponent of war” might have also understood that the “military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism,” a quote from Barbara Lee who voted against the 2001 AUMF. Not only has a State Department official just this month stated that Al Qaeda “is as strong as it has ever been,” but a 2016 Army War College study “indicates US efforts have been correlated with a worsening of the terror situation.” 

DeFazio ends by mentioning his War Powers Act which he introduced for the ninth time this year. It has died in Congress each time. It cannot be blamed on DeFazio that Congress appears to not want responsibility for authorizing war, but we can question whether trying to give Congress this power can be called “opposing war.” This is a Congress in which 70% voted for the Iraq War and 75% just signed a letter urging the White House “to remain militarily engaged in Syria” after it had announced a pullout. 

The problem with current war powers law, according to DeFazio at a Eugene town hall earlier this month, is that “the President can use force and then come after the fact to Congress for authorization. That’s a huge problem… once the bullets start flying and casualties start mounting.” DeFazio is right that it is difficult to avoid disastrous wars once we’ve crossed a certain threshold, but he is wrong about where that threshold is.

US wars begin long before “the bullets start flying and casualties start mounting.” The US was funding the French attack (pg 122) of Vietnam in 1950 and it wasn’t until 1959 that the first US soldiers were killed there. Iraq was under crippling sanctions for 12 years before the regime change that DeFazio voted for was achieved with a full invasion and occupation.   

More recently, DeFazio voted for the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in 2017 which bundles sanctions against Iran, Russia, and North Korea. In October, 2018 the World Court ordered the US to ease sanctions against Iran in its 1st case against “economic warfare.” Two months later the house passed a bill cosponsored by DeFazio which “imposes sanctions on Iranian officials.” 

Sanctions don’t just draw us closer to war, they are acts of war. Former State Department official, Thomas Shannon, compares sanctions in Venezuela to “the bombing of Dresden and Tokyo.” Put simply, to be a consistent opponent of war, one must be a consistent opponent of sanctions, therefore DeFazio is neither. Perhaps DeFazio is a dove relative to Congress, but with doves like DeFazio, it is easy to see why a 2013 Win/Gallup poll found the US to be the greatest threat to peace.

Sanctions Punish Children and the Most Vulnerable

(content from pamphlet handout for 2019 Eugene-Springfield Pride in the Park)

SANCTIONS

In 1996 Secretary of State Madeleine Albright responded to the accusation that 500,000 children had died in Iraq as a result of sanctions by saying “we think the price is worth it.” The sanctions she spoke of were led by the United States but approved of and overseen by the United Nations. Multiple UN officials supervising the sanctions resigned in protest calling the sanctions “a totally bankrupt concept” that “strengthens the leadership and further weakens the people” adding that “4-5,000 children are dying unnecessarily every month.” After 13 years of such sanctions, President Bush invaded Iraq with the same objectives that the sanctions did not achieve.

It seems the UN learned a lesson that Oregon congressmen have not. The UN Security Council has refused to approve US sanctions against Venezuela that economist Mark Weisbrot says “are even worse” than those in Iraq. The World Court even ruled against US sanctioning of Iran in Oct 2018 and ordered the US to ease sanctions in the first case of its kind against “economic warfare.” The UN Human Rights Council has voted for multiple resolutions condemning sanctions for “disproportionately affecting the poor and most vulnerable classes.” However, congressional support for such sanctions against Iran and Venezuela is bipartisan with even Merkley, Wyden, and DeFazio on board. 

IMPACT

Mark Weisbrot and renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs released a report in April 2019 on the impact of US sanctions in Venezuela. As expected, they found the impact “has not been on the government but on the civilian population,” including “more than 40,000 deaths from 2017-2018” since sanctions cause food, medicine, and clean water shortages.

In 2017 the UN sent independent expert, Alfred De Zayas, on a fact-finding mission to investigate sanctions in Venezuela. He returned advising that the International Criminal Court investigate US sanctions as crimes against humanity under article 7 of the Rome Statute. “Sanctions kill,” he told reporters, as well as saying sanctions “are comparable to medieval sieges of towns.” 

Former US State Department official, Thomas Shannon, said sanctions “cause enormous harm to the Venezuelan people… more, less like the bombing of Dresden and Tokyo, we are seeing the destruction of Venezuela as a country and a society.” 

Sanctions against Syria increased poverty from 28% to 80% in only 5 years according to a UN assessment which described US and EU sanctions as “the most complicated and far reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.” Over 50% of the population fell into poverty and Assad is still in power, as popular as ever among Syrians.

Professor of Russian Studies, Stephen Cohen, explains that a century of sanctions against Russia and USSR show “no evidence that any US sanctions ever significantly altered Moscow’s behavior in ways that were intended or adversely affected Russia’s ruling political or financial elites. Any pain inflicted fell on ordinary citizens who rallied around the Kremlin’s leadership and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sanctions as a weapon of regime change have failed in almost every case, especially in Cuba and North Korea. Studies show that governments often receive more support from their populations who perceive themselves as under attack from a foreign power and increasingly rely on the government to supply food, medicine and protection from foreign aggression.

LEGALITY

A July 2019 UN resolution stresses that unilateral sanctions “are contrary to international law, international humanitarian law and the UN Charter” as well as urging “all states to stop adopting, maintaining, or implementing unilateral sanctions.” 

Among the many international laws violated by sanctions include a UN Declaration of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States as well as Chapter IV articles 19 and 20 of the Charter of the Organization of American States: “No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.”  and “No State may use or encourage the use of coercive measures of an economic or political character in order to force the sovereign will of another State and obtain from it advantages of any kind.”

The Vienna Declaration says that: “No state may use or encourage the use of economic, political or any other type of measures to coerce another State in order to obtain from it the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights.”

Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court considers sanctions as crimes against humanity.

In July 2019, representatives to 120 countries gathered in Venezuela to support and recognize President Maduro and sign the Political Declaration of Caracas which reaffirms commitment to the UN Charter and international law as well as condemns unilateral sanctions and calls on sanctioned countries to utilize the World Court as Iran did in 2018, to rule on cases of “economic warfare.”

OUR RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR REPRESENTATIVES

UN special expert in sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, explains 

         “Coercion, whether military or economic, must never be used to seek a change in government in a sovereign state. The use of sanctions by outside powers to overthrow an elected government is in violation of all norms of international law.”

Compare that statement with that of Senator Merkley regarding Venezuelan President Maduro, 

          “The US can and must… [use] economic pressure to hasten the day Maduro leaves power.”

May 16, 2019 brought good news that the Maduro government began negotiations in Norway with the opposition. Days later the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved a bill, including additional sanctions, they described as “the most robust effort to date to face the crisis in Venezuela” which would “accelerate the planning of financial institutions… after Maduro” including “international efforts to freeze, recover, and reuse the funds” of Venezuela which controls the largest oil reserves in the world.

Senator Merkley, who voted to approve the bill, sits on the Foreign Relations Committee giving him extra influence over US foreign policy. His vote and public statement add to his voting record that he shares with Wyden and DeFazio of supporting and voting for numerous sanctions such as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act and Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017. These bills passed both the House and Senate with enormous bipartisan support. Notably, Bernie Sanders was one of the two senators who voted against both bills. 

All three representatives showed to be poorly informed, if not misinformed, in their responses to inquiries regarding sanctions. We hold some responsibility for the policies supported by OUR representatives – especially when the policies are harmful and illegal. Please consider voicing your opposition to sanctions by calling your congresspeople today and send a message with your vote in 2020. 

Sanctions are ineffective, illegal, and disastrous to civilian populations. They are not, as Albright claimed “worth it!”

  • Senator Merkley
  • Eugene (541) 465-6750
  • D.C. (202) 224-3753
  • next election 2020
  • Senator Wyden
  • Eugene (541) 421-0229
  • D.C. (202) 224-5244
  • next election 2022
  • Representative DeFazio
  • Eugene (541) 465-6732
  • D.C. (202) 225-6416
  • next election 2020