Resolution 2020-04 End Economic Sanctions by the United States

PASSED: Y-350, N-60

Whereas the United States is imposing economic sanctions on several countries and on numerous individuals, and

Whereas the primary purpose of most, if not all, of the sanctions is to compel other countries to conform to the will of the United States, and

Whereas the United States should not attempt to impose its will on other countries, and

Whereas sanctions cause severe hardship to the people living in targeted countries, and

Whereas the sanctions invite animosity from the people of other countries toward the United States and the people of the United States,

Therefore Be It Resolved that Veterans for Peace calls for an end to the use of economic sanctions, including, but not limited to, sanctions directed at Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela, and urges all VFP members and local chapters to send a copy of this resolution to their respective Members of Congress.


Submitted by William Stansbery, VFP member


Board and Committee:

Resolutions Committee Recommendation:  Appropriate and Approved
Board of Directors Recommendation:  Appropriate and Approved

Convention Floor Vote:

Pro: 98 No: 62 Abstain: 20


Pro Statement:

The proposed resolution calls for an end to economic sanctions that are imposed on other countries by the United States.  The overall point of the resolution is that the United States should not attempt to impose its will on the world and that the sanctions cause hardship on the people of the targeted countries.

Reasonable comments were made in opposition to the resolution at the VFP convention and have been made on the webpage at

One comment would allow sanctions that are not unilateral sanctions.  In response, it can be argued that even when other countries join with the United States in imposing sanctions, the United States is the main force behind the sanctions.  Some countries are under pressure to follow the lead of the United States and are not acting independently.

Another comment is that sanctions are a nonviolent alternative to military intervention in some circumstances.  In response, I point out that the consequences of sanctions can be similar to the consequences of military intervention, with the harm and death occurring slowly rather than in one burst.  Also, most if not all past interventions by the United States, whether militarily or through sanctions, have been for the purpose of promoting or maintaining the dominance of the United States, and not for the purpose of promoting the welfare of any people.

A comment expresses support for increased sanctions recently imposed on Syria, stating that the sanctions are against leaders who have committed war crimes and that the sanctions allow exceptions for food, medicine, and humanitarian assistance.  A counter argument is that the humanitarian exceptions work poorly, it at all, and that there are few real exceptions for Syria or any other sanctioned country.  Even if the sanctions are carefully targeted against leaders and do not significantly affect the population, there is still the question of whether the United States should try to determine what happens in other countries. 

Commenters have pointed out instances in which economic sanctions have been used or could be used for good ends — the ending of the apartheid government in South Africa and the possible use in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign directed at Israel.  

United States sanctions against Israel are a long way off.  Before sanctioning Israel, the United States would surely discontinue the yearly military aid to Israel.  It is also likely that the United States would change its tax laws or its tax enforcement practices so that donations to organizations that support Israeli settlements in the West Bank would no longer be tax deductible.  And it is likely that the United States would no longer offer strong diplomatic support for Israel at the United Nations and elsewhere.  If all those things should happen, then the question could arise as to economic sanctions against Israel.  And, in that event, there should be no sanctions.  The sanctions would be an attempt by the United States to impose its will on Israel and the sanctions would impose hardship on the people in Israel and the area controlled by Israel.  Individuals could still boycott any country and divest from investment in any country.

The sanctions imposed on South Africa in the 1980s were a factor, maybe a dominant factor, in the end of apartheid.  That weighs against a blanket condemnation of all sanctions.  But the purposes of the sanctions currently imposed by the United States on other countries bear no resemblance to the purpose of ending apartheid in South Africa.

Procedures do not allow for amendment of the resolution.  Even if amendments could be made, it would be difficult to make them without making the resolution ambiguous and creating holes through which harmful sanctions could emerge.

I respectfully ask that the resolution be approved.

William Stansbery, VFP member at large


Con Statement: 

The wording for this resolution was confusing, and caused many folks to vote against it. Those voting against the resolution noted that the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement is asking people to enforce economic sanctions against Israel, and that the anti-apartheid movement organized sanctions against South Africa in the past.

by Patrick McCann