As former Vice President Joe Biden prepares to accept his party's presidential nomination, the Democrats have unveiled their priorities for U.S. service members, military families, and veterans.
The 2020 Democratic Party Platform, which is part of the presidential convention process, calls for repealing the Authorizations for Military Force against Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, as part of a wider effort to end the “forever wars.”
In their platform, the Democrats also pledge to combat racism within the military’s justice system, end the current ban on certain transgender people joining the military, protect troops and veterans from being deported, and combat veteran homelessness by converting some Department of Veterans Affairs’ facilities into housing.
And in a particularly pointed jab at President Donald Trump, the Democrats promise to no longer issue military orders by tweet or “pardon war criminals.”
Here are a few of the highlights of the draft platform, which was first reported on by Leo Shane III of Military Times.
Ending the Forever Wars
In 2001 and 2002, Congress authorized the George W. Bush administration to wage war against the terrorists that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 and Saddam Hussein. Those two authorizations for using military force have become the legal underpinning for wars that now have little to do with the lawmakers’ original intent.
Yet Congress has failed for nearly two decades to revoke the original authorizations even though VoteVets and Concerned Veterans for America – two groups on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum – have both called for Congress to take action.
The Democratic platform vows to do precisely that.
“We will work with Congress to repeal decades-old authorizations for the use of military force and replace them with a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars,” the platform says.
The Democrats also vow to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan that prevents Al Qaeda and ISIS from posing a threat to the United States while also protecting women’s rights, although it does not elaborate on exactly how. And the Democratic platform calls for ending U.S. military support to the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
“Rather than occupy countries and overthrow regimes to prevent terrorist attacks, Democrats will prioritize more effective and less costly diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement tools,” the platform says. “We will right-size our counterterrorism footprint, put it in service of broader regional and overarching foreign policy objectives, and ensure it never undermines the values we seek to uphold."
Protecting troops and veterans
After Trump took office, the Defense Department adopted a policy that prevents transgender people from enlisting or commissioning in the military if they have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria – unless they been stable for 36 months and they have not yet had medical treatment to transition to a new gender.
The Democrats pledge to overturn that policy as well as end policies that discriminate against people living with HIV and AIDS.
“We will root out systemic racism from our military justice system, where black service members are twice as likely as white ones to face court-martial,” the platform says. “We will accelerate efforts to recruit and promote people of color in the officer corps.”
The platform also declares that service members, veterans, and military family members should never face the threat of being deported. In 2018, Alejandra Juarez, the wife of an Iraq war veteran, was deported. She had been allowed to stay in the country after police discovered her illegal status in 2013, but that ended under the Trump administration.
“We will create a parole process for veterans deported by the Trump Administration to reunite them with their families and compatriots,” the platform says. “And we believe anyone who has served honorably in our military has earned a path to citizenship prior to discharge or retirement.”
The Democrats also vowed not to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs and to invest in mental health and suicide prevention services to prevent veterans from dying by suicide.
Restoring civil-military relations
Some of the Democrats’ sharpest criticism is aimed at how Trump has taken on the job as commander in chief.
They claim the president has politicized the military and distorted the roles of both civilian and uniformed leaders in the decision-making process.
“We will reinstate national security policymaking processes that advance competent civilian control and appropriately incorporate military advice — not issue commands by tweet,” the platform says. “We will safeguard the independence of the military justice system — not pardon war criminals.”
Whereas Trump has repeatedly threatened to use the military to restore order in cities experiencing protests, the Democrats clearly oppose invoking the Insurrection Act to have active-duty troops serve as a police force.
“Democrats will never use active duty soldiers as political props, and we will never send military forces to suppress Americans exercising their constitutional rights,” the platform says.