Markey and Kennedy Have Big Differences on Peace Issues

Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy III
Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy III

With Rep. Joe Kennedy III’s challenge to Ed Markey for Senate, many are saying that there is no difference between the two men’s positions and that both are progressive.  But on peace issues, Massachusetts Peace Action does not agree. Markey is a peace leader, though a flawed one, while Kennedy avoids taking any stand and often seems to support war as readily as peace.

Markey is the unquestioned leader of  the U.S. Senate on nuclear disarmament, at a time when the U.S. and Russia are tearing up the few remaining arms control treaties, and heading into an incredibly dangerous new nuclear arms race, which may also draw in China.  Year after year Markey has championed legislation to cut our insane nuclear weapons arsenal, to prevent development of new and more dangerous weapons, and to put controls on their use.  It’s personal for him; as a high school student, he did his science fair project on Strontium-90, a byproduct of early atomic weapons testing that was poisoning the milk supply.  He’s also a constant critic of the lax safety standards in the U.S. commercial nuclear power industry.

Kennedy has said little and done less about nuclear disarmament. Only two weeks ago, after starting to talk about his campaign, did he bother to sponsor the bill to prevent President Trump from starting a nuclear war without Congress – the Markey-Lieu bill, HR.669.  To this day, Kennedy hasn’t cosponsored Rep. Adam Smith’s No First Use bill, HR.921, or the Hold the LYNE bill HR.1086 to prevent deployment of new dangerous low yield nukes, or any other bill to step away from the danger of nuclear war.

Markey is a cosponsor of the No War with Iran bill, S.1039, while Kennedy has failed to cosponsor the corresponding House version, HR.2354.  This, at a time when the Administration is openly considering whether to launch a new, disastrous war with Iran, suggests that Kennedy sees no reason to impede the Trump Administration’s flirtation with a dangerous new war in the Middle East.

To prevent the Trump administration from turning its hawish rhetoric on Venezuela into action, Markey  sponsored a bill to prevent a US military action there, S.J.Res. 11.  Kennedy has declined to cosponsor HR.1004.

Markey is a leader on cutting our runaway military spending, which saps over $1 TRILLION a year. He has supported the Progressive Caucus budget for years.   For Kennedy’s part, after multiple years of opposing the Progressive Caucus’ People’s Budget, he has recently come around to supporting it.

Markey is behind the times on Palestinian human rights.  He’s a cosponsor this year of S.120, a dangerous bill that condemns and seeks to punish free speech boycotts of Israeli occupation.  Kennedy is no better.  Still, Markey voted against S.1, an even more dangerous anti-Palestinian bill, in January, after hesitating up to the last minute. While he’s starting from a backward place on Palestinian human rights, he can listen and learn.

Today, the climate emergency is a critical peace issue.  Without international cooperation, the world won’t be able to come together to solve climate change.  Markey’s leadership in the fight for a Green New Deal shows that he understands the importance of this issue.  While Kennedy supports the Green New Deal, he’s done little to advance it.

Markey shares an outmoded mindset, too common in Washington, and is one of those who seem to think it’s America’s job to police the world and coerce regimes that do things Washington doesn’t like — although he prefers to do it without military interventions.  Markey supports sanctions that we disagree with on Iran, Korea, Venezuela.  So does Kennedy, as far as I can tell.

Kennedy has little to say on most foreign policy issues: he acts like an empty suit. He goes along with the Democratic centrist crowd and does not lead on any peace issue that we’ve noticed.   His April 2018 article in Foreign Affairs is a cautious restatement of the Washington consensus that “America must lead”.

Massachusetts Peace Action is not making an endorsement at this time. We hope that running for Senate will focus Kennedy’s mind on the fact that foreign policy is a critical part of Congress’ job and that the old America-centric foreign policy has been a disaster.

We see Markey as a bold progressive leader on nuclear disarmament and the Green New Deal, and Kennedy as mostly a comfortable centrist. But there’s time for both men to develop their views. Shannon Liss-Riordan and Steve Pemberton are in the race too, and we look forward to hearing their views on US foreign and military policy.

But we’re sure about one thing:  We’re tired of reading articles that say that Markey and Kennedy have equivalent views on everything important.  They don’t.  Journalists, that story line is baloney — we need better from you.