By Ken Stern 

From the editor - Rick Larsen's Israel dilemma


March 13, 2024

On Feb. 13, the United State Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid bill containing military aid of $61 billion for Ukraine and $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson is in no hurry to take it up in the House of Representatives, but sometime this spring it is likely that it will be debated and passed in that chamber.

Not many newspapers of any size around the country are editorializing to have their U.S. representatives vote against that bill, but this one is. Rep. Rick Larsen is as knowledgeable as anyone in Congress on foreign policy issues, especially regarding U.S. military aid. He stepped down from his seat on the House Armed Services Committee this term, and in all ways he is a conscientious, hardworking representative dedicated to his job. Larsen is also thoughtful, patriotic and a good historian, as someone with a master’s in public policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota ought to be.

Larsen’s decision to vote for impeachment of President Donald Trump was unique among his colleagues. He “hinge(d it) on that fundamental value of citizenship and the American dream” he wrote in a guest editorial. Larsen decided after Trump attacked four congressional representatives, all women of color. Larsen’s view: “His racism is disgusting.”

Now Larsen can reflect in his heart and his mind and decide to vote against military aid to Israel. Within the Democratic Party that will be a minority view. The bill will pass the House: Republicans are for aid to Israel and against aid to Ukraine. Both countries will get money for weapons and war and destruction will continue on both fronts.

However justified providing weapons to Ukraine is, there is no justification for destroying the Palestinian population in Gaza. Larsen’s decision is not about assisting Israel in defending itself. No. Voting to send military and to Israel is signing new death warrants and assisting in the killings of many thousands more innocent men, women and children.

Today Gaza exists in name only. The destruction of its society affects every citizen there. Without addressing that reality, that the social and physical infrastructure are totally destroyed, that 2 million people have been without clean or adequate water and have been starving for six months, that there is no health care system and that on every front there are no equipment and supplies: no medicine, no sanitary facilities, no housing. The only thing that exists is pain and heartbreak.

The world names climate change as an existential threat to its existence. Israel is an existential threat to the existence of Palestine. The peoples of Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the entire Middle East have been condemned to a generation of hate, destruction and ruin. As surely as the United States invasion of Cambodia in 1970 led to the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, the obliteration of Gaza can all result in continued killing and chaos for all sides.

The American people will once again have blood on their hands, the result of their tax dollars at work.

If citizens in the 2nd Congressional District communicate their strong opposition to military aid and Larsen votes no, the bill will still pass. Ukraine will get aid. But at least the voters in our corner of the world will know that their representative voted against the crazy horror Israel has unleashed.

Citizen opposition has the potential to keep Rep. Larsen’s hands clean. Whether it is this spring, this year, and once he retires from Congress or when he looks back at a long and solid career serving his district, Rep. Larsen will find his no vote – once he decides to cast it – to be a highlight and a sterling point of his service.

Contact Rep. Larsen’s office and insist he vote no. See below, at the bottom of the Musings column.


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