Smile Politely

War and the local March 20 primary election

There’s only one way to vote against the wars and war provocations the United States is conducting around the world, in the local primary on March 20: vote for Democrat David Gill, the only candidate in the election who calls for an end to US war-making.

Gill is running for the Democratic party’s nomination for the seat in the House of Representatives presently occupied by Republican Rodney Davis (Illinois Congressional District 13). His opponents include Betsy Londrigan, a former staffer for Sen. Dick Durbin; Erik Jones, a former Illinois assistant attorney general; and Jonathan Ebel, a college teacher and former US Navy intelligence officer.

Representative Davis supports the wars the United States is conducting around the world, as do his putative Democrat opponents—with the exception of Gill, the only one to answer yes to my question, “Should US troops and weapons be brought home from MENA (the Mideast and North Africa)?”  (Below: David Gill, photo from ballotpedia.)

At a recent candidates’ forum sponsored by the Champaign County Young Democrats, the others answered no—Ebel in particular, who boasted of his service in as a military officer from Yugoslavia to the Mideast, where the United States has prosecuted criminal wars since the Clinton administration.

A friend reports that at another Democratic party 13th Congressional candidate forum—this one at the Plumbers-Pipefitters Union Hall—“Gill not once but twice in response to two different questions spoke out against the U.S. imperial wars by tying them to draining our economy, which prevents us from having free college tuition for all and Medicare for all. Of course the other three candidates were silent on that account.” 

David Johnson, of the excellent “World Labor Hour” on WRFU, notes that  “[c]urrently Gill is neck to neck in the polls for 1st place at 40 percent each with Betsy Dirksen Londrigen (which is difficult to believe if you have ever seen her speak and the blatant neo-liberal positions she supports). Ebel is in last place with 7 percent, and Jones (the sneaky neo-liberal who tries to come across as ‘oh-schucks-I-am-just-an-ordinary-guy-from-a-small-town’) in second to last at 14 percent [despite fundraising comparatively well to his primary opponents].”

The current administration inherits eight wars from the previous one, Obama being the first US president ever to be at war throughout two presidential terms: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and the Philippines.

More than a quarter-million US military personnel are today deployed in a thousand foreign US bases, most of them ringing Russia and China. Obama’s drone assassinations, which killed thousands and were accurately called by Noam Chomsky “the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times,” continue under Trump—as do the war provocations against Russia and China, from Ukraine to the South China Sea. The 70,000 members of the US Special Operations Command are active in no less than three-quarters of the countries of the world. Their activities include kidnapping (“rendition”), torture, and murder. Much of the world regards them as nothing less than American death squads.

Above: A 2015 map of US military bases around the world. Image from

If American leaders were put on trial today as German leaders were at Nuremberg after World War II for “launching aggressive war,” they—like the German leaders—would be hanged.  

President Obama was elected as an anti-war candidate, but in office he sent thousands of additional US troops into America’s longest war in Afghanistan. President Trump, who promised caution and non-interventionism in foreign policy and described Hillary Clinton as a “trigger happy warmonger” has now done the same thing himself. He is perhaps the weakest US president since Calvin Coolidge.

But what both Obama and Trump knew is that in spite of intense media propaganda, most Americans don’t want US troops engaged in foreign wars and don’t see the killing as justified; both candidates had to seem to be opposed to the wars in order to get elected.

But the “1 percent”—the U.S. economic elite—do want the wars.

When World War II ended in 1945, the United States was the least-damaged major country on either side and controlled the world economy. America’s wars since then—in Korea, Vietnam, Latin America, and the Mideast—have killed between 20 and 30 million people for the purpose of maintaining that control. Ordinary Americans have paid for these vicious wars, but they haven’t profited from them.

The Australian journalist and filmmaker John Pilger wrote before the election, “The CIA has demanded Trump not be elected. Pentagon generals have demanded he not be elected. The pro-war New York Times—taking a breather from its relentless low-rent Putin smears—demands that he not be elected. Something is up. These tribunes of ‘perpetual war’ are terrified that the multi-billion-dollar business of war by which the United States maintains its dominance will be undermined if Trump does a deal with Russian president Putin, then with China’s president Xi Jinping. Their panic at the possibility of the world’s great power talking peace—however unlikely—would be the blackest farce were the issues not so dire.”

We must demand that foreign military bases be closed, US troops (and weapons) be brought home, and social support—including free medical care, education, and a universal basic income—be provided for Americans immiserated by generations of US-government wars.

David Gill is the only local candidate in the current election cycle who favors that.

C. G. Estabrook is a retired visiting professor at the little university around the corner; he conducts the weekly program ‘News from Neptune’ on Urbana Public Television.

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