A cohort of Republicans, part of the dissenting vote on Biden’s Ukraine war package, are demanding scrutiny and details of where US money and weapons go.
By Glenn Greenwald / Sub-Pile
The House of Representatives on May 10 approved President Biden’s $33 billion package for the war in Ukraine and then, on his own initiative, added another $7 billion. This brought the new war spending authorization to $40 billion, on top of the $14 billion already spent in just 10 weeks in this war, which US officials say will last years, not months. The House vote in favor was 368-57. The 57 NO votes came from House GOP members. All House Democrats, including the Squad, voted YES.
A similar scene occurred when the Senate, “moving quickly and with little debate”, overwhelmingly approved the same war package. The eleven NO votes came from Senate Republicans. All Senate Democrats, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), voted in favor, seemingly in direct contradiction to Sanders’ Feb. 8 op-ed in The Guardian warning of the grave dangers of a bipartisan escalation of war. Efforts by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to delay passage of the bill so that certain safeguards and accountability measures could be included regarding where the money would go and what it would be used for were met with contempt. , especially from Paul’s colleague. Kentucky GOP Senator, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who condemned Paul as an “isolationist.” After the Senate vote, a jet was used to ferry the bill around the world to President Biden in South Korea, where he signed it into law.
But the lack of guarantees on where the money and weapons will go prompted nearly two dozen House Republicans, led by Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM), to send a letter to the White House on Monday from Biden demanding greater precision and assurances. on legal requirements on how weapons are used. The letter urges an audience to consider the dangers of U.S. funding of the war in Ukraine: “We write today to express our grave concern about the lack of oversight and accountability for money and weapons recently approved by Congress for Ukraine,” she began.
“Congression-approved aid package provides unprecedented funding for a foreign conflict the United States is not fighting in, when there have been no significant hearings or background information on the use of money and weapons provided at the expense of taxpayers.” Lawmakers raised the possibility of sophisticated weapons falling into the hands of terrorist organizations, citing a documented history of illicit arms trafficking in Ukraine, a market that is one of the largest in Europe:
“According to a 2017 Small Arms Survey briefing on arms trafficking, more than 300,000 small arms disappeared from Ukraine between 2013 and 2015 and only 13% were recovered. Criminal networks, corrupt officials and underpaid military personnel can profit from the sale of arms from Ukrainian military stockpiles. For example, in 2019, the Ukrainian security service discovered a plot by Ukrainian soldiers to sell 40 RGD-5 grenades, 15 grenade launchers, 30 grenade detonators and 2,454 cartridges for 75,000 Ukrainian hryvnia, or about 2 $900.
Indeed, last month CNN, which relentlessly supports the war, acknowledged that “the United States has little means to keep up with the substantial supply of anti-tank, anti-aircraft and other weapons it has sent from other side of the border with Ukraine”. Biden officials admitted to the “risk that some of the shipments end up in unexpected places.” About the heavy weapons that the Biden White House initially said it would not send, only to change its mind, a senior official told reporters, “I couldn’t tell you where they are in Ukraine and if the Ukrainians use them to such an extent.”
Following up on that lead, this new letter accuses the Biden administration of indifference to Ukraine’s dismal corruption record and the resulting possibility that large quantities of U.S. weapons could soon flow onto the black market, highlighting endanger the security of Europe and the United States. The only member of the “team” to explain her YES vote for the $40 billion, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), referenced similar dangers in a written statement explaining her vote:
Moreover, at $40 billion, it is extraordinary military aid, a a large percentage of which will go directly to private defense contractors. In the past year alone, the United States will have provided Ukraine with more military aid than any other country in the past two decades, and twice as much military aid as the annual cost of the war in Afghanistan, even when American troops were on the ground. The sheer size of the package given an already bloated Pentagon budget should not go without criticism. I remain concerned about the heightened risks of direct war and the possibility of direct military confrontation.
The letter from these twenty-two GOP dissidents calls into question the administration’s compliance with the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, which regulates and limits the use of weapons exported to other countries by the US government. The law was specifically designed to control the end use of weapons supplied by the United States and regulates arms transfers that could lead to an escalation of the conflict. With these legislative limitations in mind, lawmakers are demanding a response from the Biden administration to the following key questions:
- What measures has Ukraine taken to ensure that the weapons supplied to it do not fall into the hands of criminal networks or are not sold for profit?
- How exactly does the U.S. government comply with the Arms Export Control Act and ensure that end-use monitoring of defense articles and defense services meets all foreign military sales standards?
- Has the United States discovered whether weapons previously supplied to Ukraine have been diverted from their recipients or stolen? Have any of these weapons fallen into the hands of criminals or terrorists?
- Are you and your administration satisfied that you have effective end-use monitoring capabilities and sufficient resources to ensure that no weapons will be used against U.S. citizens or those of allied countries, such as weapons of the Balkans that were used in the recent European terrorist attacks?
- Will the administration commit to creating a special comptroller to ensure that funds sent under this and other aid programs to Ukraine are not subject to of waste, fraud and abuse and comply with all requirements of the arms export control law? This monitor should be modeled on that of the special Inspector General for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
As escalating gasoline prices and soaring consumer goods costs put ever-increasing pressure on the American worker, the Republican lawmakers signing this letter underscored the strange logic behind the bipartisan position which huge sums of money have to be spent on a war in a country. where the United States, like former President Barack Obama long maintained, has no vital interest, as the Americas are urged to endure shortages and economic downturn at home. “The American people did not elect us to pour their hard-earned money into a conflict halfway around the world with little ability to track the end use of weapons or their effectiveness,” they argued.
So few questions were asked about the Biden administration’s war strategy as the extraordinary $40 billion package swept through Congress that even the The New York Times looked shocked. The newspaper, reporting on the House approval, repeatedly noted how members of both parties seemed too scared to voice their concerns or even examine what the Pentagon and CIA were doing. The newspaper sounded a similar tone after the Senate quickly approved the bill on Thursday, noting “the speed with which it passed Congress, where leaders of both parties raised few questions about the amount of Money spent, or what it would be used for, was striking, given the gridlock that has prevented national initiatives, large and small, from gaining approval in recent years.
Continuing a pattern of fulfilling the function long filled by the now mute, or rather non-existent, “anti-war left,” these Republican lawmakers emphasized at the start of the letter that “no path forward to end the conflict in Ukraine is ‘has been drawn’ by the Biden administration (the key argument Sanders made in his February op-ed before going online last week to vote YES). Although the Biden administration has been eager enough to flood this active war zone with advanced weaponry, and Congress even more so, it remains utterly indifferent, if not opposed, to the prospect of a negotiated settlement. Speaking at the annual World Economic Forum on Monday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) explicitly rejected the desirability of a diplomatic solution, asserting that the only acceptable outcome is a complete military victory over Russia by Ukraine and the United States
Regardless of one’s opinion of this war, little debate or scrutiny is allowed as the Biden administration aggressively escalates the United States’ role in what is clearly its most dangerous war in decades. If Congress has no role to play in asking where these guns are going or who is getting these huge sums of money, then it has no role to play. Even if one supports the spending of another $40 billion and untold sums in the future as this war drags on, it is undeniable that the few dozen members of Congress demanding answers from the White House on their strategy, their management of these expenses, and their ability to control the destination of these weapons are doing their job.