Anti-war challenger speaks about campaign to unseat establishment Democrat Nancy Pelosi

Shahid Buttar and Nancy Pelosi
Slava Zilber

Shahid Buttar is challenging establishment Democrat Nancy Pelosi for California’s 12th congressional district. And numerous left-wing, anti-war voices are backing him.

On his website, Buttar says “our campaign has shown solidarity with the peace & justice movement by taking action against the right-wing coup in Venezuela, to stop escalation of the war in Syria, and to challenge U.S. support for the Saudi genocide in Yemen”. And he has promised to “investigate, expose, and oppose any U.S. military intervention abroad, as well as covert operations that inherently undermine U.S. diplomatic strength and inflame international hostility, whatever the perceived tactical objectives”.

Buttar spoke to The Canary recently about the issues important to him, including US foreign policy and resisting the far right.

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The “smart vision of foreign policy” which “corporate Democrats” ignore

Buttar says progressives will fund their proposal of universal public healthcare via “reductions in military spending and a tax on Wall Street transactions”. In particular, he says he will seek “the closure of some U.S. military bases in foreign countries”.

He told The Canary:

I think that vision of Democrats who think that closing military bases would undermine our national security reflects their ignorance of what national security means. …

There is a smart vision of foreign policy and national security, and there is a dumb vision of foreign policy and national security.

The “dumb vision”

The dumb vision would, for instance, place paramount importance on the friendliness of international leaders to US business interests, and it would emphasise, for instance, armed intervention to open foreign markets, to plunder foreign resources, and to enrich US corporations at the cost of human rights and climate justice. And that’s the vision to which we’ve been committed; that is the vision that those corporate Democrats are trying to defend. And it reveals, frankly, that they don’t know what they’re exactly talking about. And it reveals, frankly, why they need to be replaced.

The “smart vision”

A smart vision of foreign policy would place human rights in the paramount position, regardless of whether or not those commitments to human rights support US business interests. A smart vision of foreign policy would privilege diplomacy over intervention – a smart vision of national security would understand that our nation’s security adheres in having at least cordial relationships with our allies in other countries, whether or not they are compliant proxy powers, and would recognise that having foreign elected leaders who might have diplomatic tension with our country is a better outcome than intervening in those countries to remove those leaders to put in place puppets…

we’ve done that in Iran, in Guatemala, in Chile, in Dominican Republic, in Grenada. We’ve done that in countries around the world; for decades, the United States has been a serial interventionist in other countries. Another way to put that is that we have been among the world’s leading global security threats since the Second World War

Change the status quo to “address the needs of an American people in crisis”

He continued by linking the issue of military spending back to domestic policies in the US, saying:

another reason why the failed, dumb foreign policy paradigm is so problematic is because it relies on military preponderance which siphons resources that we need to address the needs of an American people in crisis… When we hear from Congress or Wall Street that we don’t have the money for universal healthcare, that is just a flat out lie. We have plenty of money for these programmes, we have plenty of money to revive the federal budget for affordable housing, we have plenty of money to ensure that housing and food could be human rights. But we are more committed to wasting that money on instruments of death and destruction. And that to me is unconscionable. There is not a single good reason for it. There’s a lot of dumb reasons for it.

But the fact that I would like to see our policy made in an intelligent fashion that respects human rights and respects future generations instead of privileging idiocy and profit, that’s yet another set of reasons why we’re running to replace Nancy Pelosi as San Francisco’s voice in Washington.

Standing up to the far right at home and abroad

Opposing colonialism
Speaking about ethnic and religious divisions, especially in relation to Israel and Palestine, Buttar said:

Jews and Muslims have stood in solidarity with each other around the world, particularly in Europe where both communities were vilified for a thousand years. A thousand years those communities have greeted each other as siblings, and it took – it’s only been seventy years – and it took the British Empire basically using its documented practice of dividing and conquering to pit those communities against each other. And I think that there are few travesties in the world that are more horrific than the rending of that alliance and the creation of effectively a blood feud between communities that not only have a great deal in common politically, and in terms of their interests, but also [in] their dogmas.

I mean, they’re two of three monotheistic faiths that have attained prominence in the world. Islam [pays] explicit homage to Judaism in its scriptures. And yet, you know, these communities have been pitted against each other, and that is an act of colonialism that we should recognise as such and treat appropriately, which is to say by trying to challenge those acts of colonialism – challenge that legacy, not to reinforce it and commit ourselves to continuing colonialism in the world today as we have.

Resisting fascism at home

In terms of fighting back against white nationalist violence in the US, meanwhile, he said:

A law enforcement response to a criminal act is legitimate; a law enforcement response to an ideology is not. And right-wing extremist violence includes any number of criminal acts. And when we see armed violence by people who affiliate with, for instance, the Aryan Nation or the KKK or any of the hate groups that have emerged since, we should be willing to use the same practices and response that we have, for instance, on organised crime. There is a statute, RICO [the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] which allows prosecutors and investigators in the face of a criminal predicate to conduct investigations to prevent further harm. We should be doing that.

Featured image via Shahid Buttar (with permission) and US Congress

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