Chris Hedges: Democrats Are a Party of War

The Democratic Party has become the party of permanent war, fueling massive military spending which is hollowing out the country from the inside and flirting with nuclear war.

Volodymyr Zelensky and Nancy Pelosi during a Joint Meeting of Congress last Wednesday with flag of Ukraine signed by the Ukrainian soldiers fighting at Bakhmut. (Office of the House Speaker)

By Chris Hedges

Democrats position themselves as the party of virtue, cloaking their support for the war industry in moral language stretching back to Korea and Vietnam, when President Ngo Dinh Diem was as lionized as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

All the wars they support and fund are “good” wars. All the enemies they fight, the latest being Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, are incarnations of evil. The photo of a beaming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris holding up a signed Ukrainian battle flag behind Zelensky as he addressed Congress last Wednesday was another example of the Democratic Party’s abject subservience to the war machine.

The Democrats, especially with the presidency of Bill Clinton, became shills not only for corporate America but for the weapons manufacturers and the Pentagon. No weapons system is too costly. No war, no matter how disastrous, goes unfunded. No military budget is too big, including the $858 billion in military spending allocated for the current fiscal year, an increase of $45 billion above what the Biden administration requested. 

The historian Arnold Toynbee cited unchecked militarism as the fatal disease of empires, arguing that they ultimately commit suicide.  

There once was a wing of the Democratic Party that questioned and stood up to the war industry: Senators J. William Fulbright, George McGovern, Gene McCarthy, Mike Gravel, William Proxmire and House member Dennis Kucinich. But that opposition evaporated along with the antiwar movement.

When 30 members of the party’s progressive caucus recently issued a call for Biden to negotiate with Putin, they were forced by the party leadership and a warmongering media to back down and rescind their letter. Not that any of them, with the exception of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have voted against the billions of dollars in weaponry sent to Ukraine or the bloated military budget. Rashida Tlaib voted present. 

The opposition to the perpetual funding of the war in Ukraine has come primarily from Republicans, 11 in the Senate and 57 in the House, several, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, unhinged conspiracy theorists. Only nine Republicans in the House joined the Democrats in supporting the $1.7 trillion spending bill needed to prevent the government from shutting down, which included approval of $847 billion for the military.

The total is boosted to $858 billion when factoring in accounts that don’t fall under the Armed Services committees’ jurisdiction. In the Senate, 29 Republicans opposed the spending bill. The Democrats, including nearly all 100 members of the House Congressional Progressive Caucus, lined up dutifully for endless war. 

This lust for war is dangerous, pushing us into a potential war with Russia and, perhaps later, with China — each a nuclear power. It is also economically ruinous. The monopolization of capital by the military has driven U.S. debt to over $30 trillion, $6 trillion more than the U.S. GDP of $24 trillion. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year.

The U.S. spends more on the military than the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined. Congress is also on track to provide an extra $21.7 billion to the Pentagon — above the already expanded annual budget — to resupply Ukraine.

“But those contracts are just the leading edge of what is shaping up to be a big new defense buildup,” The New York Times reported. “Military spending next year is on track to reach its highest level in inflation-adjusted terms since the peaks in the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2008 and 2011, and the second highest in inflation-adjusted terms since World War II — a level that is more than the budgets for the next 10 largest cabinet agencies combined.”

Senators J. William Fulbright and Eugene McCarthy, 1966. (White House Photo)


The Democratic Party, which, under the Clinton administration aggressively courted corporate donors, has surrendered its willingness to challenge, however tepidly, the war industry. 

“As soon as the Democratic Party made a determination, it could have been 35 or 40 years ago, that they were going to take corporate contributions, that wiped out any distinction between the two parties,” Dennis Kucinich said when I interviewed him on my show for The Real News Network. “Because in Washington, he or she who pays the piper plays the tune. That’s what’s happened. There isn’t that much of a difference in terms of the two parties when it comes to war.”

In his 1970 book The Pentagon Propaganda Machine, Fulbright describes how the Pentagon and the arms industry pour millions into shaping public opinion through public relations campaigns, Defense Department films, control over Hollywood and domination of the commercial media. Military analysts on cable news are universally former military and intelligence officials who sit on boards or work as consultants to defense industries, a fact they rarely disclose to the public.

Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star army general and military analyst for NBC News, was also an employee of Defense Solutions, a military sales and project management firm. He, like most of these shills for war, personally profited from the sales of the weapons systems and expansion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On the eve of every congressional vote on the Pentagon budget, lobbyists from businesses tied to the war industry meet with Congress members and their staff to push them to vote for the budget to protect jobs in their district or state. This pressure, coupled with the mantra amplified by the media that opposition to profligate war funding is unpatriotic, keeps elected officials in bondage. These politicians also depend on the lavish donations from the weapons manufacturers to fund their campaigns.

Seymour Melman, in his book Pentagon Capitalism, documented the way militarized societies destroy their domestic economies. Billions are spent on the research and development of weapons systems while renewable energy technologies languish. Universities are flooded with military-related grants while they struggle to find money for environmental studies and the humanities.

Bridges, roads, levees, rail, ports, electric grids, sewage treatment plants and drinking water infrastructures are structurally deficient and antiquated. Schools are in disrepair and lack sufficient teachers and staff. Unable to stem the COVID-19 pandemic, the for-profit health care industry forces families, including those with insurance, into bankruptcy. Domestic manufacturing, especially with the offshoring of jobs to China, Vietnam, Mexico and other nations, collapses. Families are drowning in personal debt, with 63 percent of Americans living paycheck to paycheck. The poor, the mentally ill, the sick and the unemployed are abandoned. 

Melman, who coined the term “permanent war economy,” noted that since the end of the Second World War, the federal government has spent more than half its discretionary budget on past, current and future military operations. It is the largest single sustaining activity of the government. The military-industrial establishment is nothing more than gilded corporate welfare.

Military systems are sold before they are produced. Military industries are permitted to charge the federal government for huge cost overruns. Massive profits are guaranteed. For example, this November, the Army awarded Raytheon Technologies alone more than $2 billion in contracts, on top of over $190 million awarded in August, to deliver missile systems to expand or replenish weapons sent to Ukraine.

Despite a depressed market for most other businesses, stock prices of Lockheed and Northrop Grumman have risen by more than 36 and 50 percent this year.

Militarizing Tech Giants

Joe Lauria

Aerial view of Pentagon at night. (Joe Lauria)

Tech giants, including Amazon, which supplies surveillance and facial recognition software to the police and F.B.I., have been absorbed into the permanent war economy. Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle were awarded multibillion-dollar cloud computing contracts for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability and are eligible to receive $9 billion in Pentagon contracts to provide the military with “globally available cloud services across all security domains and classification levels, from the strategic level to the tactical edge,” through mid-2028.

Foreign aid is given to countries such as Israel, with more than $150 billion in bilateral assistance since its founding in 1948, or Egypt, which has received over $80 billion since 1978 — aid that requires foreign governments to buy weapons systems from the U.S. The U.S. public funds the research, development and building of weapons systems and purchases them for foreign governments.

Such a  circular system mocks the idea of a free-market economy. These weapons soon become obsolete and are replaced by updated and usually more costly weapons systems. It is, in economic terms, a dead end. It sustains nothing but the permanent war economy.

“The truth of the matter is that we’re in a heavily militarized society driven by greed, lust for profit, and wars are being created just to keep fueling that,” Kucinich told me.

In 2014, the U.S. backed a coup in Ukraine that installed a government that included neo-Nazis and was antagonistic to Russia. The coup triggered a civil war when the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, the Donbass, sought to secede from the country, resulting in over 14,000 people dead and nearly 150,000 displaced, before Russia invaded in February.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Jacques Baud, a former NATO security advisor who also worked for Swiss intelligence, was instigated by the escalation of Ukraine’s war on the Donbass. It also followed the Biden administration’s rejection of proposals sent by the Kremlin in late 2021, which might have averted Russia’s invasion the following year. 

This invasion has led to widespread U.S. and E.U. sanctions on Russia, which have boomeranged onto Europe. Inflation ravages Europe with the sharp curtailment of shipments of Russian oil and gas. Industry, especially in Germany, is crippled.  In most of Europe, it is a winter of shortages, spiraling prices and misery. 

“This whole thing is blowing up in the face of the West,” Kucinich warned. “We forced Russia to pivot to Asia, as well as Brazil, India, China, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. There’s a whole new world being formed. The catalyst of it is the misjudgment that occurred about Ukraine and the effort to try to control Ukraine in 2014 that most people aren’t aware of.”

By not opposing a Democratic Party whose primary business is war, liberals become the sterile, defeated dreamers in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground

A former convict, Dostoevsky did not fear evil. He feared a society that no longer had the moral fortitude to confront evil. And war, to steal a line from my latest book, is the greatest evil.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and NPR.  He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”

Author’s Note to Readers: There is now no way left for me to continue to write a weekly column for ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show without your help. The walls are closing in, with startling rapidity, on independent journalism, with the elites, including the Democratic Party elites, clamoring for more and more censorship. Bob Scheer, who runs ScheerPost on a shoestring budget, and I will not waiver in our commitment to independent and honest journalism, and we will never put ScheerPost behind a paywall, charge a subscription for it, sell your data or accept advertising. Please, if you can, sign up at so I can continue to post my Monday column on ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show, The Chris Hedges Report.

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16 comments for “Chris Hedges: Democrats Are a Party of War

  1. Common Sense
    December 29, 2022 at 07:52

    The numbers are simply unimaginable.

    For many anything above 1,000 starts to be difficult to really imagine.

    Did you ever think about the fact, that counting until “just” 1 Billion, assuming only one second per number, would take around 33 years; not one second left for going to the toilet, drink, eat, sleep, rest….. just counting all these years?

    Most people don’t make the effort of taking their calculator or just calculating it themselves to get an idea of how much there is really shifted from the “bottom to the top”.

    For the common reader/ “news” consumer, the difference between 1 million and 1 billion almost is invisible.

    Despite the factor 1,000!

  2. Common Sense
    December 28, 2022 at 17:25

    It might be good to provide a step by step transition, also for (honorable) business:

    A reminder-

    It is a challenge to transition the giant industries including all the connected “jobs” from a destructive towards a constructive process/ progress.

    There is really a lot(!) to do to “repair”- looking at the human/ industrial made huge social and environmental damage in history and at present around the planet (including the oceans).

    Let’s shift (almost in the first place) the military budget (~ 2 trillion dollars per year) in a step by step international binding agreement within a 12 year time-frame to regenerating nature and social balance.

    The attached industries will follow consequently.

    Let our (military) guys and girls be good “forces”/ stewards for a healthy and as far as possible resilient planet, and a socially stable global society including all wonderful creatures sharing the world with us.

    By training the staff correspondingly and thoroughly.

    That would be really great & smart for national and global security!

    And lets make them finally undertake the long overdue clean up of all the highly dangerous, poisonous and tremendous mess, the military and their industries have been leaving or dumping about everywhere around the planet during and after past (world) wars.

    Including the deadly nuclear waste time bombs rotting somewhere.

    Dangerous work for decades.

    There is only one garden Eden we very likely are ever able to reach ^^

    The entire weapon industry (military- industrial complex) must become state owned and controlled for no monetary profit.

    Just maintained for the really necessary defence needs.

    Not more than that!

    And this can be probably done very well with just ~10% of the present budget/ cost in about every country.

    In the hands of a shareholders dictated industry they always will be looking for more profit every single day and year by year.

    And if there is no conflict/ crisis they will create one at its “best”. They even are in for multiple conflicts/ crisis if maximum profit is on the horizon.

    Again and again, always based on malicious propaganda, spread by “government” agencies, evil willing „think tanks“ and allied media.

    Accepting/ causing millions of civil deaths and natures destruction.

    There is a choice for what to use global yearly military spendings…
    … of now more than,. $ each year.

    We got to want it and insist on it!

  3. Common Sense
    December 28, 2022 at 17:22

    Such a giant murderous and fraudulent “business” for the few without any scruples.

    We got to get rid of these absolutely foolish individuals!

  4. LeoSun
    December 28, 2022 at 12:18

    “The Eagle, The Bear, The Dragon; &, The Man Who Should Be President, DENNIS KUCINICH, nails it!: “This whole thing is blowing up in the face of the West.”

    “We forced Russia to pivot to Asia, as well as Brazil, India, China, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. There’s a whole new world being formed.” i.e., BRICS-MultiPolarity vs. UniPolarity.

    “The catalyst of it is the misjudgment that occurred about Ukraine and the effort to try to control Ukraine in 2014 that most people aren’t aware of.”

    !!! “The EAGLE wants all the oil, natural gas, foreign resources,” lithium, manganese, cobalt, graphite, steel, and nickel, it can plunder. “The BEAR & the DRAGON say – “NOT This Time, my bald, feathery, friend!!!”

    “As the EAGLE got more and more threatening, the BEAR and the DRAGON got closer and closer in their strategic partnership. NOW both BEAR and DRAGON have too many strategic links across the planet to be intimidated by the EAGLE’S massive Empire of Bases or those periodic coalitions of the (somewhat reluctant) willing.” PEPE ESCOBAR

    ??? WHERE IS the Effective Alternative to The War Party?!?

    A party w/o FRAUDS, the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Presley, Cori Bush who squawk, squawk, squawk about it, all night, yapp about OPPOSING the Powers that Be. The mask was ripped the flock off in January, 2021!!! “We are just an extremely slim amount of votes away from risking the speakership to the Republican Party,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who in the past has been vocal about the need for transition to new leadership but voted for Pelosi on Sunday. “It’s bigger than any one of us.”

    The SQUAD + 2 are Corporati$ts, conventional capitalist politicians and apologists for Biden-Harris, Pelosi, et al. “El Capitalismo es el Viruz;”

    MEMO TO: Dennis Kucinich

    The collapse of the Biden-Harris Domestic & Foreign agenda; & EVERYTHING thereafter, BBB-D.O.A., Poll NUMBERS IN THE TOILET, Diplomacy-M.I.A., WAR, IS, confirmation that the The Party of Democrats is not a vehicle for social reform, but in fact a graveyard. Imo, the best practice, don’t walk away, RUN! Keep 6 ft., to a lifetime away from Democrats.

    Consequently, Congressman Kucinich (Dennis), “WE, the PEOPLE,” are still looking for a LEADER.”

    The ASK, “Chris Hedges & Dennis Kucinich, Please, CONTINUE the Conversation!!! TY, for the consideration. Sincerely, “The Universe” KEEP IT LIT!

  5. rgl
    December 27, 2022 at 22:58

    “Democrats Now the War Party”

    The US has been at war with somebody 90-some percent of it’s entire existence. Regardless of the ‘party’ in charge. Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter a whit. War is the business of america. Always has been, and until they can no do so, war will remain the main business of the country.
    War is the lifeblood of america regardless of which ‘party’ holds the house, senate or the oval office.

  6. Anon
    December 27, 2022 at 17:20

    Seems 2 this commenter… Far as Ukraine specific handouts… little enough speculation on Hunter / Burisma & documented laptop owesies… Son Of POTUS… & HEAD DEM!
    Corruption getting Passed Down… & Compromising whatever Ethics… Got Progs Selected / Elected!
    Chris… of course… continues 2 Get It Right… & CN 2 Pass It On..
    So… Tnx folks!!!

  7. December 27, 2022 at 12:39

    Hmmm, “now” only if we’re talking about prior to World War I. Antiwar and “Democratic Party” are and have long been oxymorons.

  8. mgr
    December 27, 2022 at 12:01

    Thank you for hitting all the points so well. If HRC had been elected in 2016, this rush into ColdWar2 would have happened six years earlier. By the end of the 2016 campaign, it seemed clear to me that the DP would unite behind her in expanding war and conflict in the world and any Congressional checks and balances would disappear. Now, six years later, here we are with HRC’s avatar, Biden. War, perhaps preferably cold, was always the DP plan. I shuddered to hear that “America was back.” I had no doubt that Biden would do nothing to actually help the world but would instead waste the little time we had to mitigate climate effects, but it is remarkable how quickly he and his merry band of war-babies were able to reconstitute the Cold War paradigm. Apparently, encroaching dementia is no obstacle to evil. Of course, he had remarkable, and unexpected for me, help from the EU leadership. Go figure.

    Neocons are effectively stupid. Their ideology makes them so. They are the shock troops of the MICIMATT (see Ray McGovern) which lavishly funds them. Nonetheless, everything they touch invariably turns to mud. Then they nearly break their arms patting themselves on the back while declaring that mud to be gold. Well, you can roll a turd in powdered sugar, but it don’t taste like no jelly-donut.

    Empires fall from such hubris, stupidity, and donuts. The US had gotten a lot of mileage from moral authority and good will that was forged in an earlier era of relative sanity, e.g., the Peace Corps, war against poverty, etc. The real consequential weapon that Putin has wielded has been to force America to remove its mask. For the real world that lies outside the US/EU/G7 fantasy bubble, America’s true face is now on display for all to see and it is neither benign nor noble, rather capricious and ravenous, a combination of Trump’s narcissism and the Biden admin’s need for the world to bend a knee. Well, that toothpaste is never going back into the tube. Neocon destruction (of America) has the virtue of being long lasting.

    If we survive the interim, I suspect that the American empire will be confined to its own borders while the EU will be reduced to a pathetic shell of what it is now. Well, just keep repeating, “All that mud is really gold,” and have another donut.

    I suggest that war-mongering be made an international crime against humanity that is vigorously prosecuted. There’s no lack of candidates. They can begin with America’s perpetual war party, its “think tanks” and supporters. And the world will immediately become a far safer and more prosperous place.

  9. Harry McNeil
    December 27, 2022 at 11:30

    It never stops amazing me how the American people tacitly support these huge military budgets, which go up and up year after year, despite the complete absence of any military threat to the country. Incredible!

  10. Packard
    December 27, 2022 at 08:25

    Never in the history of human conflict has so much American blood, time, and treasure been risked for so little in the way of any vital, national strategic interests for the United States.

    Yet in Ukraine, and with the staunch support of our war craving power elites in Washington DC, here we are today.

  11. Cesar Jeopardy
    December 27, 2022 at 01:29

    I don’t really believe the GOP is anti-war. I believe they are anti-Biden and will oppose whatever he is for. The opposition is strictly political rather than moral or rational. If the shoe were on the other foot–i.e. if there was a Republican POTUS–the Congressional GOP would quickly fall in the pro-war line.

  12. irina
    December 26, 2022 at 23:48

    I would like to add a name to the (sadly short) list of Democratic Senators who opposed the war industry :

    That of Alaska Territorial Governor and later US Senator Ernest Gruening, one of only two Senators
    who voted in opposition to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. He wrote a book about the folly of the Vietnam
    War, working the phrase ‘The People Pay’ into the title (see end of linked article):


    I have taken many classes in the building named in his honor.

  13. lester
    December 26, 2022 at 22:10

    Bravo Mr. Hedges! As clear-sighted and plainly stated as ever.

    I fear that one result of a constant war economy since 1950 is that many voters, whether D or R supporters, cannot imagine living in any other way.

    If Zelensky is another Diem, will he too be killed in a CIA coup d’etat? Will he flee to the US like Ferdinand Marcos and others?

  14. Terry49
    December 26, 2022 at 20:39

    Excellent article by Chris Hedges and which the mainstream media will not allow to be heard on any of its programs or op ed pieces in such newspapers as the New York Times and Washington Post, since Hedges does not support the constant braying for war which the cable news and network programs constantly clamor for. As Hedges points out, the Democratic party is the party of war, and which is yet another reason why this less than egalitarian country needs a genuine leftist third party which can challenge and critique the two major corporate and militant political parties which so dominate the political scene in the United States.

  15. Caliman
    December 26, 2022 at 19:34

    The D’s are and have been for a while the party of the establishment, a major part of which is the MICIMATT … looking to the D’s therefore as any part of the solution is a fox/henhouse undertaking.

    The powers that be are far too entrenched, as Chris describes above. National bankruptcy is the only thing that will save us now … thankfully, it’s coming soon.

    • Mikael Andersson
      December 27, 2022 at 20:29

      Not soon enough perhaps. The USA printing presses can run for quite some time yet. The Petrodollar is powerful. My sense is that the acute crisis will arrive before USA financial collapse. There really is nowhere to run however, in a one-party state – the War Party. Complete societal breakdown in the USA following a financial collapse? One may hope, but it is little more.

Comments are closed.