Is Sen. Ed Markey a War Hawk in Progressive Clothing? His Latest China Gambit Points to Yes

Photograph Source: U.S. Senate Photographic Studio-Rebecca Hammel – Public Domain

On June 8th 2021, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey voted for The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (S. 1260), which calls for increased “combat ready troops” and missile shipments to the Asia-Pacific region and undermines Climate Envoy John Kerry’s climate deal with China. The bill also urges U.S. universities and governments to conduct McCarthyist investigations into Chinese and Chinese American people while appropriating at least $500 Million to fund racist and xenophobic anti-China propaganda.

Last year during Massachusetts’ heated Democratic Senate Primary, incumbent Senator Ed Markey categorized his 2003 vote for the War in Iraq as a “mistake.” Now after winning re-election with the support of youth activist constituents like Calla Walsh and groups like Massachusetts Peace Action, Sunrise, 350MA, Western Mass CODEPINK, and more, Senator Markey has made another mistake in advancing the militaristic anti-China Strategic Competition Act out of committee and through the Senate as part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021.

Those who supported Markey’s campaign are paying heed to this inconsistency though: a coalition including youth activists, CODEPINK, and Massachusetts Peace Action rallied and delivered a letter with over 2,700 signatures to the Senator this past Thursday, July 22, demanding that he honor his campaign promises to prioritize cutting the bloated Pentagon budget and addressing the increasingly-worsening climate crisis. Calla Walsh expressed her disappointment and hopes for her Senator, stating, “The Pentagon is one of the world’s biggest polluters, and Senator Markey’s support for increasing military spending in the Asia-Pacific region is completely antithetical to the principles of the Green New Deal. As one of the young organizers who helped re-elect him, I hope Senator Markey stands against this imperialist aggression and stays true to his campaign values of justice, sustainability, and progressivism.”

The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act is the latest in a series of actions by Senator Markey that undermine his support for cutting Pentagon funding, reducing carbon emissions, stopping nuclear proliferation, and advancing racial justice. Less than two months before Markey’s 2020 Democratic primary, he stated, “Defense spending can’t protect us from the destruction of the environment and the worsening climate crisis…We should prioritize eradicating poverty, not war. We should prioritize battling global-killer diseases, not developing new weapons designed to eradicate the human race. It is time we fund education, not annihilation; Medicaid, not missiles.”

Senator Markey cannot claim to be in favor of cutting Pentagon spending while actively supporting legislation that allocates more than $850 million dollars to funding and training foreign militaries in the Asia-Pacific region, in addition to increasing funding for the Department of Defense by $7 Billion by extending and expanding Markey’s Asia Reassurance Initiative Act of 2018.

The Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) was co-authored by Markey and conservative Republican Cory Gardner and initially gave the Department of Defense $1.5 Billion per year from 2019 to 2023 to “advance United States foreign policy interests,” and promote a biased U.S.-centric “rules-based order.” Under this “rules based-order” in the ARIA, the U.S. has deputized itself to “to conduct regular U.S. freedom of navigation and overflight operations in the South China Sea,” while appropriating additional funding to improve the military capacity of other nations.

These billion dollar gifts to weapons manufacturers and defense contractors do not just waste our limited resources; they do so with the added cost of destroying the planet and rapidly accelerating the current global climate crisis through military pollution, accidents, and the construction of new bases and firing ranges. Appropriations for the Department of Defense like the increases Markey voted for in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act fund war games like the annual Pacific Griffin Maritime Exercise in Guam. These military exercises fire live ammunition and missiles into the sea, devastating ecosystems by killing and maiming thousands of marine animals and polluting our oceans with more militarized litter.

Senator Markey’s stance on not developing new weapons designed to eradicate the human race seems to have changed since he won re-election as the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act encourages the “design and export” of hypersonic weapons to U.S. allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region. Markey’s change of heart on developing and exporting new weapons came despite an urgent four year campaign by the RAND corporation for “Hypersonic Missile Nonproliferation,” in which they argue, “The necessary first step is for the United States, Russia, and China to agree not to export complete hypersonic missiles or their major subsystems.” The RAND study states that hypersonic proliferation will result in compressed response times during conflict, causing armed forces to operate on a hair-trigger state of readiness and, thus, multiplying the possibility of an accidental attack that could escalate to nuclear war.

Last year, Ed Markey won re-election to the Senate based on his promise to support strong progressive values, but so far he has voted in favor of spending hundreds of millions of our tax dollars on foreign militaries and providing billions of dollars for the Department of Defense. Ed Markey’s empty promises and progressive talking points aren’t going to prevent climate change, improve public health, fund education, eliminate nuclear weapons, or eradicate poverty. In fact, pursuing legislation that targets China as an economic enemy and inflates the threat of China’s military makes the cooperation needed to solve global issues that threaten humanity impossible.

China is not our enemy, and instead of advancing aggressive and expensive militarism against China like he did with the ARIA and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, Senator Markey should honor his own talking points: “invest in the great people of the United States” and “embrace the reality that national security also means health, housing, and financial security.”

This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

RJ Thomsen is a staff writer, organizer, and activist with CODEPINK. 

Jodie Evans is the co-founder of CODEPINK and 826LA.