Good Riddance: Elaine Luria’s Exit From Power
The congresswoman spent her brief tenure on Capitol Hill swimming in donations from weapons manufacturers and advocating for war, and now she’s out of a job
Elaine Luria epitomizes the rot of the Democratic Party.
For all of its fearmongering and virtue signaling about the existential dangers of allowing control of our government to slip into Republican hands, the DNC is comprised largely of individuals who very closely resemble their pals on the right. Luria, who has represented Virginia’s second congressional district since 2018, is the poster child for this brand of Republican-lite governing. In January, she’ll be a private citizen once again.
Luria wasn’t exactly a household name during her time in Congress, but gained a lot more visibility this year with her role on the January 6th Committee. In many ways, it is this part of her resume that makes Luria such a fascinating breed of Washington insider. She was able to clear the easiest, least controversial bar imaginable – yes, Luria acknowledged that violently storming the Capitol to overturn the results of an election is bad – but is a dangerous, right-of-center war hawk by nearly every other standard.
Luria is far from alone. Many other Democrats in the beltway fit this mold, which makes calling out the largely imaginary distinction between the two parties extremely important.
On the heels of her loss to Jennifer Kiggans, the nurse practitioner who’d served in the Virginia Senate, let’s examine who Luria actually is and what this hawkish, dangerous representative stands for.
The military-industrial complex is an animal that roams nationwide but Virginia is the belly of the beast.
The state is home to several of the largest weapons manufacturers in the country, as well as countless other organizations sustained by the federal defense budget. So that the well never runs dry, these entities make sure that their local politicians are always taken care of. A number of House members in neighboring districts – representatives like Gerry Connolly and Jennifer Wexton – take money from just about every defense contractor and services provider under the sun, and Luria is no different.
Listed below are the amounts the congresswoman has accepted during the 2022 cycle alone:
Northrop Grumman, $7,000
L3Harris Technologies, $12,500
Huntington Ingalls Industries, $10,000
General Dynamics, $5,500
BAE Systems, 9,000
These are companies that profit from endless war, which explains their investment in a representative like Luria. During her time on the Hill, Luria – who spent 20 years as a naval officer before running for Congress – has been a consistent voice for the US war machine.
For starters, Luria is a reliable ‘yes’ vote on the defense budget and a tireless supporter for increasing spending every year.
In September 2021, Luria – who serves as Vice Chair of the powerful House Armed Services Committee – teamed with her Republican colleagues to secure a $23.9 billion increase to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
In a statement that could’ve just as easily been written by any Republican in the chamber, the congresswoman noted the establishment’s present trio of adversaries – China, Russia, and Iran – as well as “the local economy of Hampton Roads” in her reasoning for pursuing the additional spending.
A year later, Luria joined Congressman Jared Golden to introduce an amendment to raise the defense budget yet again, this time by an additional $37 billion. In announcing the news, Luria’s office included an itemized list of all of the goodies that the weapons manufacturers who’d given to her campaigns would be receiving as a result of the increase.
The most noteworthy expenditures, with Luria’s donors highlighted for emphasis, follow below:
$1.2 billion for incremental funding for 1 additional DDG.
This is a reference to the Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers, which are manufactured by Huntington Ingalls and Bath Iron Works, a subsidiary of General Dynamics.
$660 million for 8 additional F/A-18s.
This type of combat aircraft is manufactured by Boeing and Northrop Grumman.
$1.3 billion for other Navy/USMC aircraft, including 2 E-2D, 5 C-130s, and 2 V-22 Medium Lift.
This hardware is produced by Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Bell Helicopter, and Rolls-Royce.
$884 million for 4 additional EC-37B Compass Call aircraft.
The plane is manufactured by Lockheed Martin, while additional hardware is provided by BAE Systems and L3Harris Technologies.
Luria has also made a name for herself on the Hill as one of the loudest critics of the so-called “divest-to-invest” strategy, the Defense Department’s plan to try to save money by shedding aging equipment instead of paying to maintain it. This push to focus instead on modernizing the military’s hardware down the line comes at the expense of shrinking America’s Navy as well as its Air Force in the immediate term.
As lawmakers like Luria always make sure to point out, cuts like this translate to a less robust “deterrence” presence around the world.
“The Navy wants to retire 15 ships, including seven guided-missile cruisers and four littoral combat ships, while procuring only two surface combatant ships and two submarines. (Fortunately, Congress's budget draft would buy another destroyer and limit the retirements.),” Luria lamented in a July 2021 op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal. “Naval aviation procurement dropped 15.6% over 2021 even as the Navy speeds up F/A-18 retirements. The USS Ronald Reagan, based in Japan to counter a threat from China, is overseeing the Afghanistan withdrawal in the Middle East because no other aircraft carrier is available. Meanwhile, China is building warships at an astonishing rate. In 2010, the U.S. Navy had 68 more ships than the Chinese Navy. Today, we have 63 fewer, a swing of 131 ships in 10 years. The Air Force is also following the Pentagon's "divest to invest" lead. Combat aircraft procurement is down 22% from 2021. The force wants to retire 137 aircraft, more than double the number it plans to buy.”
This is a reduction that – in neocon speak – “emboldens” our enemies and makes us “less safe,” but nothing could be further from the truth. Yet, it’s a theme Luria revisits often.
During a March 2020 House Armed Services Committee hearing, Luria questioned Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. about the significance of maintaining a constant carrier presence in the Middle East.
Because congressional hearings are engineered to extract soundbites for the positions that the lawmakers already hold, Luria was only asking because she was confident that McKenzie could deliver the response she wanted to hear. And he did, telling the committee that a continuous US carrier presence in the Middle East would indeed have "a profound deterring effect principally on Iran."
Luria called the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group leaving the Pacific in order to assist the US military with its withdrawal from Afghanistan "one of the biggest mistakes we have made in maybe my lifetime, strategically" due to the “terrible signal” that not keeping a carrier in the region sends to China.
But Luria’s misguided and self-serving views on military spending and America’s global footprint are just the beginning. Her devotion to weapons manufacturers is matched only by the congresswoman’s unbending commitment to American militarism and aggression.
She supported President Trump in his assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, writing that his killing – a violation of international law which easily could’ve ignited a hot war between the US and Iran – was "justified and morally right.”
During the summer of 2020, Luria partnered with Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher to spearhead a bipartisan effort to urge Secretary of State Pompeo to call on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to halt its investigations into the United States and Israel.
In a June 2020 press release issued by her office, Luria celebrated President Trump’s decision to authorize sanctions and visa restrictions against ICC officials involved in this investigations.
Nearly three years earlier, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had announced that she was planning to investigate atrocities committed by US forces in Afghanistan. Among the issues the prosecutor had hoped to target was the alleged torture carried out by the US government.
According to Bensouda, a preliminary examination found that at least 61 individuals were tortured on Afghan soil by the US military between May 2003 and December 2014. The CIA, which spent years executing its own shadow war in Afghanistan running parallel to the military’s operations, also stood accused of torturing at least 27 additional individuals not only in Afghanistan, but also at black sites in Poland, Romania, and Lithuania. These abuses are alleged to have occurred between December 2002 and March 2008.
These accusations mattered little to Luria, who referred to the announcements as “political decisions made despite the fact that neither the United States nor Israel is a party to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC.”
She wasn’t wrong. The 1998 Rome Treaty which established the Court has been adopted by 123 countries. However, in spite of the fact that its entire foreign policy is centered on feigning concern about human rights violations committed by states the West has an interest in overthrowing or weakening, the US government is not one of the nations that has signed the document.
In the eyes of Luria, and of some many lawmakers and officials just like her, the US government simply isn’t required to play by the same set of rules that it demands nearly every other country obey.
Luria’s stance on presidential wartime powers is perhaps the congresswoman’s most dangerous and egregious foreign policy position.
In the days following the 9/11 attacks, President Bush signed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a document which allowed him and every commander-in-chief that has followed him, “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001…”
According to Brown University’s Costs of War project, the US military has conducted “counterterrorism training” exercises in 79 countries between 2018 and 2020 alone. Our troops have conducted military operations by using local troops as surrogates in places like Mali, Tunisia, Cameroon, Kenya, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, and Mauritania. We’ve carried out drone strikes in seven nations that the US Congress never authorized war in.
Luria’s response to this flagrant abuse of power hasn’t been to try to repeal the AUMF – as countless activists have called for – but to expand it. Just as the geopolitical storm brewing over Taiwan was starting to gain momentum, Luria began this year with a call to increase President Biden’s power to protect the island in the event of a confrontation with Beijing.
“If China were to invade Taiwan today, the president would have to come to Congress for authorization to respond,” Luria said back in January. “We can’t lose [the] months that it would take in order for us to provide a response.”
Luria was even more direct in an October 2021 editorial she’d penned for the Wall Street Journal, writing that “no amount of rhetoric or military spending will stop the Chinese if Beijing is intent on taking Taiwan by force because of one simple fact: Under the War Powers and Taiwan Relations acts, the president has no legal authority, without the express authorization of Congress, to use military force to defend Taiwan. The legal limitations on a president’s ability to respond quickly could all but ensure a Chinese fait accompli. Simply put: The president has no legal authority to react in the time necessary to repel a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and deter an all-out war.”
While many Americans can’t imagine a scenario in which a fight over Taiwan would be worth a potential global nuclear war, Luria can’t imagine a situation in which the opposite is true, and supported preemptively giving the Oval Office the freedom to act as it sees fit, no matter how such a conflict might unfold.
Simply put, the constitutionally mandated role of the United States Congress to act as a check on the president’s power to unilaterally declare war is unnecessary red tape Luria had wanted to replace with a mechanism that would’ve triggered an automatic response from the US.
This is the type of policy – what is essentially the 2001 AUMF on steroids – that exemplifies the dangerous turn that Luria’s party has taken.
In the nearly two years that Joe Biden has been in office, he’s increased military aid to the island, has repeatedly stated his intent to engage militarily if its security is threatened, and just recently positioned up to six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers in Northern Australia as a part of the administration’s increasingly aggressive array of China policies. Democrats haven’t pushed back on this agenda, and have only worked to amplify the White House’s reckless and irresponsible march towards war.
The party has done the same when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine, with every single Democrat voting for the $40 billion aid package authorized in May.
The DNC was just as accommodating with the interventions in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Iraq, among numerous others, and has dutifully championed unlawful spying on all Americans by the intelligence community as well as widespread censorship by the nation’s largest social media companies.
The party supports sanctions affecting some of the poorest countries on earth and has allowed the Biden administration to starve the Afghan people via the confiscation of some $7 billion in funds previously held by the nation’s central bank in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.
Just like their friends in the Republican Party, Democrats have turned a blind eye to the US government’s shadows wars in Africa, support our undying support for Saudi Arabia, and have absolutely nothing to say about the government’s persecution of Julian Assange, Daniel Hale, or any of the other brave whistleblowers who’ve sacrificed to expose the Empire’s wrongdoing and criminality.
They ensure that the ever-increasing defense budget passes every year.
This is a party whose imperialistic commitments are matched only by their authoritarian tendencies, yet both are forgiven by Democratic voters who reserve their political energy for Donald Trump’s taxes, January 6th, and the culture war.
To be clear, Elaine Luria’s militaristic track record and hawkish worldview isn’t why she lost, and the Republican that’s set to replace her won’t be any better.
But as she and other Democrats like Carolyn Maloney and Sean Patrick Maloney head for the exits, it’s important to remember that the Democratic Party isn’t the left, couldn’t care less about progressive values, and is much more closely aligned with congressional Republicans than they are with their left-of-center constituents.
Democrat or Republican, this description of how this congressperson received primary funding from the war machine explains a lot about how things run in Congress, and most likely most other congresspeople stay in office the same way, yet is not reported upon, nor is the public aware. If this were reported on, we would have a better government that focused on solving problems rather than serving globalist, economic interests.
Jen Kiggans, the person who defeated Lauria, and whom you decribe in one sentence as a "nurse practioner," is actually a former Navy pilot, from a military family, with a military spouse, father, and son. Who promises on her website to "never support defense cuts." And to "hold the Biden Administration and Democrats in Washington accountable for their failures to confront terrorist threats from ISIS, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda and from nuclear threats like North Korea, Iran, China, and Russia that consistently threaten our homeland, our allies, and the American people." She also "knows the importance of a well-funded military and strong national defense and will work tirelessly in Congress to ensure our active duty military men and women have the full support of the federal government." And promises to support "critical funding" for military bases and installations,
and military "technology" (ie the products of the very corporations whose support for Lauria you rightly decry). The second "priority" listed on her website is bellicosity towards China.
Basically, Kiggans is a typical wing nut (election denier curious, and, in any event, a would be vote suppressor, gun nut, forced birther, xenophobe, racist, etc), with not even an inkling of divergence from the war mongering Blob FP that is so prevalent in DC.
And the district in question, VA-2, is a military-heavy district, with three bases, and lots of military and military and defense contractor adjacent, and military family, and retired military voters. So, whoever represents it, D or R, is not likely to be a critic of the Blob or in favor of reduced military spending.
Given all that, your glee at Lauria's defeat seems a little misplaced.