10 Things Wrong With Biden’s Foreign Policy – Medea Benjamin

Play
10 Things Wrong with Biden's Foreign Policy

Progressive Americans hoped Biden would quickly restore the Iran deal and relations with Cuba. Instead, the administration seems firmly entrenched behind Trump’s walls of hostility. Medea Benjamin joins Paul Jay on theAnalysis.news


Transcript

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay, and welcome to  theAnalysis.news. Please don’t forget, there’s a donate button at the top of the web page. And if you’re watching on YouTube, you could hit the subscribe button. You can also come on over and hit the donate button.

In a recent article in Common Dreams, Medea Benjamin and Nicholas Davies write, “By the end of his second term, Obama did have two significant diplomatic achievements with the signing of the Iran nuclear deal and normalization of relations with Cuba. So progressive Americans who voted for Biden had some grounds to hope that his experience as Obama’s vice president would lead him to quickly restore and build on Obama’s achievements with Iran and Cuba as a foundation for the broader diplomacy he promised.

Instead, the Biden administration seems firmly entrenched behind the walls of hostility Trump built between America and our neighbors, from his renewed Cold War against China and Russia to his brutal sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Syria and dozens of countries around the world, and there’s still no word on cuts to a military budget that has grown by 15 percent since fiscal year 2015.”

Medea has outlined 10 problems with Biden’s foreign policy, and she joins us now to discuss them. Medea is co-founder of Global Exchange and Code Pink, and she’s the author of the 2018 book, ‘Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran’. Her previous books include ‘Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US – Saudi Connection’ in 2016, ‘Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control’, and ‘Don’t Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran woman speaks from the heart’.

Thanks for joining us, Medea. So let’s go through the 10, and we can just talk about each one as it goes. So here I’ll just read the heading of number one and then over to you. So the first one you have, is failing to quickly rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement. So where are we on this? Certainly, Biden promised to rejoin it when Jake Sullivan did an interview with Fareed Zakaria very early on in this administration.

He, I thought, indicated that the United States was ready to rejoin, essentially without condition to rejoin the-

Medea Benjamin

Like you, I thought this was going to be one of the early things-

Paul Jay

Now, I’m actually not sure where we are?

Medea Benjamin

Okay, we’re going to rejoin the World Health Organization. We’re going to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords. We’re going to renew the START treaty with Russia. I thought right in there, among the top things, what’s going to be end, we’re back in the Iran nuclear deal. Everybody thought that’s what was going to happen because Biden said it and because it was going back to something that was working, and that the international community supported.

Medea Benjamin

So it’s been a real disappointment as this time is going on, and Biden has been sending out very mixed messages through different members of his grouping in the national security staff, that have gone from, yes, we’re going to rejoin without preconditions, to, well, let’s do it at the same time, to, well, the Iranians have to make the first move and they have to get back into compliance, so. I think for those who think rationally about this, the United States was part of the deal.

Medea Benjamin

The other members that signed on, the Europeans, the Iranians, the Chinese, the Russians, they all went along with the deal.

Medea Benjamin

The US pulled out. Then the US says, okay, we should go back into the deal. I mean, that’s the way it should be. But it is very strange, because I think they are well aware in the Biden administration that as each day goes by, it becomes harder and harder to go back into this deal because the forces against the deal in the US, in the Middle East, inside Iran itself, are getting stronger and stronger, whereas the forces in favor of the deal are getting weaker and weaker.

Paul Jay

Now, something like 140 members of Congress, of the House, signed some kind of letter, document, calling for actually reopening the whole negotiation and including other stuff, and I assume other stuff means primarily ballistic missiles, non-nuclear ballistic missiles, which Iran has a right to have as many non-nuclear ballistic missiles. Frankly, Iran has a right to nuclear weapons if it wants it, just not under this agreement. So assuming that agreement goes ahead, they won’t do that.

Paul Jay

But, this 140 or so members of the House, they’re trying to scuttle the whole deal, really.

Medea Benjamin

Well not only did they say that the decision should be a part of it, they also said Iran’s malign behavior in the region should be part of it, as well as the human rights issues internally in Iran. So the fact that they got 70 Democrats to go along with this is very disconcerting. And the main Democrat that helped organize it, a guy named Anthony Brown from Annapolis, Maryland.

Medea Benjamin

We just went and did a protest in front of his office, and we got a hold of him during a town hall, a virtual town hall, and he tried to backtrack, saying, well, we really are supportive of the Biden administration in this and maybe we should lift some sanctions. But let’s be realistic. Anybody who works with 70 Republicans who are known to be against the deal, and who throws everything but the kitchen sink into a broader and more comprehensive deal, is basically saying, forget this deal, because they know Iran would never agree to that at all.

Paul Jay

Yeah, let’s talk about the malign behavior, because if I understand it correctly, it means number one, support for Hezbollah, which Iran has every bloody right to. Hezbollah is a legitimate organization in Lebanon, and it’s actually part of the government, or at least it was last time I looked, and Iran has every right to have relations with Hezbollah, like where’s the malign behavior like in Iraq?

Paul Jay

Yeah, there’s groups in Iraq that support Iran, and vice versa. But it’s a neighboring country, and the Iraqi government has good relations with the Iranian government. Where is the malign behavior?

Medea Benjamin

Well they would certainly say there’s two, and they would say that Iranian backed militias are attacking US personnel and US contractors in Iraq, but one must say, didn’t the Iraqis ask the US to leave? And why is the US there to begin with? And if you really want to protect the US personnel, how about getting them out of there?

Medea Benjamin

The other place that the signers of this letter would say there is malign behavior is in Yemen. And certainly there we can say that it was the Saudis who first were the outsiders who got involved in an internal dispute inside Yemen. And it was only later that the Iranians got involved in helping the Houthis. They would also point to Syria. But there you could say it’s the government in power, whether you like it or not, Assad, who invited the Iranians.

Medea Benjamin

And so it really is only to say that Iran is not on the same side as the the United States in these places, and that’s what makes it malign behavior. And in addition to these members of the House who we talked about, there is a letter that’s going to be coming out very soon from the hawkish of all hawks, Lindsey Graham, the Republican in the Senate who has never seen a war he didn’t like, and Bob Menendez, who’s the Democrat who is now the head of the foreign of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and they are getting probably almost all the Republicans and then peeling off a couple of Democrats as well.

Medea Benjamin

So it is to say that there is the more time that goes by, the more of these forces against the deal are building. And guess who is behind these letters? It might not come as a surprise to you, Paul, that it is the pro Israel lobby in the United States, AIPAC, that is behind this. And they never wanted the deal. They didn’t want it the last time around under Obama. And they have a lot of time and they have a lot of members, who have been bombarding their Congress people to say, sign these letters, show your opposition to this deal.

Medea Benjamin

And that’s why I think the Biden administration is really blowing it by taking so long and increasing the political price they will have to pay. If indeed they do, then go ahead and rejoin the deal.

Paul Jay

What this is obviously really about, is they don’t want to accept that Iran is a regional power. They don’t. I mean, the United States doesn’t like regional powers anywhere, because if you want to be the global hegemon, it means you got to be the hegemon in every region.

Paul Jay

But Biden, I remember, this has stuck with me over the years, in 2008 during the election, he’s debating, I guess, who was it, would have been Palin in 2008, I guess. Anyway, Biden says if you didn’t want Iran to be a regional power, you shouldn’t have invaded Iraq. Which was a rational statement. He says you have to accept Iran as a regional power, that’s the reality after the Iraq war. Frankly, it was a regional power before the Iraq war, but not at the level after the Iraq war.

Paul Jay

So Biden understood the situation. But we’ll see if he asserts that rationality. But just in terms of who else in the Senate is behind this. Chuck Schumer was always against this deal, is his hand here somewhere?

Medea Benjamin

[crosstalk 00:10:39]  we have an opponent coming from the left, like the brilliant AOC from The Squad, and rumors being out there that perhaps she would challenge him, that has suddenly turned Chuck Schumer into a flaming radical. And so he hasn’t come out in opposition to the deal now. And I think he is under control, because he doesn’t want to be seen as somebody who is now negotiating with the likes of Lindsey Graham. So that’s a good thing.

Paul Jay

Well, also, as a majority leader he can’t come out against what at least was an important plank of Biden’s foreign policy.

Medea Benjamin

[crosstalk 00:11:25] And sabotage what the Biden administration wants to do. Although as all this time goes by, you have to question, is this indeed what the Biden administration wants to do?

Paul Jay

Yeah, my guess is that it is what he wants to do, but how much political capital is he willing to spend to do it? He’s got the Saudis against him, the Israelis against him. Now he’s got people in his own party.

Paul Jay

I must say, when I’ve talked to Larry Wilkerson about this, when Obama was pushing this deal through, Wilkerson was helping lobby on the Hill in favor of the deal, and he says Biden really fought for this deal, that a lot of people’s eyes, they associated the deal with Biden as well, not just Obama. So he does have some personal political credibility on the law.

Medea Benjamin

Yeah but then they should know, since you brought up the issue about regional power. I think there’s a myth inside the United States that Iran is a country that’s governed by the Ayatollahs, and that there is no real play in terms of politics. And yet that is so far from the truth. And with elections coming up and the electoral season for a new President just around the corner, this is a time when Iranian politics are going to be right in the forefront of this, with Rouhani and the reformists having been pilloried because they have gotten nothing from all of this talk with the West while the sanctions have been devastating the economy.

Medea Benjamin

And so it’s much more likely that a more hard liner will come into power, and it’ll be harder for the Biden administration to get something from them. So I think not recognizing the importance of speed has been a big problem, and it will only become harder and harder as the electoral season comes into full force within Iran.

Paul Jay

And let me just, to conclude this, first off, your list of 10, I think it’s important to say that these people who are being billed against the nuclear deal, it actually should be framed differently. These are people who are for economic warfare against Iran, because the the concept of not accepting Iran as a regional power, what that really means is they want economic warfare to weaken, and they don’t want that economic warfare to stop.

Medea Benjamin

Yes, and we implied that there’s division within the Biden administration around this. But we were extremely happy when Biden appointed the envoy for Iran as Rob Malley, somebody who is a real diplomat. But then the deputy envoy is somebody who has been shown in talks that he’s given, and there is YouTubes of this gloating, about how the sanctions have really socked it to the Iranian people and led to the increase in unemployment and how successful these sanctions have been.

Medea Benjamin

And that makes you wonder, why is Biden bringing in people who have differences in the way they approach Iran right into the center of his policy making?

Paul Jay

All right, number two, on the 10 problems, you were very polite, 10 problems with Biden’s foreign policy. You could have used the word stronger than problems. But anyway, number two, US bombing wars rage on, just now in secret, what’s that about?

Medea Benjamin

So my colleague Nicholas Davis and I did some research looking at how many bombs the US has been dropping in the last 20 years, and there is a piece of information that has been traditionally released by the US military, that is the air power summaries that show the number of bombs in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. But at the end of Trump’s term, he stopped releasing that, and Obama hasn’t released it either.

Medea Benjamin

So we don’t know the extent of the air wars that are continuing there. Just to let you know about this research we did, we also added in the drone attacks in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. We added in the Yemen bombings by the US allies, the Saudis from the Yemen data project, also the bombings in Libya. And we came up with a total of 326,000 bombs that the US and its allies had dropped in the last 20 years, which comes to 46 a day, which is quite remarkable.

Medea Benjamin

And now we don’t know what the Biden administration is doing, because they have continued with this lack of transparency. So one of the issues we are doing is trying to get this air power summary back into the public domain. But we do know about the bombing in Syria-

Paul Jay

And of course, sorry, go ahead.

Medea Benjamin

So it didn’t take Biden a bit over a month to be bombing in a country that he had absolutely no authorization from Congress to bomb in, and where to use the justification of self-defense because US personnel had been attacked inside Iraq. So we had to go into Syria as self-defense, is hard to fathom, but there has been some blowback inside of Congress, of them wanting to know where do you get the justification for this and are you dragging us into more wars?

Medea Benjamin

And it’s revived this idea that Congress has to repeal the authorization for the use of military force that date back to 2001 and 2002, and have been used for the last 20 years to justify all kinds of attacks. But we certainly feel that the attack in Syria was part of this confrontation with Iran, and is very dangerous, and that we as an anti-war community have to push back against it.

Paul Jay

You have to assume that there’s this meeting takes place in the Situation Room. Biden sitting at the, we’ve all seen it in the movies, and so he’s sitting at the head of the table and on every side of the table, he’s got general this, and admiral this and that. And then somebody proposes to him, he says, well, what are we going to do? Our contractor got hit by the militia and we think the Iranians are behind it. Of course, they have no real evidence.

Paul Jay

I don’t think that Iran is so in control of these militias anyway.

Paul Jay

It’s not like these militias don’t have their own minds and do stuff on their own. But some… Yeah, and then someone says, okay, well, we can’t bomb inside Iraq because the Iraqi government will go nuts, so we can hit what we think is a pro Iranian militia in Syria. And they have to discuss, well, is that legal? What has Syria got to do with it? Congress, we’re starting, you know, this is an act of war against Syria.

Paul Jay

And Biden has to sit there and say, yeah, let’s go ahead, do it. Whatever the line in the movie would be [crosstalk 00:20:24] So, yeah, it does tell us something about the mindset.

Medea Benjamin

[crosstalk 00:20:28] Syria.

Paul Jay

Yeah, they just want to look tough. All right, number three, refusing to hold MBS, Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia. MBS accountable for the murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Go ahead.

Medea Benjamin

The Biden administration decided to release this intelligence report that showed what we knew, which was that the Saudi crown prince authorized this brutal chopping up of a Washington Post journalist.

Medea Benjamin

But then the logical result of that is to say, and so we are now sanctioning the Saudi crown prince. We’re going to freeze his assets. We’re going to make sure he never gets a visa to come to the United States. We’re going to say we won’t participate in governmental meetings where he’s taking part in that. Nothing, Paul, nothing after that. And it seemed like, once again, Biden choked when it came to doing the right thing, and he allowed this larger question of, well, what are we going to do?

Medea Benjamin

We need the Saudis. We need to be selling them weapons. We need to work with them on intelligence issues. According to Secretary of State Blinken, the collaboration is so important that we couldn’t possibly jeopardize it by holding this murderous crown prince accountable.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I thought it was a really interesting moment in a few ways. One, it was a really a sign of weakness of the United States, that they can’t manipulate the king to get rid of MBS, and get another prince in there.

Paul Jay

And MBS, I guess, I mean, I’ve been told by someone honestly who actually knows one of the doctors that treats the king. And apparently he’s fairly far into dementia. So MBS is really already the ruler. And I guess he’s already so intimidated the rest of the Saudi aristocracy, and so controls the Saudi police state, that he’s not vulnerable.

Paul Jay

So if you do the logic back, why do they need the Saudis so much? Well, they don’t need the oil so much anymore. So it’s really about geopolitical primacy. It’s about being the hegemon in the Middle East. It’s also a massive market. It’s apparently, in that whole area, it’s one of the largest market for American products, and not just weapons, but certainly, at least two years ago, I think was the largest consumer of American weapons.

Paul Jay

But the basic geopolitics of it is, is you have to really decide, the United States, to change course in terms of wanting to be the world’s hegemon. And as long as you do, the thinking goes. You need the Saudis and the Israelis.

Medea Benjamin

[crosstalk 00:23:36] And the Saudis have invested so heavily in the US economy, whether it’s Treasury bonds or Uber. I remember when we first discovered there was like $2 billion of Saudi money in Uber, and we said, oh, my God, we’re going to have to start a campaign. I guess we’ll have to tell people to use Lyft instead of Uber. And then, lo and behold, Lyft had about a billion dollars of Saudi money in it as well.

Medea Benjamin

So all Silicon Valley, there’s just so much money. Real estate in New York. I mean, wherever you look, there is Saudi money there. And that is a way that the Saudis have a hammer over the heads of people in the United States. You look at the think tanks and the money that comes into them, the universities, Ivy League universities. So they are very intertwined with the US in so many different ways.

Paul Jay

Right. And they’re not going to buck that as long as they accept these underlying principles of how the empire works, and they just decided they’ll take the hit on looking like hypocrites. But I guess that’s not new that they are. US policy is so hypocritical. All right, let’s move on.

Paul Jay

So, number four, clinging to Trump’s absurdist policy of recognizing Juan Guaidó as President of Venezuela, go ahead.

Medea Benjamin

Well this is an example of a policy that is in fantasy land. One, Guaidó was never elected President. He was the head of the National Assembly. He’s no longer head of the National Assembly. He has no ability to act as a President. We had a big fight over the Venezuelan embassy here in the United States, and the one Juan Guaidó faction went out.

Medea Benjamin

Have they been able to issue a passport? Have they been able to issue a visa? Nothing. They have no control. Who does the United Nations recognize? They recognize the person who actually is in power and was elected, and that is Nicolás Maduro.

Medea Benjamin

You would think that with a failed, ridiculous policy, the Biden administration would say, well, we’re not going to follow in Trump’s footsteps. And to recognize what the UN has said, as well as other studies, that the sanctions on Venezuela are treacherous. The first study came out saying about 40,000 people had died. Then the US came out, said over 100,000 people are dying because of these sanctions.

Medea Benjamin

So the Biden administration could have said during a pandemic, we don’t want to make things worse for the Venezuelan people. We don’t want to continue to see millions of people flee out of the country and cause a refugee crisis all over the world, including here in the United States. We don’t like Maduro, but he is there, and we have no other option but to talk to him.

Medea Benjamin

Instead, they haven’t chosen that. They’ve gone with exactly the same Trumpian failed dismal policy that hurts Venezuela and the region. And in the United States, they just went ahead and gave temporary protective status to about 300,000 Venezuelans. So it’s a nonsensical policy, but it’s also one that is really extremely inhumane.

Paul Jay

And I just saw a news alert that the Biden administration just announced that because human rights violations in Saudi Arabia is so egregious, all the sanctions that have been put on Venezuela are now going to be put on Saudi Arabia.

Paul Jay

I mean, it’s so ridiculous. The hypocrisy is just beyond ridiculousness. And one of the only reasons they get away with it is because the American news media will never talk about the ridiculous hypocrisy. They might get a little outraged about the brutal killing of an American based journalist. But they never draw the connection that there’s no sanctions on Saudi Arabia. Quite the contrary.

Paul Jay

It won’t be long before some high level American goes and puts his hand on that globe the way Trump did, and they can do another dance with the Saudi aristocrat.

Medea Benjamin

[crosstalk 00:28:11] in Saudi Arabia.

Paul Jay

Yeah, well, but Medea, you don’t get it. That’s why the Saudis never violate election laws, because they don’t have any. All right. Let’s move on. But the other thing I think we should just add to this is Juan Guaidó doesn’t even have any credibility in the Venezuelan opposition anymore. The guy’s got no standing at all. And he’s still supposed to be recognized as the President.

Medea Benjamin

[crosstalk 00:28:47]  and the US doesn’t want to even recognize them and talk to, you know, build on that to get more of the opposition to participate in the electoral process.

Medea Benjamin

Well [crosstalk 00:29:06]  Venezuela, in the sense that civilians’ domestic politics in the United States that drives this policy. When Obama lifted the restrictions on travel and trade to Cuba, when he normalized relations, it was a time of great joy in Cuba. And for a lot of people in the United States, a time to do business with Cuba.

Medea Benjamin

The agricultural sector was very happy. The Chamber of Commerce was very happy. And then Trump came in and listened to this small sector of the Cuban-American community, and slapped sanction after sanction after sanction and restrictions.

Medea Benjamin

And even to the extent, Paul, this astounds me, that how can you say as a Cuban American, that you’re doing all of this because you care so much about the Cuban people who are being oppressed, that you will agree to so many sanctions that stop them from getting food and medicines, so many sanctions that don’t allow you as a Cuban-American to continue to support your family in Cuba, just like Central Americans here support their families in Central America, people working in the United States are constantly sending money back home.

Medea Benjamin

But Trump put on restrictions, that Biden has continued, that make it impossible for people to send remittances to their family in Cuba, because the Western Union used to be the vehicle for doing that and they can’t work there anymore. And you can’t, well, travel is restricted by COVID, but even more by the restrictions that the US has put, that they can only fly to Havana. So if you have relatives in other parts of the country, you can’t even fly to that part of the country.

Medea Benjamin

So my point is to say they’re not even doing anything that helps their own people. On the contrary, they’re doing things that really hurt the Cuban people. And the Biden administration hasn’t done anything to ease the tensions, hasn’t done anything to say that we want to go back to the Obama status quo. We want to help Cubans during this pandemic. And we know that Cuba has a lot of doctors who have traveled around the world to help during this pandemic, to deal with, to take care of people around the world.

Medea Benjamin

We find that admirable. We want to work with them on the vaccine that they’re just about to come out with. None of that. It maintains a total silence when it comes to any kind of breaking down of the barriers that Trump put in place, including the most ridiculous designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terror.

Paul Jay

I think this is so much about domestic politics, meaning mostly Florida politics, that even for the Cuban anti Castro community in Florida, it’s about domestic politics and not Cuba, because as you just pointed out, they actually don’t care much about what really happens in Cuba.

Paul Jay

And I know. I’ve met people, I’ve been to Cuba a few times, and I’ve talked to people who are real serious critics of the Cuban government, of the Communist Party, and they despise the community in Miami. I don’t know if there’s any support. They consider that community in Miami, not their relatives and such, but the people that are the leaders of the anti Castro faction in Miami, they despise them.

Paul Jay

They think that they have no understanding of Cuba. But I think it’s part of the political control. It’s like a Cold War mentality they use to control the community, and then be able to direct the vote in terms of domestic elections and then gain some leverage and clout for themselves.

Medea Benjamin

Yes, and Biden’s just recognizing that part of the Latinx community in Florida is going to be Republican. But there are so many others, like the tremendous influx of Puerto Ricans into Florida, that the Democrats could be courting and instead are fighting over this small segment of that population, which are the very conservative Cuban-Americans. On the other hand, oh sorry.

Paul Jay

Well, I was just going to say my memory at the time when Obama did re-establish the relations, that polling was showing a majority of Cubans in Florida support him.

Medea Benjamin

Right. Although new polling is now showing [crosstalk 00:34:07] policy towards Cuba.  But I think that if there were, from the Biden administration, from the get go, a lifting of some of these sanctions, particularly ones that harm the diaspora, Cuban-Americans, he wouldn’t have gotten pushback from that. So it’s another example of waiting too long and making it more and more difficult.

Paul Jay

All right, number six, this one actually might be the most important one on the list, but you have ramping up the Cold War with China. And of course, there’s these meetings taking place now in Alaska and the rhetoric with China. I did an interview with former Ambassador Chas Freeman, who was actually the interpreter for Nixon in ’72 when Nixon went to China and met with Mao Tse-tung.

Paul Jay

And Freeman saying so far, the Biden policy is just a more polite version of Trump. Otherwise it’s essentially as aggressive as Trump.

Medea Benjamin

Well it doesn’t seem very polite anymore if you chose this meeting in Alaska. It not polite where Blinken publicly starts chastising the Chinese over human rights issues and the Chinese get furious and then launch into a whole tirade about the United States. So I am so surprised that that’s the way that they would go about a public meeting.

Medea Benjamin

And it doesn’t seem like it is even a more polite version, maybe in terms of the rhetoric inside the United States, that Biden is not trying to whip up the anti Asian sentiment that Trump was doing. But if you have an anti China policy overseas, that gets translated by a lot of not very smart Americans into anti Asian-American sentiment, and we see things like the horrific murders in Georgia, and the tremendous spike in anti Asian-American hate crimes, as part and parcel of a policy of looking at China and treating China and talking about China as the enemy.

Paul Jay

Again, more I expect for domestic politics than actual foreign policy, because what exactly are they really going to do about relations with China? The last thing on Earth American corporations want to do is get shut out of the Chinese market, which to many big American companies is even more valuable than the American market is right now, and of course, the global supply chains.

Paul Jay

So there’s a lot of tough talk going on. And it’s not like the rivalry isn’t real because, again, if you want to be the global hegemon, you got to be a hegemon in Asia, and that desire for primacy in Asia on behalf of the United States is driving this. On the other hand, there’s no way they’re going to have primacy, certainly not hegemony.

Medea Benjamin

It’s not just Asia. The Biden administration wants the US to be at the head of the global table, and doesn’t like China’s influence in Africa, China’s influence in Latin America, China’s influence all over the world with the Belt and Road initiative.

Medea Benjamin

While the US has its 800 plus military bases and building up its military, the Chinese have been building up the infrastructure in countries around the world and gaining a lot of power through that. So I think it is a grand power play.

Medea Benjamin

And the Biden mentality, in fact, Blinken has said that if the US isn’t at the head of the table, then someone else is, i.e. China. And so this also dovetails into another one of the policies on the list of 10, which is the military budget. And I think there are those that profit so much from continuing with the building up of US high tech weapons and modernization of nuclear weapons, the ships in the South China Sea, that this is a great boon for the weapons industry.

Medea Benjamin

And that we see in the fact that Biden is about to come out with a budget that doesn’t give us any kind of peace dividend, in fact, is going to be one that continues with this disgustingly over sized Pentagon budget.

Paul Jay

In the election campaign, on Biden’s website, in the climate plan, there was a very interesting section on subsidization of fossil fuel, that Biden promised to stop subsidizing American fossil fuel, which I don’t think they’ve done yet, unless I missed something.

Paul Jay

But he raises the issue how are they going to stop other countries, and particularly China, but also other countries subsidizing fossil fuels? And in the context of that, they have a whole section of how countries involved in the Belt and Road initiative of China that are dependent, becoming more and more dependent on China for infrastructure funding, that the United States should provide an alternative form of funding.

Paul Jay

And my first reaction to that was, well, why would you position climate policy as a contention with China, when you better collaborate with China? But actually there’s a part of it which is not so bad, which is if you want to compete with China, well, fine. Compete by offering more favorable financing, more favorable support for infrastructure projects.

Paul Jay

I mean, that would be a legitimate competition, and frankly, it wouldn’t be bad for these countries to be able to play China and the US off against each other. But that’s not what we’re hearing right now. What we’re hearing right now is just threats and rhetoric.

Medea Benjamin

Well that’s right. Countries are already playing China and US off against each other. But one of the areas where we’re seeing a US China competition in a very dangerous way, is not only US surrounding China more with its military bases and its war games, but also forcing China to increase the money that they spend on their military. And they’ve just come out with a very significant increase, which then justifies the US increase.

Medea Benjamin

And so here we are in the midst of this arms race, at a time when the American people can clearly see that the real threats that face us are not things that have military solutions. When you know that it’s the pandemic, it’s health care issues, it’s issues around the climate, the race issues, the white supremacy, a massive inequality. None of this can be solved through militarism.

Medea Benjamin

And yet having this Cold War rhetoric with China just doesn’t allow for a shifting that must take place, of the money that we spend on these ridiculous high tech weapons, some of which don’t even work like the F-35, or the ridiculous modernization of our nuclear weapons, instead of scrapping that and saying here are all the other other things we really need to address, this Cold War with China will keep us on this path of military spending down the black hole of billions and billions of US tax dollars.

Paul Jay

I think it’s important to add that the Chinese military industrial complex loves all this too. In fact, the Chinese and American military industrial complex, they’re in this morbid dance together, but, boy, they need each other. You can’t justify, I keep going to this example because I just think it’s beyond ridiculousness. The plan is to build 14 Ford class aircraft carriers, American aircraft carriers, and I think it’s about 13 or 14 billion per aircraft carrier.

Paul Jay

And you can’t justify that without a massive, major existential enemy. And the same thing goes for the Chinese. I saw a stat somewhere that of the 15 largest military arms manufacturers in the world, five are now Chinese. So the American arms manufacturers have a very willing dance partner on the other side.

Medea Benjamin

That’s right, and things are going up, and when you look at it, it’s not just building of their own militaries, it’s selling of weapons to countries around the world. And the US is certainly by far the number one in that. And here we go back to the tremendous hypocrisy of the United States to sell weapons not only to countries like Saudi Arabia, but to give them to Israel, to maintain its apartheid regime, to give them to Sisi, one of the most brutal dictators now in the Middle East. And you can go on in Egypt and and the Emirates, and on and on down the list.

Medea Benjamin

The US wants to come across when it meets with the Chinese to say we are the beacon for human rights. And when Biden says that human rights are going to be front and center of our foreign policy, but yet so much of our economy is tied up with selling or giving these weapons to undemocratic regimes around the world.

Paul Jay

And I think, right from the time after World War two of Truman on the Democratic Party, of course, the Republicans as well, but the Democratic Party, its policy has been very rooted in the need for militarization as an economic stimulus and everyone has heard these stories, how the arms manufacturers put manufacturing sites in every state and all this.

Paul Jay

Anyway. It’s going to take a real… I want to talk about what I’m about to say a little more, at the end of this interview. But it’s going to take some real mass movement to shift on this, because everybody, all these traditional corporate parties are so vetted to all this.

Paul Jay

Okay, let’s go to number seven. Now we talked about seven is failing to lift painful, illegal sanctions during the pandemic. Now we’ve talked about Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, anything you want to add to that?

Medea Benjamin

Yes, I think we’ve covered this. Perhaps just to say that there is a review that is supposedly being done by the Biden administration, to see how these sanctions have affected the country’s ability to deal with the pandemic. And that is taking too long. We’re anxiously waiting for that review to come out, because I feel that that would be a face saving way for the Biden administration to lift at least some of these sanctions.

Paul Jay

And what I’m about to say is not really connected to sanction, but it’s a pandemic issue. I’ll just throw it in. But the fact that at the WTO, World Trade Organization, United States, Canada, Western Europe are refusing to allow India, South Africa and other countries in the South to produce vaccines and at least temporarily waive patent rights, it’s beyond belief.

Paul Jay

The tens of thousands of people dying, hundred thousand people dying, and more concerned about patent rights than the vaccine. But anyway, let’s move on.

Medea Benjamin

It’s disgusting. It reminded me of what happened during the AIDS tragedy, but this is affecting so many more people now. And yes, we are working with groups in the United States that are fighting this. And there are some bills in Congress fighting this. And also at the same time, bills in Congress saying that we have to ease up on the debts of these countries, so that they can have the money they need to purchase these as well. So that goes hand in hand.

Paul Jay

Right, and number eight, not doing enough to support peace and humanitarian aid for Yemen.

Medea Benjamin

Well, we talked a little bit about Yemen in terms of the Biden administration saying we were going to stop the sale of offensive weapons, but then there’s the issue of humanitarian aid. And the Biden administration participated in a donor’s conference that happened recently, where the UN came and said, look, there’s children dying every, I think it’s 75 seconds now in Yemen, as a result of starvation.

Medea Benjamin

And we’ve got to raise close to four billion dollars. And they came up with a total of 1.7 billion. Now, when you think of all the money the US is spending on so many other things, including a trillion dollars here to deal with the COVID relief, that we couldn’t come up with four billion dollars to help the people in Yemen after we participated in, and our companies continue to make money from bombing these people, is something that is extremely disturbing.

Medea Benjamin

The other thing is that there is a blockade in Yemen that is keeping fuel from getting into that country and is stopping food and medicines from flowing freely. And that is imposed by the Saudis. The Biden administration has said, no, that doesn’t exist. Well, a very brave CNN reporter snuck herself into Yemen and showed that indeed there are all of these ships in the waters outside Yemen that are not able to dock and unload. There are lines and lines of trucks waiting to get the fuel.

Medea Benjamin

They can’t get it and then takes us into the hospitals to see the starving children. And your viewers might know of Jake Tapper, a very mainstream CNN anchor, and he tweeted out things, like the US is complicit in the starvation of Yemeni children. And I thought that was very important for somebody like him to say. And that we need to be pushing the Saudis, who continue to be our strong allies in the region, to lift this blockade, allow the fuel and the food to freely flow into Yemen, and then increase the amount of humanitarian aid we are giving.

Paul Jay

All right, number nine, failing to back President Moon Jae-in’s diplomacy, the South Korean President, with North Korea.

Medea Benjamin

Well, I actually wrote that, there are some reports that came out that said that the Biden administration has actually made overtures to the North Korean government and the North Korean government didn’t respond. And that’s very interesting, too. I think it’s positive that they made the overtures. But the North Koreans were burned by Trump in the end after these high level meetings, and they didn’t get anything from it.

Medea Benjamin

No peace treaty to end the Korean War that has never really ended since 1953. No relief in brutal sanctions. And so I think they’re very wary about going into talks without any kind of agreements beforehand, that North Korea is not going to just say, okay, we’re going to denuclearize, then what are you going to do for us? No, they want something up front, like a peace treaty or like a lifting of sanctions.

Medea Benjamin

And I think, again, this is in line of the other things we talked about how sanctions are so brutal. And in the case of North Korea, the US has also been stopping the North and South from interacting with each other in the ways they want, of the South Koreans wanting to reopen the case on a factory zone, that had been opened under Obama when they were working together, the North and the South in new trade relations.

Medea Benjamin

And the Biden administration is still stopping that North-South reconciliation from happening and is still continuing with the war games that the North Koreans find very threatening.

Paul Jay

Number 10 is no initiative to reduce the military budget. I actually want to… We’ve talked a bit about that already, so let me make a different number 10 if you’re okay.

Paul Jay

And I actually think maybe this is even number one. I put China, too, in terms of importance. The fact that there seems to be not a modicum of movement to do anything about this trillion dollar expenditure that Obama pushed past to expand American nuclear weapons arsenal.

Paul Jay

The Russians, in response, are apparently going to spend a trillion dollars themselves. This is over the next 30 years. But most of that money is going to be spent apparently in the first 10 or 15 years of that. And now the Chinese are ramping up their nuclear arsenal, up until now that [crosstalk 00:52:33] and the British? And the Chinese up until now have been…

Paul Jay

And it’s beyond insanity, I mean, up until now, the Chinese have been relatively sane, I’m told, by people who know this issue. That they’ve only had maybe 200 or 300 nuclear weapons, because that’s actually all you need. In fact, because of nuclear winter, if anyone ever attacked you with nuclear weapons, you actually don’t even have to counterattack because any major attack on any major country is enough to create nuclear winter that wipes out most of organized human society, and probably most humans on Earth.

Paul Jay

So the idea that more nuclear weapons somehow makes you safer, or has more of a deterrent, is just completely nuts. I’m doing this project with Daniel Ellsberg based on his book Doomsday Machine, and he’s come to the conclusion, and I don’t know what other conclusion you can come to.

Paul Jay

It’s just about money making, really it’s not about deterrence or anything else. If every country had maybe 50, these major countries had 40, 50 nuclear weapons, it’s more than enough of a deterrent, if that’s really needed. But to have thousands, and to spend a trillion bucks, and all this talk from Trump and I haven’t heard that this is going away, this idea of low yield tactical victory, I think they I haven’t heard anything from the Biden administration that they’re not going to pursue with that, have you?

Medea Benjamin

No, on the contrary I think they are going to pursue that, and they used China as the pretext for that. And I think when we talk about this, it certainly is a massive money making scheme. But we also should recognize how much there has been an effort of the global community to try to reverse this from the ground up, with the treaty for the prohibition of nuclear weapons through the United Nations, and that the countries and the grassroots groups in countries around the world, have been saying no to nuclear weapons.

Medea Benjamin

And well, we talked a lot today about the push back at the Biden administration against Iran, that doesn’t even have a nuclear weapon, while these major countries get away with not only keeping their nuclear weapons in violation of the nonproliferation treaty, but modernizing them, is something that really goes against the will of the vast majority of people around the world.

Medea Benjamin

And I think it’s wonderful that we do have this treaty for the prohibition of nuclear weapons, and it is something that we can work towards. It’s obviously not going to be coming from the nuclear weapon states, but it is this groundswell of, I think, inspiring calls from the rest of the world to put the spotlight on the nuclear weapon states and to say that this is not what we in the global community want.

Paul Jay

All right, I got to say something off camera, quote unquote, here. Do you have time for another 10, 15 minutes of a separate segment? I want to talk about, or another time, I want to talk about why all of these issues we’ve just talked about are not more of an issue for the American left?

Medea Benjamin

Sure, we can do that.

Paul Jay

Yeah, Okay. So Medea and I, we’re going to do another segment to follow up on this, because we’re at an hour now, and what I want to talk about is why is it more of the American progressive community electorate, or whatever you want to call it, the left?

Paul Jay

Why isn’t there more focus on all of these 10 issues? Why isn’t there more attention paid to foreign policy? So join us for part two of this, on theAnalysis.news. Don’t forget the donate button at the top of the webpage. Don’t forget the subscribe button on YouTube, and see you in part two.

Paul Jay

Okay, hang on. Don’t do anything. We’re playing music now. Don’t click or do anything. I have to hit the… I have to stop this.

5 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Glad to hear Paul stress the issue of military spending at the top of this story. That is a litmus test issue for me. it’s the reason Obama didn’t fool me for a moment in 2008 or ever after. I waited in tense anxiety for the progressive, wunderbar whiz kid to pronounce a reordering a grossly misplaced priorities. Nothing.

  • Code Pink does great work. However if Medea Benjamin thinks Ocasio-Cortez is an ally, then she needs to see the interview by Max Blumenthal her foreign policy stance is even more neo-con than Bernie Sanders. Throwing weight behind someone who is not in your corner isn’t a method to progress from anywhere. At best she might be slightly less worse than Chuck Schumer, but I suspect she will be a greater and more effective evil for MIC, because like Obama she’ll give plenty of shade to some righteous evil if it will float her career even 1 inch up the tide. It’s Chuck’s calculation that the MIC is warm to AOC that gives him a sweat, not some moral idea she’s never expressed but Medea sees because Medea wants it to be true.

    • Just looked at AOC’s responses to Grayzone. She said she was “working on a response.” and later she said “I defer to caucus leadership on how we navigate this.” Hardly bold or laudable. But on the other hand, hardly giving reason to suspect she would be a greater and more effective evil for the MIC. She clearly wanted to say nothing. And did.

      Earlier she had said she was “very concerned about US interventionism in Venezuela, and I oppose it, especially when we talk about a figure like US Special Envoy Elliott Abrams here. I think it’s – he’s pled guilty to several crimes related to Iran-Contra.” and “I am generally opposed to US interventionism as a principle, but particularly under this [Trump] administration and under his leadership I think it’s a profound mistake.” So saying AOC has not expressed “some moral idea” can be easily refuted on this & many other issues. That is most certainly why Schumer might be sweating and altering positions. A popular opponent whose stance on many issues is more popular – as well as more moral – than his.

      So calling her, or Sanders a neo-con based on such feeble evidence is absurd. Benjamin & Davies had a good and serious article comparing the then candidates’ foreign policies; Sanders was of course just about the best. So I don’t think Medea Benjamin is the one who is seeing things because they want them to be true.

  • I have a suggestion: Do a study of how much U.S. GDP depends on: Health care, and each of the major arms manufacturers.

    You might be surprised.

  • Putin is a killer? Nothing on this dangerous absurdity. This is diplomatic insanity! And yet we can talk about Saudi Arabia?

    Biden’s dementia? The U.S. run by committee? Don’t you see it?

    Nothing?

    While I see the interview as good, I see some topics simply out of bounds, for some reason. Self-censorship?

    Should we go to war with Russia? Afterall, Russiagate lives. Is China really an enemy? War with China?

DONATE
DONATE