US presidential candidate vows to dismantle ‘military empire’
US presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has observed the anniversary of his uncle, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, by vowing to pick up where he left off in trying to make America a peaceful nation.
“If the American people choose me as their president, I will resume the process that my uncle broached 60 years ago of unwinding the American military empire,” Kennedy said in an op-ed published on Wednesday by Fox News. “I will return the military to its proper function of defending the homeland.”
John F. Kennedy was murdered on November 22, 1963, while riding in a presidential motorcade in Dallas. His alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed two days later at a Dallas police station. Nearly five years after that, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated at an event in Los Angeles, while campaigning for president.
Like his late uncle and father, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a lifelong Democrat, but he’s running as an independent in the 2024 presidential election. Last month, he dropped his bid to run against incumbent President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, saying both of the nation’s major political parties are dominated by “corrupt interests.” He has the highest favorability rating among all 2024 contenders, according to a Harvard CAPS-Harris poll released on Monday, and he’s polling with the strongest support for a US third-party candidate in 40 years.
Kennedy said his uncle’s death created a “national trauma,” and the vision that he prized the most – “America as a peaceful nation” – died with him. The then-president defied pressure from within his administration, including the Pentagon and the CIA, to go to war in Laos in 1961 and Berlin in 1962, Kennedy said. He also faced pressure to invade Cuba and to bomb Russian missile batteries during the Cuban Missile Crisis. “His advisers assured him that the launchpads were not operational,” Kennedy said. “They were wrong, and his defiance quite likely saved the world from nuclear Armageddon.”
In the months leading up to his death in 1963, JFK intensified his push for peace, arguing that war wasn’t inevitable. He signed a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union in August of that year and issued an order in October mandating the withdrawal of 1,000 US military advisers from Vietnam. As his nephew noted on Wednesday, that order was never implemented, and his successor’s ramping up of the conflict in Southeast Asia “set the template for an endless succession of regime-change wars.”
We lost our identity as a peaceful nation. We began to neglect the real source of our nation’s strength – the vitality of our economy and the health of our people – and drained our finances and our moral authority abroad in a series of wars of questionable justification, none of which have made Americans safer.
Kennedy argued that much of Washington’s $33 trillion debt stems from military spending, including $8 trillion poured into regime-change wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. He added that 800 foreign military bases add to the financial burden. “Imagine what could have been if we’d devoted those resources toward education, infrastructure, poverty, health or the environment. We would be, paradoxically, a stronger and more secure nation.”
Kennedy also called for ending “reckless, belligerent policies” of provoking Russia and China. He pledged to shut down most overseas military bases and shrink the US armed forces. “It’s not too late to step off the war path and onto the peace path that John F. Kennedy envisioned for our nation,” he said.
Kennedy announced a petition drive earlier this week calling for Biden to release secret government documents regarding JFK’s assassination. Congress passed legislation in 1992 requiring the release of all records related to the murder by 2017, but both Biden and former President Donald Trump held back some documents.
“What is so embarrassing that they're afraid to show the American public 60 years later?” the petition asked. “Trust in government is at an all-time low. Releasing the full, unredacted historical records will help to restore that trust.”