Bernie Sanders during a campaign rally in San Diego, California March 22, 2016. (Reuters / Mike Blake)
By: Melissa Garriga and Crystal Zevon
“Let us wage a moral and political war against war itself, so that we can cut military spending and use that money for human needs.”
- Bernie Sanders April 29, 2012
Dear Senator Sanders,
It is so good to see you standing in solidarity with UAW workers and their historic strike. No one can ever deny that you are a true champion of the working class. However, we implore you to take your solidarity one step further and use your agency to push for diplomacy and peace in Ukraine.
We need you to be the voice of working class people right now and not give a free pass to more funding for what is becoming an endless war. We need you to represent the needs and wants of the people here at home, who can’t afford to pay the rent or buy life-saving medicine and other basic necessities. As the total amount of taxpayer dollars spent on this seemingly endless war reaches $140 BILLION, 34 million people in the US are food insecure, two million lack access to clean drinking water, 650,000 can’t pay their medical bills and over a half a million are homeless.
You should know as well as anyone that war has unintended consequences. But don’t take our word for it - take yours.
“My friends, as we have painfully learned, wars have unintended consequences. They rarely turn out the way the planners and experts tell us they will. Just ask the officials who provided rosy scenarios for the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, only to be proven horribly wrong. Just ask the mothers of the soldiers who were killed or wounded in action during those wars. Just ask the millions of civilians who became “collateral damage.”
That is from a speech you delivered to President Biden on February 10, 2022, right before Russia invaded Ukraine. You went on to predict an “enormously destructive war” in Ukraine. And now, within a few months of the two-year anniversary, your predictions have been proven true.
‘No one knows exactly what the human costs of such a war would be. There are estimates, however, that there could be over 50,000 civilian casualties in Ukraine, and millions of refugees flooding neighboring countries as they flee what could be the worst European conflict since World War II.”
You were right. And with regard to soldiers, in August the New York Times reported the total number of Ukrainian and Russian troops killed or wounded since the war began was nearing a staggering 500,000.
You also predicted the negative effects of placing more sanctions on Russia.
“The sanctions against Russia that would be imposed as a consequence of its actions, and Russia’s threatened response to those sanctions, could result in massive economic upheaval – with impacts on energy, banking, food, and the day to day needs of ordinary people throughout the entire world. It is likely that Russians will not be the only people suffering from sanctions. They would be felt in Europe. They would be felt here in the United States, and around the world.”
And you concluded all this without letting President Putin off the hook for his illegal and deadly invasion. “..we should be absolutely clear about who is most responsible for this looming crisis: Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
Yet, you also included outside influences on Putin’s horrific decision.
“A simplistic refusal to recognize the complex roots of the tensions in the region undermines the ability of negotiators to reach a peaceful resolution.
I know it is not very popular in Washington to consider the perspectives of our adversaries, but I think it is important in formulating good policy.
I think it is helpful to consider this: One of the precipitating factors of this crisis, at least from Russia’s perspective, is the prospect of an enhanced security relationship between Ukraine and the United States and Western Europe, including what Russia sees as the threat of Ukraine joining the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO), a military alliance originally created in 1949 to confront the Soviet Union.”’
As mentioned, we are getting closer to the two-year anniversary of this war and the United States has spent nearly $140 billion dollars, money that has only led to more death and destruction for Ukrainians and the loss of resources that hard-working Americans desperately need.
You rightfully pleaded with Biden in February 2022 to seek a diplomatic solution and we urgently need you to do that again. It’s never too late for diplomacy. It’s never too late to save the lives of people and protect the planet. Most wars end with negotiations, the only question is how many people have to be killed and maimed before those negotiations happen? How many more, Bernie?
You said that the use of diplomacy is “not a weakness.” You said it “is not appeasement,” and continued saying that, “Bringing people together to resolve conflicts nonviolently is strength, and it is the right thing to do.”
Please, Sen. Sanders, we need you to do the right thing and we need you to do it now.
Melissa Garriga is the communications and media analysis manager for CODEPINK. She writes about the intersection of militarism and the human cost of war. She volunteered for the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign and resides in Burlington, VT’s sister city, Moss Point, MS.
Crystal Zevon is a writer/videographer and former family and child counselor. She lives in Barnet, VT. She supported Sanders as a congressman, senator and presidential candidate.