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California Congressman Ted Lieu, a popular West Los Angeles Democrat, may tweet up an anti-Trump storm and blast the President on cable television, but when it comes to Israel and its decades-long occupation of Palestine, Lieu sides with Trump—over the progressive base of the Democratic Party and Democratic Presidential candidates—Bernie, Warren, Harris, Beto, Castro—who are all shunning the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington. Lieu is listed on the program as a “confirmed speaker.”

Ted Lieu Pursues High-Tech Weapons

Lieu, a backer of single-payer health care and the Green New Deal, recently reintroduced H.R. 6725—“U.S.-Israel Directed Energy Cooperation Act”— a not so green deal to co-develop high energy speed-of-light laser, particle beam and microwave weapons with Israel, the target of a global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

The House bill, referred to the Committees on Armed Services and Foreign Affairs, would authorize the joint U.S-Israel research, development and testing of directed energy weapons (DEW) that release intense energy to destroy oncoming missiles, drones or rockets –like those sent from Gaza over Israel’s border in retaliation for the Israeli blockade that, according to the United Nations, will make Gaza—its water contaminated, its sea strewn with sewage—uninhabitable by 2020.

Lieu recently reintroduced a not so green deal to co-develop high energy speed-of-light laser with Israel.

Lieu and his supporters argue H.R. 6725 is purely defensive, designed to shield both Israel and the United States from enemy attacks, but experimental high energy lasers, microwaves and particle beams—orbiting lasers and hypervelocity guns—can be used to silently destroy power grids and sanitation systems, implode homes and government buildings without anyone hearing a sound; or emit light so bright, like the prototype PHASR rifle, as to temporarily blind demonstrators or release heat so intense marchers run from the dipole antenna frying their backs.

Futuristic directed energy weapons could be exported for profit throughout the world to despots such as the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salam suspected of ordering the butchering of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi –or used here at home to suppress dissent as hundreds of thousands pour into the streets to take back an authoritarian White House.

Below are (Wikipedia) examples of directed energy anti-personnel weapons that could be used against protesters at home, in occupied Palestine or elsewhere:

  • Active Denial System(Heat Ray, Fry Ray), produced by Raytheon in El Segundo-part of Lieu’s 33rd Congressional District-- is a millimeter wave source that heats the water in a target’s skin to cause horrific pain, prompting the victim to frantically want to escape the “pain beam.” According to Popular Mechanics, “in 2009 researchers at the College of Judea & Samaria (in the occupied West Bank) announced plans for a portable Active Denial device called WaveStun using new technology. Details have since been removed from the college's website …” The Active Denial system was deployed but then recalled from Afghanistan; a similar weapon was supplied to the LA County Sheriff’s Department for use in the county jail. 
  • Dazzler, made by B.E. Meyers in Washington, is an infrared weapon intended to temporarily blind or disorient its target with intense directed radiation.
  • The ZKZM-500, developed in China is a laser gun that can reportedly destroy a target 800 meters away by charring skin and human tissue. The frequency of the laser makes it invisible to the human eye.
  • Pulsed Energy Projectile (PEP), developed by the military and a company since bought out by Northrup Grumman (its Manhattan Beach branch is in Lieu’s CD), emits an infrared laser pulse that explodes the target’s plasma while also using electromagnetic radiation to cause intense pain. The resulting sound, shock and electromagnetic waves stun the target, causing temporary paralysis. This weapon—nicknamed “pulsed impulsive kill laser”-- can also be lethal.

Lieu’s H.R. 6725 would not only further commit the United States to a weapons partnership with Israel but would conflate US military interests with those of Israel, for the bill reads, “Any activities carried out pursuant to such authority shall be conducted in a manner that appropriately protects sensitive information and the national security interests of the United States and the national security interests of Israel.”

Lieu’s desired partnership with Israel aligns perfectly with Trump’s military budget, which includes $500 million for U.S-Israeli development of missile defense systems.

Trump’s military plans include another budget item in keeping with Lieu’s bill – development of a space-anchored particle beam weapon to stop incoming ballistic missiles, while also offering “new kill options.”

Lieu writes on his Facebook page, “Directed energy technologies like high-powered lasers and microwaves will be game-changers for our national defense, drastically improving our ability to counter ballistic missiles and other major threats. The U.S. should be leveraging all available expertise to bring these tools to bear.”

Lieu’s social media press release in 2018 triggered a torrent of disgust on Twitter from some of the lawmaker’s 120,000 followers. One follower posted a photo of a cactus giving Lieu the middle finger. Another wrote, “Resist war. Resist occupation. Resist Israel … @RepTedLieu you are no progressive.”

Ted Lieu Pursues High-Tech Weapons

Lieu, however, is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and earned accolades when he took to the floor of Congress, refusing to be gaveled down, as he played the now-famous audio recording of immigrant children—torn from their parents’ arms – sobbing in a detention center.

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Lieu, who voted against the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, couples his hawkishness with outrage over the killing of civilians in the U.S. backed Saudi war on Yemen. In 2017, before Bernie Sanders’s successfully led the Senate to pass a resolution against US support for the Saudi genocide in Yemen, the House passed Lieu’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, requiring the Department of Defense to report to Congress on the Saudi government’s progress in “improving its targeting capabilities.”

While Lieu has said little about the intended targets of the weapons he would like to develop with Israel, his Facebook “friends” and visitors have said plenty.

Among the 45 comments posted below his 2018 Facebook announcement were— “Thank you, Colonel Lieu”(He is a retired Air Force officer.) and “mixed feelings” along with “Umm, no, it should be illegal for any country to use this technology” and “Providing energy defense weapons to Israel will guarantee that Israel will continue to use their weapons against Palestinians living in Gaza …furthering the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”

Perhaps the most thoughtful analysis came from David Mandel, a member of the National Lawyers Guild and Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, who countered the claim that high energy directed weapons –even if used only to shoot oncoming missiles–are defensive in nature:

“Every amateur student of military strategy and arms control, let alone real experts, knows that calling a weapon “defensive” is a misnomer when it comes to constantly upgrading military technology. If a new item successfully counters some other weapons, it (1) spurs the arms race to even more advanced technology that can overcome the “defense” and (2) makes it more likely that a country with better defensive weapons will use its offensive weapons because it believes it can stop a counterattack. That’s why the United States and the Soviet Union had the good sense to sign the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, agreeing not to develop such defensive weapons; and why the arms race has gotten more dangerous than ever since the U.S. announced it was withdrawing from the treaty 30 years later.”

Why is Lieu Shilling for Israel?

One nagging question for this writer is why Catholic Congressman Ted Lieu—in the wake of Israel’s passage of the Nation State Law, condemned by the Catholic Church for promoting settlement as a national value, thus making a mockery of the two-state solution —would reintroduce H.R.6725 to marry the US with Israel militarily. While it’s true that Lieu’s congressional district includes the predominantly Jewish West Side of Los Angeles, many of those Jews are critical of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, and, besides, the incumbent congressman enjoys broad support throughout his 33rd congressional district, raises buckets of money as a Regional Vice Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and can win re-election without having to curry favor with the hawkish Israel lobby.

Perhaps Lieu’s multiple trips to Israel, hosted by AIPAC—which once whisked him off to Jerusalem to persuade him to vote against the Iran agreement – has so shaded his lens that he cannot see the suffering of Palestinians relegated to second class status inside Israel or the anguish of Palestinians—their homes bulldozed, their olive trees torn asunder – displaced by some 700,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Or perhaps Lieu’s military background—a colonel in the Air Force—makes collaborating with a highly militarized country bent on developing new war toys too tantalizing to resist.

Whatever the motivation, Lieu’s pursuit of high tech weaponry collaboration with Israel is not without political risk. Several of the Democratic Party presidential candidates chose to skip the AIPAC conference after 74% of Move On members who responded to a survey said they did not want the Democrats to attend the Israel love fest. By reintroducing H.R. 6725, Lieu risks not only alienating activist Democrats—the grassroots he would need in his corner if he were to run for higher office—but also party unity as he forces Democratic Presidential candidates to take a public stand on a polarizing issue in the run up to 2020.

Lieu’s Aerospace Caucus

Only days after Lieu initially introduced H.R. 6725 came another setback to the peace movement. Lieu was “delighted” to announce on social media his effort to collaborate with Republican Ken Calvert (Corona) to organize a bipartisan aerospace caucus in Congress to make “our country safer and our technology more innovative.”

One might argue that the entire Congress – with military contractors located in so many congressional districts – is one giant aerospace caucus, certain to pass obscene near-trillion dollar military budgets to please the likes of aerospace giants such as Raytheon, Boeing and Northrup Grumman.

Lieu’s aerospace caucus, however, with its 28 founding members amounts to a more targeted approach to lobbying for increased directed energy weapons at a time when Trump seeks to expand the military and escalate the arms race in space before the Russians and Chinese perfect their own sci-fi version of STAR WARS.

Lieu’s aerospace caucus includes several Republicans, ironically ones the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which Lieu served as Vice Chair, strategically targeted for defeat in the November 2018 midterms. One GOP member is Republican Duncan Hunter (Riverside), who was indicted for corruption, yet thwarted a 2018 challenge from Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a former Obama Labor Department official of Mexican and Palestinian descent running against Hunter again in 2020.

A veritable bomb-makers’ dream, a sweet song to Lieu’s South Bay military contractors—the aerospace caucus includes a few other surprises, like more liberal Democratic Party congress members Karen Bass (Culver City) and John Garamendi (Davis) – as well as Julia Brownley (Ventura), who hails from progressive-leaning Santa Monica, where she served on the school board for successive terms.

When this writer reached out to Brownley, asking whether she might steer the aerospace caucus in another direction – toward the path of harnessing the brilliance of aerospace engineers to develop greener transportation and energy infrastructure, instead of high energy weapons for Trump’s Space Force, she said, “I am interested in pushing the industry to continue investing in energy-efficient, fuel-efficient technologies for military and commercial aircraft. By working with stakeholders in this industry, we can leverage this innovation to help our country reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and create an overall greener economy.”

An overall greener economy, however, would preclude expenditures on new weapons systems sure to escalate the arms race.

Now would be the time for the Resistance – buoyed by the Democrats’ control of the House, the victories of New York firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and

Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, as well as Congress’ eventual refusal to conflate Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s denunciation of special interest influence with anti-Semitism—to demand that the Democratic Party reject Lieu’s H.R. 6725.

Otherwise we will find ourselves locked in an escalating sci-fi arms race, forsaking the pursuit of enduring political solutions to, instead, hitch ourselves to an increasingly unpopular country—Israel.

Marcy Winograd

Marcy Winograd

Blogger Marcy Winograd serves on the Executive Board of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, and lives in Congressman Ted Lieu’s Los Angeles-area congressional district. In 2010, she mobilized 41% of the Democratic Party primary vote in a “Jobs, not Wars” challenge to incumbent Jane Harman, who then represented much of Lieu’s current district.