While most of her fellow Pennsylvania Democrats remain silent, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan is speaking out against the Biden administration’s plan to send cluster munitions to Ukraine.
Progressive groups and peace organizations are condemning the administration’s decision to send those weapons to the frontline of the Russia-Ukraine war. However, Keystone State Democrats — with the exception of far-left activists like Rep. Summer Lee (PA-12), have been silent rather than break with the White House.
Not the Delaware Valley’s Houlahan, an Air Force veteran.
“From the outset of Russia’s unjust war, I have been one of the most vocal and supportive members of Congress when it comes to providing Ukraine the resources and weapon systems they need to defend itself and its sovereignty,” said Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks). “I believe a victory for Ukraine is an essential victory for democracies across the globe, but that victory cannot come at the expense of our American values and thus democracy itself. Cluster munitions are indiscriminate, and I strongly oppose providing these weapons to Ukraine.”
“There are some who will say that these weapons are necessary to level the battlefield given Russia’s reported use of them. To those individuals, I challenge the notion that these weapons are the most effective support we can provide Ukraine right now,” Houlahan added. “I challenge the notion that we should employ the same tactics Russia is using, blurring the lines of moral high ground. And I challenge all of us to remember that this war will end, and the broken pieces of Ukraine will need to be rebuilt. History remembers not only who wins a war but also how a war is won.”
Cluster munitions, which the Russians are currently using against Ukrainian targets, are so controversial a 2008 treaty bans their use. However, neither the U.S. nor Ukraine are signatories to that agreement.
While cluster munitions can effectively target large areas, they have raised significant concerns due to their humanitarian impact. One main issue is the submunition’s high failure rate resulting in many unexploded bomblets that can pose long-term threats to civilians.
Nonetheless, President Joe Biden says Ukraine needs them.
Ironically, Biden’s representative to the United Nations, Linda Greenfield-Thomas, disavowed the use of cluster munitions in March 2022, according to The Washington Post. And during her time as Biden’s former White House spokesperson, Jen Psaki called Russia’s use of cluster munitions “potentially a war crime.”
Progressives and peace activists are pushing back while Pennsylvania Democrats remain largely silent.
“This decision is beyond disappointing and heartbreaking. Since the initial invasion in 2014, Russia and Ukraine have been actively fighting. More weapons, and certainly not more indiscriminate weapons, are not the answer. Diplomacy is,” said Bridget Moix, general secretary of The Friends (Quaker) Committee on National Legislation.
Bob Smith, a founder and coordinator of the Brandywine Peace Community, said the Biden administration should “absolutely not” be sending cluster munitions to Ukraine.
“It not only crosses a line but raises the threshold of war and can only lead to more death,” said Smith. “For those of us who lived through the Vietnam War and were active during the Vietnam War, the cluster bomb has a particular image. It’s an image and was, at that time, and still is, an anti-personnel weapon. It’s not for destroying things or places or structures. It’s for killing people.”
“And I was horrified when I saw that President Biden had decided to go ahead and release U.S. cluster bombs to Ukraine,” Smith said. “The United States should have outlawed or should have banned cluster bombs (as other) countries around the world have already banned them.
“Why is it that our president doesn’t call for negotiations? Why doesn’t President Zelensky at least say, ‘Yes, negotiations are necessary’? Put the onus on the Russians,” Smith asked.
Veterans For Peace and other U.S. anti-war organizations will hold a rally on July 22 at the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant to oppose sending cluster bombs, and all weapons, into the Ukraine War and call for an immediate ceasefire.
But amid the controversy, there is total silence from the rest of the Delaware Valley delegation.
Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) all chose not to respond to requests for comment about Biden’s decision. And as of press time, none of them had released a public statement on the issue.
The same with Pennsylvania U.S. Sens. John Fetterman and Bob Casey, who is up for re-election next year.
Houlahan is co-chair of the bipartisan Unexploded Ordinance (UXO)/Demining Caucus. She has strongly supported Ukraine and said the House will be debating and passing the National Defense Authorization Act this week.
“I have authored and supported numerous provisions in the NDAA supporting Ukraine’s defense, and I will enthusiastically advocate for those provisions as we pass the final bill. As discussions regarding support for Ukraine continue in the House, Senate, and White House, I look forward to working with my colleagues and the administration to ensure we make the best possible decisions for the future of our nation and our globe.”
For Smith, the issue is far more simple.
“The problem is, in war, ultimately no one wins. And all that will be left is more killing.”