Biden Admin International Jessica Corbett

Ilhan Omar Warns Democrats’ Ukraine Proposal Only ‘Escalates the Conflict’

(Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

By Jessica Corbett / Common Dreams

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar on Wednesday delivered a detailed rebuke of congressional Democrats’ proposed legislative response to the escalating crisis involving Ukraine and Russia, declaring that “when the United States says it champions human rights, democracy, and peace, we should mean it.”

“Instead of spending $500 million on weapons, we should be centering civilian needs with refugee and humanitarian assistance.”

As U.S. President Joe Biden orders more troops to Europe while Russian President Vladimir Putin accuses Washington and its allies of ignoring Moscow’s security concerns—elevating global concerns about a potential conflict between the world’s foremost nuclear powers—Democrats are working on the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022 (H.R. 6470/S. 3488).

Sponsored by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the bill would send $500 million in military aid to Ukraine—which critics such as Medea Benjamin of the peace group CodePink warn would “only intensify the conflict and feed the war machine.”

Omar (D-Minn.) echoed that warning, saying in a statement Wednesday that Democrats’ legislation “escalates the conflict without deterring it effectively.”

“With a very soft trigger, it vaults Ukraine overnight into the third-highest recipient of U.S. security assistance and weapons sales in the world,” she said. “The consequences of flooding Ukraine with half a billion dollars in American weapons, likely not limited to just military-specific equipment but also including small arms and ammo, are unpredictable and likely disastrous.”

The proposal, Omar notes, “also threatens unbelievably broad and draconian sanctions that will utterly devastate the Russian economy, likely doing very little to deter Putin’s aggression while causing immense suffering among ordinary Russian civilians who did not choose this.”

The Biden administration has recently warned of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, pointing to the buildup of 100,000 troops along their shared border. Moscow has denied any plans to invade while making various security demands, including that Ukraine be blocked from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

“A Russian invasion of Ukraine would be catastrophic and must be avoided at all costs,” Omar said. “A core progressive principle is opposing war, and it should go without saying that I strongly oppose the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. The United States and our allies should be doing everything we can to stop another disastrous war and pursue all possible diplomatic avenues to resolve this crisis peacefully.”

The congresswoman, who was born in Somalia, also referenced her own experience with conflict:

As someone who survived war, I know the devastating consequences of military conflict and the impact it has on millions of lives and entire societies. The bottom line is an invasion would have devastating consequences for both Ukrainian and Russian civilians, who will bear the brunt of this military escalation. We have already seen the devastating consequences of this conflict by the loss of 14,000 Ukrainian lives as a result of Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea and territories in Donbas, and displacement of millions of people who were forced to leave their homes because of the fighting. This conflict has already shattered families and created generational harm, which will only worsen with new military escalation. I am under no illusions about the horrors an invasion will unleash, or that it is Russia that is responsible for bringing us to the brink.

“I am committed to doing everything I can to support diplomacy and peace on behalf of my constituents, especially Ukrainian Americans and those with families in Ukraine,” Omar stressed, “but I cannot in good conscience support a bill that places militarism and economic warfare over the urgent needs of both Ukrainian and Russian civilians.”

“The foreign policy establishment has been drawing on the same tired playbook for generations, with very little success,” she said. “We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different results.”

Along with announcing her intention to vote against Democrats’ package, Omar pointed out that Senate Republicans reportedly want to go even further.

“It is very likely that what will actually be in front of us for a vote will include some of these drastic and dangerous arms sales and sanctions implemented immediately,” she said, “removing any possibility of deterrent and giving away crucial leverage our diplomats should be using to secure a peaceful resolution.”

According to Omar, “Instead of spending $500 million on weapons, we should be centering civilian needs with refugee and humanitarian assistance.”

24 comments

  1. Ilhan Omar may be the most principled Representative in Congress – but that’s an exceedingly low bar. She needs to stop issuing statements that echo the DNCIA and the Warmongers’ LIES…

    Saying that you, “strongly oppose the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. “…is like saying that you strongly oppose the Polish aggression against Nazi Germany… It’s completely disconnected from reality, and takes as its starting point, a BIG LIE.

    Newsflash – Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in his mid-90’s blueprints for a Global Monopolar Hegemonic Empire – “The Grand Chessboard”, about his goal of isolating Russia from Europe, by splitting Ukraine from Russia. We’ve gone about implementing this strategy, by continuing the CIA project begun in the 1950’s (at the latest), of allying the US with Ukrainian UltraNationalist NAZIS – people who deify a true monster, like Stepan Bandera. THAT is who executed the CIA’s Maidan COUP in 2014, under Obama and Biden, with NeoCon Concubine Victoria Nuland riding shotgun.

    It’s nice to hear Ilhan Omar speaking out – even if what she’s saying is completely basic, where not subtle disinformation.

    The US needs to GTFO of Russia’s business, and start fixing it’s own obvious problems. The US has deliberately CREATED this hazardous situation in Ukraine. It should apologize to Russia, and remove itself from the area entirely.

    https://covertactionmagazine.com/2022/02/02/surprise-surprisethe-washington-post-publishes-a-commentary-full-of-lies-against-putin/

    1. I live in Australia where information of world affairs is restricted by corporate media interests, but from what I have learned, Ilhan Omar seems to be a decent person and a good representative. But I do have a few problems here.
      Saying that you “strongly oppose the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine.” is perhaps the wrong thing to say. I.O should maybe have said ‘A war of aggression’ or ‘Any war of aggression’
      As things stand at the moment, Russia, like any sovereign nation state, has every right to station its military anywhere within its own country. At this point there is no war in the Ukraine.
      As for the “ Illegal occupation of the Crimea” – Sevastopol naval base is home to the Russian nuclear fleet and to think that allowing a neo – nazi regime to seize control of that fleet is a good idea beggars the imagination.

      1. If given the opportunity I would love to publicly ask President Biden if he believes the United States continues to have a legitimate interest in policing our “sphere of influence.” I don’t think it would be necessary to go back as far as the reasoning behind the Monroe Doctrine which defined US policy toward the Western Hemisphere after 1823 (by warning imperial powers of Europe that the United States would not tolerate their interference in “our sphere.”) It may not even be necessary to go back as far as the justification for US seizure of Cuba in 1903. Perhaps it would not even be necessary to mention that it was Teddy Roosevelt who said that the Monroe Doctrine established the US duty to exercise “international police power.”

        I suspect President Biden’s answer would be obvious to most, but… using my imagination, if I were allowed a follow-up question it would be to ask if the President believes any other nations have similar interests in neighboring countries. At that point I would likely have been banned from further questions, but assuming I would be allowed to continue, I would ask if his administration accepted the claim that, during the discussions surrounding the reunification of Germany, Russian support was secured, at least partially, by US assurance that if Germany was reunified, NATO would not be expanded to include former parts of the Soviet Union. Which would mean that Russia would not have to worry about being surrounded by NATO forces. And assuming I still have the floor… Would NATO membership being extended to Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia constitute a justification of Russian claims that the possibility of expanding NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia is a RED LINE?

        If, at this point, the President and his advisors seem to be enjoying the exchange I would, of course, ask how his administration would react if Russian military equipment and troops were to be invited into Central American countries? Or into Mexico. Or Canada.

        Imagine.

        What worries me is that U.S. policy toward Russia is abetting the neo- Stalinist side. Those people constantly remind Russia that in the 1930s Stalin used an impending foreign threat as the justification for an imposed, non-democratic modernization. Then the neo-Stalinists draw a parallel with today’s NATO expansion to Russia’s borders. Every time NATO takes in another former Warsaw Bloc country or former Soviet republic, or threatens to do so, the neo-Stalinist modernizers grow in strength. The Soviet Union lost 26.5 million people in World War II, a loss with enormous policy implications today. And when both the political elite and ordinary Russians see NATO encamping in the Baltics, approaching Georgia and Ukraine, encircling Russia militarily, it stirs that remembrance and strengthens the popular base for another modernization without democracy. For the first time in decades there may be officially sanctioned images of Stalin on Red Square this year during the May 9 commemoration of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.
        The economic relationship between Berlin and Moscow is strong and growing. Russia is providing some 40 percent of Germany’s energy. They are building new pipelines together, and neither liked Ukraine’s disruption of supplies through its existing pipelines. Indeed, it was Berlin that blocked Bush’s attempt to bring Ukraine into NATO.

        Unless we want a new, full-scale cold war with Russia, we must ask what Moscow actually wants in former Soviet republics like Georgia and Ukraine. There are, of course, Russian political forces that would like to restore them to their Soviet status under Moscow’s hegemony. But for the Kremlin leadership, from Putin to Medvedev, their essential demand is an absence of pro-American military bases and governments in those neighboring countries. In a word, that they not become members of NATO. Is that unreasonable? Imagine Washington’s reaction if pro-Russian bases and governments suddenly began appearing in America’s sphere, from Latin America and Mexico to Canada. Of course, there has been no such discussion in the United States

      2. Probably citing Professor Cohen would be better, but removing his comments? No. Stephen F Cohen has made sense out of Russian events his whole career. I miss his insight and wisdom.

    2. Right you are. I took the time to write a personal letter to Ms Omar asking her to please not cater to neocon Democrats by pushing this ‘Russian aggression’ trope. I carefully explained to her that aggression comes from the US and its NATO toadies.
      I hope she reads it…

      1. Well bless your heart… I hope that she reads it, too … Frankly I’ve kinda turned the page on AOCIA and the #FraudSquad – back when they refused to #ForceTheVote, on Medicare4All – by threatening to withhold their votes from Pelosi for Speaker of the House – until she promised to schedule a floor vote, on even the (less than perfect) Jayapal M4A Bill. When my friends scheduled a protest in DC on the Issue in early January they were met by more Capitol Hill cops, than appear to have been assigned on January 6th… But not one member of the Squad would even show up to soeak with the protestors. They also decided to no-show on an online Town Hall, to which they’d been invited, dedicated to the #ForceTheVote cause.

        Chargers Running Back Justin Jackson showed more political sense and leadership on that issue, than AOCIA, or any member of “the Squad”.

  2. So principled? Omar claims to “strongly oppose the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine” which is non-existent and “the loss of 14,000 Ukrainian lives as a result of Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea and territories in Donbas” which ignores the fact that it’s Ukraine shelling civilians — often with weapons the U.S. bought them. Her analysis indicates she is drinking the Biden administration Koolaid. You can’t have it both ways, Rep. Omar.

    1. Exactly! She’s repeating the lies that her Party is telling. This isn’t principled, it’s utterly unprincipled. This kind of talk coming from a “progressive” actually puts them in the same camp as the rightwing Dems who are lying and pounding the war drums. It makes it easier to start a war, because the warmongering simply say, “See? Even the Left knows Putin is the aggressor.” God damn it!

      1. @TimN
        Omar is a member of The Squad, which is a phony progressive caucus of House Democrats. The main job of these people is to sheepdog real progressives into the Democratic Party, thereby neutering them. The fact that The Squad refused to force a floor vote for Medicare for All in the House by withholding their votes for Pelosi for Speaker unless she would put it to a floor vote tells you all you need to know about them.

      2. Agreed. Sanders is aging, his role to thwart the people exposed, thus a new smokescreen was needed. The few continue to rule the many. Their most effective tool is no borders for capital. That is why Russia, Iran, China, NK are hated so. They refuse to allow free access of their borders. They place reasonable limits. The few cannot tolerate that. Just think if the idea spread! This is their basis for power, for what is called colonialism, empire, neoliberalism, globalization. Effectively, it is all the same thing.

      3. @Another+WorldView+Is+Possible
        I was happy when Ocosio Cortez won, but it wasn’t long after she was in office that I started having a bad feeling about her. Her opposition to Jimmy Dore’s advocacy of forcing that vote was all I needed to know about her, and the entire Squad soon showed evidence of the same thing. Now it’s out in the open, with ludicrous comments by Squad members like, Joe Biden has exceeded expectations and votes to fund the Capitol Police.

        There has long been a debate about whether to try to reform the Democratic Party to make it actually progressive, or to try to win elections with “third” parties. I have long advocated for the latter, because the Democratic Party is owned and run by the rich & powerful (which BTW I learned IN PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL HISTORY CLASS, but I guess they no longer have anything that approaches real public education any longer), and there’s no realistic chance of changing that. As The Squad has shown, you can’t change the Democratic Party, but if you’re progressive and you become a member, it will damn sure change YOU.

  3. This is a relatively mild, but nevertheless welcome rebuke. How, after knowing that virtually every war since WWII was revealed to be based on lies from our national security state can Americans believe anything we are told by our government? Congresswoman Omar is a rare exception to the adage that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people. https://thegalareport.substack.com/p/politicians-are-celebrities?r=79z6p&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

    1. She repeated the lie about ‘Putin’s war of aggression” that is the staple lie of the Neocons and warmongers in the Dem Party.

  4. When all else fails, they take YOU to war. And aint that great “Republic” failing big time.

    Of course they have no intention of stopping any conflict. They want war, for the American economy {like Rome & GBritain before it} depends on war. Or should I say, the moneyed interests need and want war. Preferrably one that’s unwinnable, like Afghanistan or Vietnam or Syria or Yemen…take your pick.

    It’s like watching a slow train wreck that befalls every other Empire that went before it.
    The manufacturing base gutted and outsourced to China, $30 trillion in unpayable debt, runaway inflation, the debasement of the US dollar, printing trillions out of thin air etc etc.
    And now the violence perpetrated on the periphery slowly makes its way to home shores. The loss of freedoms, a surveillance State, a real wage for the working class that’s gone nowhere since the 1970’s, the equivalent of Caligula as President.

    Yep, history might not repeat but it certainly rhymes. The US has been living with dangerous myths for a good 40 years now. The decline started then, its accelerating and it won’t stop. The fallout is going to be catastrophic.

  5. Politicians say ‘rights’, ‘freedom’, ‘peace’, ‘sovereignty’ as if the leadership of this country has not almost always been tyrannical, expansionist, lying, and deadly in the neverending greed for riches for the relatively few who wield the power. History tells us this too shall pass. In a hellish end or in a more contrite manner. It is clear neither party will choose the later. No one is safe from my government’s unrelenting greed and stupidity. I used to wonder how good Germans could stand by during the days of Hitler. Now I understand.

  6. Congresswoman Omar is indeed a brave and articulate leader who is attempting to quell the war fever that’s gripped Congress at this time. $500 Million in arms and ammunition means, of course, a very nice profit to the arms manufacturers. Ninety years ago [or so], General Smedley Butler said ,”War is a Racket”, after so many wars and invasions he participated in as the U.S. expanded its empire. It’s perfectly clear that the US and its Military/Industrial/Media/Congressional “complex” are pushing for war, or at least playing a very dangerous game of “chicken” with Russia. We as citizens have a duty to assist Ms. Omar and her call to sanity among her fellow Congressional representatives by writing to, emailing, calling, our representatives and Senators to support Ms. Omar in her call to bring some sanity back to Congress.

  7. I support Ilhan Omar on a regular basis because she usually makes sense. Here, her good sense is still clouded and biased. She is sure of the fact of Russian aggression, which is incorrect on many levels. She seems to not understand the US role in creating this conflict, not only in Ukraine, but in NATO expansion itself, nor does she understand Russia’s war aims.
    Most Americans believe that Russia ‘invaded’ Crimea and Eastern Ukraine after the 2014 coup, not realizing that the object of NATO in 2014 was to seize Russia’s naval base in Crimea, and the object of Ukraine in 2014 was to destroy the Russian-speaking enclave of Eastern Ukraine–the Ukrainians are still trying to do so. Russia thwarted these moves. Calling ‘defense’ ‘offense’ is just Orwellian Newspeak.

  8. I am no expert on our country’s foreign affairs, nor do I have any viable solutions. I am convinced, however, that I am only one of many millions of Americans who are truly fed up with our military support and psychotic aggression not only across the globe, but right here within our own borders. Freely giving unlimited arms and ammunition to Ukranians, while cutting supply lines to our own citizenry. They couldn’t kill us with Covid, so what comes next?

  9. “Instead of spending $500 million on weapons, we should be centering civilian needs with refugee and humanitarian assistance.”
    So the idea is let’s the Russians invade and help the refugees.
    The Romans did say it better : “Si vis Pace para Bellum”. The best way to prevent war is to be prepared for it and to deter aggression by raising its cost, for instance providing defensive arms to the Ukraine and hurting the Russian kleptocracy where it hurts by sanctions.

    1. Your contention that sanctions would hurt the Russian kleptocracy needs a rethink. Sanctions hurt ordinary people; on the other hand, if by ‘kleptocracy’ you mean the gangsters that launder stolen Russian money in tax havens abroad, that would be a good thing.
      The fact is that Russia has been under sanctions forever, with perhaps an abatement during the Yeltsin kleptocracy, increased in 2015. The result is that Russia is food-secure and mostly import-substituted, so American and EU sanctions are moot. If the West does SWIFT sanctions, then Russia will just forget the West, trade with China, and let Europe freeze.

  10. The U.S. is endangering the entire world by pushing for an armed conflict with Russia. I’d be terrified if I hadn’t lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis. The threat of a nuclear war that ends life on Earth is quite real, but I can’t bring myself to be terrified again. Damn all these a-holes, but if it happens, it happens. If we lived in a sane society so many people would be out in the streets that we’d be taking over the government over this alone. Dr. Strangelove and General Ripper are running things, Bob save the Earth and all life here.

  11. Help! This is Jim Mamer I just placed a reaction to this podcast. In order to get a few dates right I had copied some notes from an essay (in 2010) by Stephan Cohen. In the end I didn’t remember that I had left it on the page I was writing on. So when I posted the comment my copy of two paragraphs written by Professor Cohen was posted at the end of my letter. That section begins with “What worries me and continues to the ending of what I posted. If you run my comment please remove Professor Cohen’s unquoted remarks. Thank you.

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