Eight members of Congress have taken a pledge to work to bring ongoing U.S. global military conflicts to a “responsible and expedient” end, the result of a first-of-its kind lobbying effort by military veterans on Capitol Hill.
The pledge was written and organized by a group called Common Defense, made up of veterans and military families, which advocates for scaling back U.S. military commitments overseas. Common Defense boasts of more than 20,000 veteran members in all 50 states, and it threw its endorsement behind almost 30 candidates in the last midterm election cycle.
The group’s involvement in electoral politics and Capitol Hill lobbying makes it an oddity in anti-war circles, as peace groups have historically concentrated on mobilizing opposition to war through street protests and marches. Jose Vasquez, the group’s executive director, joined the Army in 1992 and was honorably discharged as a conscientious objector in 2007, having joined the anti-war movement while he was still serving. He said that most anti-war groups believe that “all the politicians are corrupt and we’re not going to make change that way,” a mindset that goes back to the protests against the Vietnam War.
“It’s kind of the same-old, same-old anti-war: standing up, doing vigils, standing outside and yelling at the buildings, coming on a Saturday to D.C. when nobody’s here. We’d much rather be here and talk to folks,” he said as he and other vets walked the halls of the Longworth House Office Building, on their way to a meeting with staff for Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. “Protest is important; you’ve got to show your strength in numbers, but having a seat at the table is important as well.”
“Protest is important; you’ve got to show your strength in numbers, but having a seat at the table is important as well.”
All of the signatories so far are members of the Democratic caucus, and most of them are associated with the left wing of the party: Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; Omar and other freshmen Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ro Khanna, and Rashida Tlaib; and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan. Common Defense is also courting more moderate lawmakers, particularly those in swing districts and Democrats. So far, the group has also gotten the support of Montana Sen.