Action Alerts

Trump’s Parting Shot: Weapons to the Middle East

Thanks to Win Without War for much of the text in this alert.

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has allowed the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen – the largest crisis in the world – to intensify. Now Trump has notified Congress he intends to sell the United Arab Emirates another $23.37 billion more in fighter jets, drones, and bombs.

Arms exports such as these to Saudi Arabia and the UAE have continued despite overwhelming evidence that this coalition has been violating human rights and international humanitarian law in Yemen. But Trump is trying to push through this massive last-minute sale in weapons – the same bombs that the two states have used to murder Yemeni civilians and exacerbate a humanitarian crisis.

There is a critical but narrow window to stop this arms sale: By law, Congress has 30 days to intervene and block it, with a December 10 deadline. The clock is ticking, but there is precedent for such an action: Last year an arms deal with the Saudis was stopped amid the growing realization (going back to the Obama years) of the U.S. role in the war on Yemen.

Action: Contact Rep. Jackie Speier or Anna Eshoo, or whomever represents you, as well as Senators Dianne Feinstein and (still Senator) Kamala Harris, and urge them to take steps that would block Trump’s last-ditch U.S. arms sale to the UAE. Tell them we need to stop U.S. complicity in the destruction and human rights disaster (regarded by many as the world’s worst) in Yemen.

Pentagon Misdirection

The initial emergency COVID-19 funding last March included $1 billion for the Department of Defense to help increase domestic production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies deemed necessary to battle the pandemic. The DoD, it turns out, had other plans for most of that money, and some of its contractors were the beneficiaries.

$22 million went to the British company Rolls-Royce for a factory in Mississippi to make propellers for the Navy. $2 million went to a company in Connecticut to make fabric for Army dress uniforms. Five companies involved in the “small unmanned aerial system” industry (as in the making of drones) shared over $13 million. A real DoD press release declared that the re-directed funds “saved 14 jobs”. Six months later, the U.S. continues to endure a severe shortage of N95 masks amid this public health crisis.

Pre-election, members of Congress continued to weigh in on this matter. “While Trump believes we can’t afford to extend $600 a week to 30 million unemployed workers,” tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders, “he had no problem giving a $688 million bailout to defense contractors like Rolls-Royce not to build more masks and more gowns, but to build more warships and more drones. How Pathetic.” Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) have called for an investigation into the funding re-direction. Post-election, that call needs to be joined and amplified, for the benefit of Americans.

Action: Contact Rep. Jackie Speier (a member of the House Armed Services Committee and one with some say in Pentagon funding) or Anna Eshoo, or whomever represents you, to express how you feel about COVID-19 money going to unrelated military programs. Suggest that a prompt bipartisan investigation into this misdirection would be wholly appropriate while our country’s coronavirus caseload and death toll continue to rise. Add that any upcoming relief packages need to exclude such favors for the military. Contact Senators Feinstein and Harris (though she may be a bit busy getting ready for her new job) with a similar message.

 

A Practice Most Foul

Thanks to the Daily Kos for much of the text in this alert.

On September 14, a whistleblower complaint filed by several legal advocacy groups documented severe medical abuses against immigrant people at Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia. This is a private prison operated by LaSalle Corrections housing people held by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE).

In addition to immense neglect regarding COVID-19 testing, safety, and protocols, a staggering number of hysterectomies have been performed at Irwin. According to the whistleblower, nurse Dawn Wooten, Irwin repeatedly used a particular gynecologist to perform the procedure. According to interviews with Project South, a Georgia nonprofit and one of the groups that filed the complaint, multiple people reported that they didn’t understand why they were subjected to the hysterectomies. Some nurses obtaining patients’ consent by “googling Spanish.”

Some would call the practice, in this incidence performed on Black, brown, and Indigenous women, a form of eugenics. Others would call it a form of genocide. By any name, it has no place in our country, but a sad fact is the U.S. is a home for the eugenics movement and has a long history of forced sterilization and non-consensual medical experimentation. And Ms. Wooten’s account of state violence in Irwin is consistent with reports of abuse in both ICE detention centers and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities at the southern border, where neglect and retaliation against protesting of horrible conditions are rampant.

Now that this story is out, Congress needs to act regarding the future of ICE and CBP. An institution that forcibly sterilizes and invades the bodies of people of color can hardly be reformed. It must be at least defunded and possibly abolished.

Action: Contact Rep. Speier or Eshoo, as well as Sens. Feinstein and Harris and call for an investigation of abuses by ICE, especially at Irwin County Detention Center, and CBP. Tell them the practice described in the whistleblower complaint is inappropriate for any U.S. agency, and to the extent it is verifiable, that agency should not exist.

 

Supreme Court Term Limits

Following the sad and unfortunate passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg just a month and a half before the election, the Republican-led Senate set a time record for confirming a new Supreme Court Justice. This was Donald Trump’s third pick in a four-year term – at least in part because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider an Obama pick until after the 2016 election. Most of us could not have asked for a worse person than Trump for the task.

Clearly the filling of High Court seats has become a matter of politics, and with it potentially the Court itself. Democrats are considering various remedies for a moment such as this; one containing probably the least degree of politics is a bill proposed by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and two others that would limit the tenures of Supreme Court justices on the bench to just 18 years. While questions of constitutionality may arise pertaining to removing lifetime appointments, the bill will most likely contain a provision for justices, after 18 years, to hold on to “senior” status – thus not actually be “retired”. They could keep their title, plus have the opportunity to rotate to lower court duties if they wish.

Polls show a percentage of Americans in favor of such a change in the high 70s, across partisan lines. (That may be at this moment different for Republicans, but it is based on the long term.) Khanna has opined the change “would save the country a lot of agony and help lower the temperature over fights for the court that go to the fault lines of cultural issues and is one of the primary things tearing at our social fabric.”

A bill like this looks to be for the next Congressional term and Administration: The Senate is unlikely to take it up before the end of the year even if the House passed it, and Trump would surely veto it. But the thought process that inspired it would be relevant to both sides of the political spectrum, and it is time to plant a seed that could lead to more civility and less politics in picking the Supreme Court.

Action: Contact Rep. Speier or Eshoo, to urge their support for any bill that would limit the tenure of Supreme Court Justices. Suggest this is a long-term solution that could get politics out of a branch that ought not contain politics.