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Green Party candidate Madelyn Hoffman says that even the progressive Democratic presidential candidates remain unwilling to challenge the Pentagon.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris in Herald Square in New York City at the People’s Mobilization Against the U.S. War Machine and to Save the Planet. I’m here today with Madelyn Hoffman of the Rage Against the War Machine organization and March on the Pentagon. Pleasure to meet you.
MADELYN HOFFMAN: Pleasure to meet you too. Glad to be here.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: So I want to talk to you about the political landscape here in the United States, and particularly the contest for the presidential nomination in the Democratic Party. You know, I think it’s broadly agreed amongst progressives that the two most progressive candidates in the current rather large field of nominees–or potential nominees–are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. From your perspective, have they taken an approach to the question of militarism, U.S. defense spending, U.S. involvement in conflict abroad that is sufficiently principled and progressive? And if not, how do they fall short?
MADELYN HOFFMAN: All right; no. The short answer is no, they’re not sufficiently progressive. One candidate who was more progressive because she spoke about regime change was Tulsi Gabbard, but she’s been sort of pushed to the side right now. The problem is the Democratic Party in general is not anti-war. So the people within the Democratic Party, the candidates within it, don’t come out forcefully against imperialism. They don’t come out against regime change. Joe Biden, for example; if you can find me a war he opposed, I’d love to see it. I have seen nothing.
And the two that you mentioned, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. When Elizabeth Warren was talking about the Green New Deal, she said, “Oh, we have to make the military greener.” Whereas the Greens and others who support a Green New Deal say, “In order to have a real Green New Deal, you’ve got to cut the military budget.” You’ve got to cut it by at least 50% because as long as there are wars, there’s going to be climate change. The U.S. military is the world’s largest polluter. So if you’re not going to confront the U.S. military–its size, where it’s headed, what’s happening–then you’re not anti-war. And if you can’t use the words regime change… Bernie Sanders, for example, called Maduro a dictator, and he feeds–
DIMITRI LASCARIS: The President of Venezuela?
MADELYN HOFFMAN: Yes, right. He feeds into the rhetoric that justifies regime change war. So while he’s better than others, he’s not sufficiently anti-war.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Just in the interest of full disclosure for our audience, you mentioned the Green Party of the United States. You ran for the Green Party, correct?
MADELYN HOFFMAN: Yes, I did. I ran for U.S. Senate in New Jersey in 2018 against Senator Menendez as a Green, and I’m running again in 2020 as a Green against Senator Booker, primarily on the anti-war issue. In fact, today I was in Elizabeth, New Jersey because Senator Menendez was meeting with Ivan Duque, who’s the president of Colombia. And there were protests out in front because Duque is, first of all, not enforcing the peace accords for Colombia. And second, he’s allowing himself to be used by this government to put pressure on or to supply people to fight in Venezuela.
So Senator Menendez, he’s holding this public forum not to be critical, but to welcome Ivan Duque.
So yeah, I am a Green. I’ve run as a Green. I’m here representing March on the Pentagon because March on the Pentagon takes on the Pentagon, the war machine, the imperialist war machine; not Democrat, Republican, Green, none of the above. They’re non-partisan, but they’re willing to take on the Pentagon. That’s how they started last year.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: So lastly, I want to talk to you about the views of ordinary Americans. We talked about the Democratic elite on a whole range of issues. As I’m sure you know, Congress is well to the right of the American population. To give one example, a recent poll showed that a large majority of Americans supported a 70% marginal tax rate on the richest or the highest income earners. And there’s virtually no one–there’s just a smattering of people in the Congress who would actually go so far as to advocate for a 70% tax rate.
So let’s talk about military spending and public’s attitude towards military spending. The United States, as I’m sure you know, spends over twice as much money as China and Russia combined on the military.
MADELYN HOFFMAN: Yeah, and if you add all the other countries… You can add most of the other countries and the U.S. is still spending more than they are.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: So in your interactions in trying to get the public aware of the role that the Pentagon plays in propagating war and so forth, and the disastrous effects of this obscene military spending, do you get the sense that the public on this issue is to the left of Congress? Or do you think there’s really a great deal of educating we need to do to make the public understand?
MADELYN HOFFMAN: Oh, that’s a good question. I think it’s some of both. Because as soon as you tell people how much money is being spent on the military versus how much on education, for example… I mean, education gets less than 6% of the U.S. discretionary spending, the money that Congress can decide how to spend. Whereas the military gets now close to 60% percent. So as soon as people know that and understand that, the response is, “We can’t do that.”
But the rhetoric coming out of Washington is, “We have to stay safe; we have to stay safe; we’re doing this for our safety,” which is all wrong. It’s designed to get people riled up. You know, we had millions in the streets of the world on Friday against climate change, and that should be that way. But then later that day or the next day, the United States announced they’re sending more troops to Saudi Arabia in preparation for a possible war on Iran, and there was nobody out in the streets protesting that.
So we need to take those two issues because climate change causes war, causes climate change, causes war. We need to take those two issues, put them together, and have those same people who are out in the streets against climate change also speaking out against war on our planet. The two are just so, so intertwined. But we tend to talk about it separately and we understand that, because we’re not making the connections well enough. But we have to work to make those connections and get the younger people–get everybody–to understand the connections.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: And this is Dimitri Lascaris reporting from Herald Square in New York City, talking to Madelyn Hoffman of Rage Against the War Machine. Thank you very much for joining us today.
MADELYN HOFFMAN: Thank you very much. Thank you for being here.