Gaza’s Fate Looms Large in NJ Dems June Primary Debate

America’s pop culture sports calliope that cranks out garish displays like the 2024 NFL Draft make it clear our mass consciousness risks being trapped in a pinball machine of our puerile desires.

As we were in the days and months before 9/11, tens millions of us are blithely going about our mass consumer day, oblivious to the role our nation’s military machine plays in things like the decimation of Gaza’s civilian population including women and children.

It’s not our problem…..

This disconnect between our perpetual playtime at home, and the gravity of the violent siege in Gaza, occurred to me as I drove past the heavily guarded Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck, NJ on Route 34 in Monmouth County on the way to my daughter’s house.

Whether we admit it or not, we’ve always had skin in this game of mutually assured  nuclear destruction we were born into. And now, almost a half-century after the last peace movement, when a younger generation stood up to challenge the domino-theory about southeast Asia, there’s a new generation asking questions about old arrangements.

 

WELCOME TO YOUR PREMIERE WEAPONS STATION

From the state highway, Earle is easy to miss except for the extensive run of high chain link fencing and barbed wire that defines what the Pentagon describes as the “Navy’s premier Weapons Station” set on almost 11,000 acres on the “Sandy Hook Bay, overlooking the New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.”

According to the official history, the need for such a base became evident during WWII, when Jersey City’s Caven Point was the Pentagon’s keep transshipment point for the front lines in Europe. “However, because of its proximity to densely populated areas, and proximity  to ‘military facilities’, Caven Point was considered an extreme hazard,” explains the Department of Defense.

Most of the weapons used for the D-Day invasion in Normandy came through this Monmouth County site. “In subsequent years, Earle proved its strategic worth as the DoD transshipment site for ordnance used in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi  Freedom,” notes the Pentagon.

As the New York Times reported back in May of 1984, there’s been a long standing “Department of Defense ‘directive’ to neither confirm nor deny statements concerning nuclear weapons” presence at Earle. No doubt, its presence here raises Monmouth County’s profile as a potential first strike target despite the site’s peaceful bucolic setting.

Here in the U.S. we are insulated from the impact of U.S. munitions around the world. It’s easy to be an acolyte of this ‘peace through strength’ form of global domination and export when our bombs are not falling in your neighborhood.

 

COURAGE TO ASK COULD IT BE ANOTHER WAY?

As destiny would have it, for the first time since the Vietnam War, there’s a serious debate underway here in New Jersey amongst the  Democratic Party’s candidates vying to succeed the indicted U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez about these issues that have been on policy robo-pilot for so long.

A recent NJ Spotlight candidates forum with Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ), labor educator Patricia Campos-

Campos-Medina

Medina, and social justice activist Larry Hamm coincided with the passage of a $95 billion military aid package which included major weapons support for Israel and Ukraine which sparked a debate between the three candidates.

Before being elected to the House in 2018, Rep. Andy Kim (D-3rd Dist.),  served as a former civilian official with the U.S State Department and Pentagon on the ground in Afghanistan whose job was to brief visiting members of Congress about what was going on inside the beleaguered country the U.S. would ultimately abandon.

Kim voted for the $95 billion package  that included $61 billion in military aid for Ukraine, $26 billion for Israel including $9 billion in humanitarian aid to Gaza as well as $8 billion earmarked for U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region to ‘counter’ China.

“Instability abroad, addressing the security issues abroad, are so vital to our ability to be able to provide for our communities, for our state,” Kim said during the NJ Spotlight forum. “We’ve seen how economic turmoil abroad or conflicts abroad affect us, in the same way it did during the pandemic — affected our economy, affected our supply chain and this is something that I think is very important for us to recognize. And drawing that link … I want to make sure that we have resources for our schools, our communities, that we make sure we’re addressing affordability for our families, but we have to also be able to make sure that we’re addressing global security, which does affect us here at home.”

Larry Hamm, long-time Essex County social justice activist, told InsiderNJ he denounced Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians and the taking of 250 hostages. Hamm also blasted Israel for using it as a pretext for “genocidal war” on the civilian population in Gaza, whose entire healthcare system has been obliterated by the subsequent Israeli siege.

“We spent $6 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Hamm said when asked by panel moderator

Hamm

David Cruz for his views. “Will this adventure in Ukraine be another Afghanistan? How many trillions will be spent in Ukraine? … Will we be in Ukraine for 60 years, as we’ve been in Korea? How many times do we have to do this? The United States does not have infinite resources. We cannot continue to spend on the military. We’re almost at a trillion dollars now on the military budget. And at home, we can’t fund our schools. We’re closing our hospitals. We can’t even fix our roads.”

Campos-Medina is the executive director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University and  is a nationally recognized expert on labor, trade and immigration issues. In an interview with InsiderNJ, she explained her  “nuanced” stance on the $95 million aid package was based “on my own experience as a survivor of the war in El Salvador” which left 75,000 civilians dead over its twelve year arc.

At the NJ Spotlight forum, she spoke out against military aid to Israel but supported the Ukraine portion of the package.

“The role of the United States as a military power should always be to secure peace and protect civilians and children—that’s why I said we had to hold Israel accountable for how it is engaging in this protracted war against what they call Hamas, which is a terrorist group,” Campos-Medina told InsiderNJ.

Both Kim and Campos-Medina have committed to voting for President Biden in the June Primary. Hamm is supporting a grass roots campaign to have primary voters vote for a slate of “uncommitted” delegates to encourage the White House to do more to hold Israel accountable for their prosecution of the war. Earlier this year, a similar movement in Michigan garnered more that 100,000 votes, or 13 percent . A few days later, in the Minnesota contest, 50,000 Democrats voted uncommitted, about 20 percent of the ballots cast.

 

THE POST 9/11 MILITARY BINGE TAB

Since the U.S. embarked on its post- 9/11 global war on terrorism there’s been a total surrender to the corrupting military industrial complex that President Eisenhower tried to warn us about. For the 20 years that followed the World Trade Center attack, the United States prosecuted its global war on terrorism that cost trillions and according to Brown University’s Watson Institute of International & Public Affairs helped contribute directly to the deaths of as many as 900,000 with another 3.6 to 3.8 million perishing from the ecological and economic fallout from the open-ended warfare.

With little  beltway debate over the moral justification for spending close to a trillion dollars annually on the military,  we outpaced the spending of more than the other nine countries with major militaries spend combined. There’s a broad bi-partisan, campaign finance fueled consensus to keep the military industrial conveyor belt cranking 24/7 as long as its largesse is spread around to every Congressional district.

It’s not just the lost opportunity cost of not addressing the nation’s wounds at home, like our predatory healthcare system, but the cost of paying to service the debt we are piling up to feed the military. And there’s the outright incoherence of requiring American’s to get permits if they want to fill wetlands on their property while we ship off bombs to Israel that certainly won’t have to file an environmental impact statement before they drop them on Gaza.

In 2023, even as U.S. policy makers pontificated about the climate crisis, the U.S. sold a record $238 billion in weapons to foreign governments, a 16 percent spike. Isn’t anybody worried about a tipping point in terms of the proliferation of weapons?

Judging by the proliferation of campus protests across the country, it looks like the Biden White House and many beltway Democrats under estimated how unpopular Israel’s siege of Gaza would be. While Biden and other U.S. officials have expressed concerned about Israel’s operations in Gaza, military aid has continued to flow.

 

HOLDING HOPE?

President Biden recently posed with 4-year-old Abigail Edan, one of the Hamas hostages released early on. Edan, whose parents were killed by Hamas, had been held for fifty days. The U.S. military has started erecting a maritime pier to accelerate the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza that could be operational by early May, according to Reuters.

April 26, the New York Times reported that since the Israeli military started bombing Gaza after the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack, it had “wrecked entire hospitalsstruck ambulances and killed or detained hundreds of health care workers” while preventing “lifesaving medical supplies from reaching patients, according to aid groups.”

The Times continued. “And shortages of fuel, water and food have made it difficult for medical workers to provide basic services. The result has been the near collapse of a health care system that once served Gaza’s population of more than two million. By late March, of the 36 large-scale hospitals across Gaza, only 10 were ‘minimally functional’, according to the World Health Organization.”

A recent Monmouth University poll indicated that Americans were sharply divided on the $95 billion package with 43 percent in favor, 35 percent opposed and with more than one in five not having an opinion. Two-thirds of Democrats support it while by a 44 percent to 30 percent split Republicans oppose it as do independents.

Amongst young voters, the outrage over Israel’s siege of Gaza is pretty pronounced and that’s registered in their disapproval of the U.S. continuing to arm Israel.

“I do think Democrats should be concerned about young people who have been very clear that what they want is for Israel to be hold more accountable and to stop the bombings that are setting off this humanitarian crisis in Gaza with 33,000 people dead with one million people displaced and hungry,” Campos-Matos told InsiderNJ.  “In every war it’s the young people who usually remind us of our moral responsibility to protect people and protect young children.”

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4 responses to “Gaza’s Fate Looms Large in NJ Dems June Primary Debate”

  1. Hennelly is just a political liberal hack. I cannot believe he gets paid ( quite a bit) for writing his long winded, one sided BS.

  2. All this money that has been spent overseas to all these countries that could care less about the USA.
    How about we give at least half of that money to all the Veterans in our own country that so desperately need our help. They were the ones that stood up and protected us and defended our freedoms, so those in power could just give our money away.
    Support all of our veterans.

  3. My deceased cousin used to live in Leonardo. When we used to visit during summer BBQs, about 200 feet from his back deck, we could watch the ammunition train carrying nukes through the woods to the pier at Earle Naval Weapons station where at least 2 nuclear subs were waiting to be loaded. How do we know they were nukes? We didn’t, but the symbols with the black trefoil on yellow background on the containers was a dead giveaway. And, so were the multiple .50 cal. machine gun pods on the front and rear cars with heavily armed U.S. Military personnel.

  4. Bottom line: turn attention away from death and destruction before it’s too late. We have until 2030 to make things right; let’s use the remaining time to bulk up our diplomacy, reach out to our “enemies” and give peace a chance.

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