On Tuesday, Trump hosted the leaders of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the Kingdom of Bahrain at the White House, where the two Arab nations signed agreements recognizing Israel as a sovereign nation and extending full diplomatic relations to it, making them the third and fourth Arab nations to do so since Israel’s founding in 1948. Trump has called the UAE deal a “historic peace agreement” and hailed his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of women’s peace group Code Pink, told Radio Sputnik’s Fault Lines on Tuesday that Trump has brought the US “to the brink of war,” but even though most Americans disapprove of US militarism, they aren’t angry, because it isn’t Americans who die in America’s wars.
[Interview begins at 85:50]
“He’s actually put more troops in the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia, where it’s a very dangerous move to have US troops in a place where many people consider the holiest sites for Islam” to be, Benjamin told hosts Shane Stranahan and Jamarl Thomas.
“He has brought us to the brink of war. Remember in January, when he killed [Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qasem] Soleimani, a general from Iran, and by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal he has not only put us on the brink of war with Iran, but he’s inflamed all of the conflicts in the Middle East,” Benjamin noted.
“He has vetoed congressional votes that included Republicans to stop the US from assisting the Saudi bombing of Yemen, which has been totally catastrophic. He has been bragging about arms sales not only to the Saudis, but to the [United Arab] Emirates and to other repressive [Persian] Gulf countries,” she said, adding that “he has brought us into a new cold war with China.”
Indeed, on Tuesday, Trump said he “would have no problem” selling Gulf states the advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter stealth aircraft. The UAE is Riyadh’s primary ally in its war against the Houthi movement in Yemen, which ousted Saudi ally and Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in 2015. The only other operator of the advanced fighter jet in the Middle East is Israel, after Turkey was kicked out of the program.
However, Trump’s challenger in the November 2020 presidential election, Democratic nominee and former US Vice President Joe Biden, offers little alternative, Benjamin cautioned.
“We have two war parties,” she said, noting that Trump’s predecessor and the president under whom Biden served, Barack Obama, “didn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize” given to him in 2009. “Joe Biden is terrible on most of his foreign policy. And they were better on Iran and Cuba, but not very much more than that.”
“So I’m not trying to say that the Democrats would lead us into a peaceful future,” Benjamin said. “Unfortunately, the American people are much more advanced than the two major parties are when it comes to war and peace issues. They’re the ones who want to get us out of the wars. The polls show that even the majority of Republicans think that the US’ continued presence in Afghanistan and Iraq is wrong, which is why Trump - smarter than Biden - says, ‘I’m gonna get us out of there.’ Well he’s had almost four years now to do it, and he hasn’t done it. So yes, the Democrats are not much better.”
“Bernie Sanders was much better when it came to foreign policy, and a lot of people were very excited about his proposals to cut the Pentagon budget. The majority of people want to cut the Pentagon budget, and yet, when it came up in Congress to just cut it by a mere 10%, we couldn’t even get a majority of Democrats to go for that.”
However, she said that while many Americans are opposed to the wasting of “trillions of dollars” as well as “American blood,” they may be opposing the wars “maybe not for very generous reasons, probably many of them because they don’t give a damn about places like Iraq or Afghanistan or Yemen.”
“Most of the wars now are not being fought by US troops on the ground but things like proxy wars, drone warfare, commandos,” she said, noting this is why Americans are not demonstrating in the streets calling for peace, “but certainly the polls show that that’s what they want.”
However, Benjamin also attributed this lack of mass demonstrations to the “failure of the peace movement.”
“We haven’t been able to connect these issues of the environment, Black Lives Matter, of gun control issues, in a way that people really, really get it and are willing to do more to force their politicians to say, ‘Cut the damn Pentagon budget and give us money for the Green New Deal, cut the Pentagon budget and give us money for Medicare for All.’ So I think we’re doing better in that sense. There are organizations like the Poor People’s Campaign that have made the issue of decreasing the Pentagon budget and militarism a major plank in their platform. And we have the Movement for Black Lives that definitely sees this as connected.”
“So I think we have to do more to connect these issues and then to really put politicians on the line. Everybody who voted against the 10% cut to the Pentagon should’ve heard from their constituents. And we at Code Pink have been trying to do this, but we need more people involved and more groups that have a bigger constituency than we do,” Benjamin told Sputnik.
That said, Benjamin urged “vote for Biden, because on … a number of important domestic issues he is way better than Trump and certainly on the foreign policy issues, he is more likely to be pressured, just like he has been pressured on the issues of the environment and health care … We’ve gotten hundreds of organizations to contact his campaign and actually have discussions with his campaign. We can’t even get near the Trump people, when we send them the same letters we get zero response.”
“The fact that Biden got on the event last night by the Poor People’s Campaign means he feels the pressure of the religious community that’s come together to say ‘no’ to poverty, militarism and racism. The fact that he has changed his positions on a number of issues because of grassroots pressure. I think we do have much more possibility of influencing,” she said.