On Monday, the New York Democratic congressman and star member of the progressive Squad Jamal Bowman told The Grayzone that he continues to support the U.S. providing aid for the Ukraine war because Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a madman.” Just moments before, however, Bowman admitted that he did not know what Crimea or the Donbas region were.
Readers of The Grayzone are likely familiar with the history of these regions as flash-points of the Ukrainian conflict. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 in response to the US-backed ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his replacement with a nationalist government. For the next 8 years, meanwhile, the eastern Donbas region became mired in a civil war, as its ethnically Russian majority resisted the government in Kiev.
When told in a followup discussion that events within the history of these regions were pivotal to understanding the Ukrainian conflict and the stated motives behind Russia’s invasion, Bowman expressed doubt. “That’s what you’re saying. I gotta dig in to see,” he said.
While Rep. Bowman urged more military aid to defeat the “madman” in Moscow, he simultaneously insisted that he was “anti-war in general.”
In a follow-up exchange outside the US Capitol, Bowman declared that “[US] foreign policy is crap, and we solve problems with war, and the military-industrial complex is mad powerful, and they control members of Congress.” When asked about the apparent contradiction between his supposedly anti-war worldview and his Ukraine war voting record, Bowman explained that he was “supporting [Ukraine’s] democracy in defending itself.”
On the issue of democracy and the will of the people, a 2014 poll conducted jointly by Gallup and the U.S. government found that 82.8% of Crimean residents preferred the rule of Moscow to Kyiv. As for the East, a 2021 poll revealed that 57.8% of those living in the Donbas supported autonomy for the region, as reported by the pro-NATO Kyiv Post.
Despite his comments on Ukraine, Bowman has not been a rubber stamp. In a March 2022 statement, he lamented further military spending on the proxy war:
“There were elements of the defense spending section that, if voted on separately, I would have supported, including additional military aid to Ukraine and funding for the Iron Dome — which I have already voted once before to fund and support. However, the defense and incarceration package is bloated with substantial increases to our military spending.”
Bowman also voted “no” on the recent debt ceiling bill put forth by House Republicans, in part because it “allows the military budget to continue to balloon.”
Bowman emphasized to me that he supports a diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine proxy war. Yet he has clearly not squared the circle between his incendiary rhetoric blasting the military-industrial complex and his votes in support of military aid that has brought defense contractors incredible riches.
On May 30, I spoke to Bowman’s colleague in the so-called Squad, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Omar told me that the recent Ukrainian drone strikes on Moscow and other targets across the Russian Federation might cause her to reconsider support for Ukraine:
But it remains to be seen whether she or any other member of the Squad will stand up to a Democratic administration on a proxy war that it apparently intends to extend for as long as possible.
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