Last month, CNN Put up a graphic displaying several Saudi airstrikes across Yemen that had resulted in the death of civilians. Somewhat surprisingly, they listed next to each airstrike, the maker of the bombs/missiles used in the strike. We should encourage every news organization to follow this practice, so Americans can understand how authoritarian dictators use the weapons they purchase from us. 

Three weeks ago, in the US Senate passed the largest war spending bill in our historyallocating almost $700 Billion to what is often called “defense”, but should be called war. It was an event that was generally ignored by the media and most Americans.  The bill passed with overwhelming support, 93-7. The only Senator in the Democratic caucus to vote against the increased spending was Bernie Sanders. 

Six Republican senators — Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul(Ky.), David Perdue (Ga.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) — joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in voting against the legislation — thehill.com/…

Perhaps most shamefully, our government has continued to provide military assistance to Saudi Arabia. All while that draconian dictatorship has fomented a humanitarian crisis in Yemen through indiscriminate bombing. The Saudi campaign in Yemen has created starvation conditions for millions. Tens of thousands have been killed, often by US-made bombs being dropped on them. Trump has celebrated contracts to replenish the Saudi arsenal which has brought about such terrible suffering on millions. 

In this destructive environment, Bernie delivered a speech today on foreign policy at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The entire speech can be heard here.

Bernie’s speech is an example of the moral clarity, consistency and clear-sightedness we need to turn back the forces of authoritarianism. I’ve included an excerpts below the fold.

— @subirgrewal

Those of us who believe in democracy, who believe that a government must be accountable to its people and not the other way around, must understand the scope of this challenge if we are to confront it effectively. We need to counter oligarchic authoritarianism with a strong global progressive movement that speaks to the needs of working people, that recognizes that many of the problems we are faced with are the product of a failed status quo. We need a movement that unites people all over the world who don’t just seek to return to a romanticized past, a past that did not work for so many, but who strive for something better.

While this authoritarian trend certainly did not begin with Donald Trump, there’s no question that other authoritarian leaders around the world have drawn inspiration from the fact that the president of the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy is shattering democratic norms, is viciously attack an independent media and an independent judiciary, and is scapegoating the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society.

For example, Saudi Arabia is a country clearly inspired by Trump. This is a despotic dictatorship that does not tolerate dissent, that treats women as third-class citizens, and has spent the last several decades exporting a very extreme form of Islam around the world. Saudi Arabia is currently devastating the country of Yemen in a catastrophic war in alliance with the United States.

I would like to take a moment to note the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, last Tuesday. Over the weekend, Turkish authorities told reporters that they now believe Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate, and his body disposed of elsewhere. We need to know what happened here. If this is true, if the Saudi regime murdered a journalist critic in their own consulate, there must be accountability, and there must be an unequivocal condemnation by the United States. But it seems clear that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman feels emboldened by the Trump administration’s unquestioning support.

Further, it is hard to imagine that a country like Saudi Arabia would have chosen to start a fight this past summer with Canada over a relatively mild human rights criticism if Muhammad bin Salman — who is very close with Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner — did not believe that the United States would stay silent. Three years ago, who would have imagined that the United States would refuse to take sides between Canada, our democratic neighbor and second largest trading partner, and Saudi Arabia on an issue of human rights — but that is exactly what happened. […]

We need to understand that the struggle for democracy is bound up with the struggle against kleptocracy and corruption. That is true here in the United States as well as abroad. In addition to Trump’s hostility toward democratic institutions here in the United States, we have a billionaire president who, according to a recent report in the New York Times, acquired his wealth through illegal means, and now, as president, in an unprecedented way, has blatantly embedded his own economic interests and those of his cronies into the policies of government.

One of the consistent themes of reports coming out of the investigation into the Trump campaign is the effort of wealthy foreign interests seeking influence and access with Trump and his organization, and with close Trump associates seeking to trade that access for the promise of even more wealth. While the characters involved in these reports are particularly blatant and clumsy in their efforts, the details of these stories are not unique.

Never before have we seen the power of big money over governmental policy so clearly. Whether we’re talking about the Koch brothers spending hundreds of millions of dollars to dismantle environmental regulations that protect Americans’ health, or authoritarian monarchies like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar spending millions in fossil fuel wealth in Washington to advance the interests of their undemocratic regimes, or giant corporations supporting think tanks in order to produce policy recommendations that serve their own financial interests, the theme is the same. Powerful special interests use their wealth to influence government for their own selfish interests. […]

So our job is not to accept the status quo, not to accept massive levels of wealth and income inequality where the top 1% of the world’s population own half the planet’s wealth, while the bottom 70% of the working age population account for just 2.7% of global wealth. It is not to accept a declining standard of living for many workers around the world, not to accept a reality of 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty where millions of children die of easily preventable illnesses.

Our job is to fight for a future in which public policy and new technology and innovation work to benefit all of the people, not just the few. […]

In closing, let me simply that in order to effectively combat the forces of global oligarchy and authoritarianism, we need an international movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people, and that addresses the massive global inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power. — medium.com/…

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