Open Letter to Senator Bernie Sanders

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On Wednesday, November 28, 2018, over 100 U.S. scholars, intellectuals, and activists published the open letter to Senator Bernie Sanders below and invited others to add their names to it.

Sanders was working to force a new Senate vote on ending, or at least reducing, U.S. participation in the war on Yemen. Signers of the letter below wished to encourage such steps and, in fact, to urge Sanders toward far greater opposition to militarism and support for peace.

On Tuesday, Senator Sanders had published a new book, Where We Go from Here: Two Years in the Resistance. The book contains 38 sections, of which one addresses foreign policy but lays out no concrete proposals. On Tuesday evening Sanders spoke for an hour at George Washington University, aired live on C-Span 2. He discussed a variety of topics, but never mentioned foreign policy — until a questioner asked him for a progressive foreign policy, and Senator Sanders gave a 2-minute response focused on Yemen, for which he received possibly the loudest applause of the evening.

Read the letter and add your name:

Text of the Letter:

We write to you as U.S. residents with great respect for your domestic policies.

We support the position of more than 25,000 people who signed a petition during your presidential campaign urging you to take on militarism.

We believe that Dr. King was correct to assert that racism, extreme materialism, and militarism needed to be challenged together rather than separately, and that this remains true.

We believe this is not only practical advice, but a moral imperative, and — not coincidentally — good electoral politics.

During your presidential campaign, you were asked repeatedly how you would pay for human and environmental needs that could be paid for with small fractions of military spending. Your answer was consistently complicated and involved raising taxes. We believe it would be more effective to more often mention the existence of the military and its price tag. “I would cut 4% of spending on the never-audited Pentagon” is a superior answer in every way to any explanation of any tax plan.

Much of the case that we believe ought to be made is made in a video posted on your Facebook page in early 2018. But it is generally absent from your public comments and policy proposals. Your recent 10-point plan omits any mention of foreign policy whatsoever.

We believe this omission is not just a shortcoming. We believe it renders what does get included incoherent. Military spending is well over 60% of discretionary spending. A public policy that avoids mentioning its existence is not a public policy at all. Should military spending go up or down or remain unchanged? This is the very first question. We are dealing here with an amount of money at least comparable to what could be obtained by taxing the wealthy and corporations (something we are certainly in favor of as well).

A tiny fraction of U.S. military spending could end starvation, the lack of clean water, and various diseases worldwide. No humanitarian policy can avoid the existence of the military. No discussion of free college or clean energy or public transit should omit mention of the place where a trillion dollars a year is going.

War and preparations for war are among the top destroyers, if not the top destroyer, of our natural environment. No environmental policy can ignore them.

Militarism is the top source of the erosion of liberties, and top justification for government secrecy, top creator of refugees, top saboteur of the rule of law, top facilitator of xenophobia and bigotry, and top reason we are at risk of nuclear apocalypse. There is no area of our social life that is untouched by what Eisenhower called the military industrial complex.

The U.S. public favors cutting military spending.

Even candidate Trump declared the wars since 2001 to have been counterproductive, a statement that appears not to have hurt him on election day.

A December 2014 Gallup poll of 65 nations found the United States to be far and away the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world, and a Pew poll in 2017 found majorities in most countries polled viewing the United States as a threat. A United States responsible for providing clean drinking water, schools, medicine, and solar panels to others would be more secure and face far less hostility around the world; that result would cost a fraction of what is invested in making the United States resented and disliked.

Economists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have documented that military spending is an economic drain rather than a jobs program.

We compliment you on your domestic policies. We recognize that the presidential primaries were rigged against you, and we do not wish to advance the baseless idea that you were fairly defeated. We offer our advice in a spirit of friendship. Some of us worked in support of your presidential campaign. Others of us would have worked, and worked hard, for your nomination had you been a candidate for peace.


  • Elliott Adams, Chair, Meta Peace Team, Training Team, and former President, Veterans For Peace
  • Christine Ahn, International Coordinator, Women Cross DMZ
  • Shireen Al-Adeimi, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University
  • Hisham Ashur, Amnesty International of Charlottesville, VA
  • Medea Benjamin, Cofounder, CODEPINK for Peace
  • Karen Bernal, Chair, Progressive Caucus, California Democratic Party
  • Leah Bolger, Chair of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War; former President, Veterans For Peace
  • Philip Brenner, Professor, American University
  • Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation; National Co-convener, United for Peace and Justice
  • Leslie Cagan, peace and justice organizer
  • James Carroll, author of House of War
  • Noam Chomsky, Professor, University of Arizona; Professor (emeritus), MIT
  • Helena Cobban, President, Just World Educational
  • Jeff Cohen, Founder of FAIR and co-founder of
  • Marjorie Cohn, activist scholar; former President, National Lawyers Guild
  • Gerry Condon, President, Veterans For Peace
  • Nicolas J.S. Davies, author, journalist
  • John Dear, author, Campaign Nonviolence
  • Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, author
  • Mel Duncan, Founding Director, Nonviolent Peaceforce
  • Carolyn Eisenberg, Professor of History and American Foreign Policy, Hofstra University
  • Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator Emeritus, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)
  • Pat Elder, Member of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War
  • Daniel Ellsberg, author, whistleblower
  • Jodie Evans, co-founder CODEPINK
  • Rory Fanning, author
  • Robert Fantina, Member of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War
  • Mike Ferner, Former President, Veterans For Peace
  • Margaret Flowers, Co-Director, Popular Resistance
  • Carolyn Forché, University Professor, Georgetown University
  • Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
  • Pia Gallegos, Former Chair, Adelante Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party of New Mexico
  • Joseph Gerson (PhD), President, Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security
  • Chip Gibbons, Journalist; Policy & Legislative Counsel, Defending Rights & Dissent
  • Charles Glass, author of They Fought Alone: The True Story of the Starr Brothers, British Secret Agents in Nazi-Occupied France
  • Van Gosse, Professor, Franklin & Marshall College
  • Arun Gupta, Independent Journalist
  • Hugh Gusterson, Professor of anthropology and international affairs, George Washington University
  • David Hartsough, Co-Founder, World BEYOND War
  • Matthew Hoh, Senior Fellow, Center for International Policy
  • Odile Hugonot Haber, Member of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War
  • Sam Husseini, Senior Analyst, Institute for Public Accuracy
  • Helen Jaccard, member, Veterans For Peace
  • Dahr Jamail, author, journalist
  • Tony Jenkins, Education Director, World BEYOND War
  • Jeff Johnson, President, Washington State Labor Council
  • Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H., columnist, author of The 15% Solution
  • Rob Kall, host, Bottom-Up Radio; publisher,
  • Tarak Kauff, member, Veterans For Peace; Managing Editor, Peace in Our Times
  • Kathy Kelly, Co-Coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
  • John Kiriakou, CIA torture whistleblower and former senior investigator, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
  • Michael D. Knox, PhD, Chair, U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation
  • David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
  • Jeremy Kuzmarov, lecturer, Tulsa Community College; author of The Russians Are Coming Again
  • Peter Kuznick, Professor, American University
  • George Lakey, author; Co-Founder, Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT)
  • Sarah Lanzman, activist
  • Joe Lauria, Editor-in-Chief, Consortium News
  • Hyun Lee, U.S. National Organizer, Women Cross DMZ
  • Bruce E. Levine, psychologist; author of Resisting Illegitimate Authority
  • Nelson Lichtenstein, Professor, UC Santa Barbara
  • Dave Lindorff, journalist
  • John Lindsay-Poland, Coordinator, Project to Stop U.S. Arms to Mexico
  • David Lotto, Psychoanalyst, Editor of the Journal of Psychohistory
  • Chase Madar, author and journalist
  • Eli McCarthy, Professor of Justice and Peace Studies, Georgetown University
  • Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst and presidential briefer
  • Myra MacPherson, author and journalist
  • Bill Moyer, Executive Director, Backbone Campaign
  • Elizabeth Murray, member, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
  • Michael Nagler, Founder and President, the Metta Center for Nonviolence
  • Dave Norris, Former Mayor, Charlottesville, VA
  • Carol A. Paris, MD, Immediate Past President, Physicians for a National Health Program
  • Miko Peled, author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine
  • Gareth Porter, author, journalist, historian
  • Margaret Power, Professor, Illinois Tech
  • Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus, Brown University; Veteran, United States Army
  • Ted Rall, cartoonist, author of Bernie
  • Betty Reardon, Founder, International Institute on Peace Education
  • John Reuwer, Member of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War
  • Mark Selden, Senior Researcher, Cornell University
  • Martin J. Sherwin, University Professor of History, George Mason University
  • Tim Shorrock, author and journalist
  • Alice Slater, Member of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War; UN NGO Rep., Nuclear Age Peace Fdn
  • Donna Smith, National Advisory Board Chair, Progressive Democrats of America
  • Gar Smith, Director, Environmentalists Against War
  • Norman Solomon, National Coordinator,; Executive Director, Institute for Public Accuracy
  • Jeffrey St. Clair, Co-author, The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink
  • Rick Sterling, activist and journalist
  • Oliver Stone, filmmaker
  • Rivera Sun, Author and Nonviolence Strategy Trainer
  • David Swanson, Director, World BEYOND War; Advisory Board Member, Veterans For Peace; author of War Is A Lie
  • Brian Terrell, Co-Coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
  • Brian Trautman, National Board Member, Veterans For Peace
  • Sue Udry, Executive Director, Defending Rights & Dissent
  • David Vine, Professor, Department of Anthropology, American University
  • Donnal Walter, Member of Coordinating Committee, World BEYOND War
  • Rick Wayman, Deputy Director, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
  • Barbara Wien, Professor, American University
  • Ann Wright, Retired U.S. Army Colonel and former U.S. diplomat who resigned in opposition to U.S. war on Iraq
  • Greta Zarro, Organizing Director, World BEYOND War
  • Kevin Zeese, Co-Director, Popular Resistance Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics, University of San Francisco


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