Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
We don't want a better War on the World
Behind the Democrats' Tough Talk on the War
On September 24, Bill Clinton went on Fox News, and stuck his finger in the face of Chris Wallace. He angrily charged Wallace with doing a “conservative hit job” on him. The next day Hillary Clinton jumped into the controversy—“I think my husband did a great job in demonstrating that Democrats are not going to take these attacks.” And some folks who have been taking good stands in opposition to torture, who oppose shredding the basic rights supposed to be ensured by the Constitution, who to one degree or another oppose the war, and who were desperate to see a Democrat stand up to Bush and the bullies at Fox, hailed Clinton as “brave,” and “inspiring,” and said that he “told great truth.”
Time for a sobriety check, because that kind of thinking will send us plummeting off the road, over a cliff, and into the ocean.
Listen to the basic message coming from the Clintons: “If I were still president, we’d have more than 20,000 troops there [in Afghanistan] trying to kill him [Bin Ladin],” Bill Clinton told Fox News, contrasting himself to Bush—by implication a wimp—for not having the “guts” to send more U.S. troops to rampage through the Middle East. Hillary, too, has been talking tough: “The Administration has lost focus on winning the war on Iraq, and all Washington Republicans can focus on is winning elections here at home.”
What’s Behind the Democrats Trying to Out-Hawk Bush?
The people at the top of the Democratic Party are trying to mobilize their base behind a program of being tougher than Bush in the “War on Terror.” And in doing so, to sign up for endless war, torture, and fascistic repression on the homefront. The base of the Democratic Party wants to end the war. But the only “credible” candidates at this point, and in particular the frontrunner (Hillary), agree that “we” cannot get out of Iraq, and are openly raising the need for more troops.
Why is that? Is it—as mainstream pundits preach and many angry people in the base of the Democratic Party think—that this is about appealing to the voters? No, it is not that. Consider the massive turnouts at antiwar protests at the beginning of the war against Iraq, and at various points since then. Consider the excitement generated by even the illusion of an antiwar candidate running for Senate in Connecticut that led to the defeat of notorious Bush-lover Joseph Lieberman in the Democratic primary election.
And consider this: When CNN surveyed people between September 22 and September 24 (of this year), “Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Iraq?” 59% opposed the war! And that same poll said that the war was either “very important,” or “extremely important” to voters (results available at www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm).
Now, fundamentally polls are mainly a way to tell people what to think. Questions are framed, people are fed censored, dishonest news, and then pollsters let them “choose” between options that all fall within a fixed set of parameters. But, given all that, polls do tell you something (including serving as a way for the rulers to get a sense of what the ruled are thinking or angry about). And when a mainstream poll reveals that 60% of the people are against the war, ask yourself why wouldn’t the Democrats adopt an antiwar position simply out of political expediency?
Here’s why the Democrats will not oppose the war at this point: First—U.S. imperialism cannot tolerate a withdrawal from Iraq right now [see “Bush’s Grand Ambitions and the Danger of War Escalation” by Larry Everest]. And second—the Democrats are a party that serves the interests of U.S. imperialism.
Democratic Hearing on the War—Their Interests and Yours
It is revealing to look at what happened at a hearing of the Democratic Policy Committee (Senate Democrats) on the Planning and Conduct of the War in Iraq. Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan started off the meeting by laying out the mission: “We are members of Congress who are unbending in our determination that we succeed in the war against terrorism.”
You want to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq, or get out? Senator Richard Durbin—a Democrat sometimes portrayed as “antiwar”—had this complaint about the Bush crew’s conduct of the war: “They failed to send the sufficient troops to properly equip them, punishing one of the leaders of our military when he suggested we would need more troops.”
Complex arguments on geopolitical strategy were made at this hearing for why “we” can’t get out of Iraq. Those arguments involved things like ensuring the stability of “countries that are currently our friends and allies,” as retired army Major General John Batiste put it. He’s talking about countries like Turkey, with its fascist suppression of the Kurdish minority, and theocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia, and other pro-U.S. regimes like Egypt. that are as brutal and repressive as any who the U.S. has declared “terrorist.” And he is talking about the biggest “friend and ally” of the U.S.—Israel—that acts as a killing machine for U.S. imperialist interests in the Middle East, most recently dropping a million cluster bombs on Lebanon as part of a war that purposely targeted millions of innocent people as part of a strategy to isolate Hezbollah—killing that qualifies as terrorism by any definition.
Are those your demands? That the U.S. shore up these regimes?
In a crudely revealing moment, Democratic Senator John D. Rockefeller IV laid out what worried him about how Bush is waging the war on Iraq: “I’m talking about Indonesia, I’m talking about Africa, I’m talking about South and Central America, other parts of the Middle East, South Asia, et cetera, that—what the effect of this is going to be of an America in a diminished moral and physical and military capacity not being able to do something everybody thought we would be able to do rather quickly…”
Here’s Rockefeller, a monopoly (big time) capitalist himself, and serving in the Senate representing that class as a whole. And, like a mob boss who is upset that his thugs have come back from a collection empty handed, Rockefeller is worried that Bush’s conduct of the war is messing up U.S. imperialism’s ability to operate as the top mobster in the world. The concern of these top Democrats is that Bush’s failings—again from the perspective of the needs of U.S. imperialism—are interfering with the “physical and military capacity” of the U.S. to go anywhere in the world, stomp out any country or force that opposes them—and in the process send a message to anyone else about who is the unchallenged and unchallengeable superpower on this planet.
A little exposure of the horrors of the war came out in these Senate Democratic hearings—like a comment by General Batiste that, “We would, in 2003 and early 2004, collect up huge numbers of Iraqis and put them in Abu Ghraib. The number eventually grew to over 13,000. Probably 99 percent of those people were guilty of absolutely nothing…” But even the little exposure of the atrocities that did come out in this hearing, was in service of promoting the Democrats as the ones who could—in the words of General Batiste and quoted by Senator Dick Durbin—”mobilize [the country] for a protracted long war.”
If you listen to what was said at this hearing—a major event in projecting and formulating official Democratic “opposition” to Bush—what do you hear? You hear them talking about how do we best defend the ability of the U.S. to dominate the world: Africa, South and Central America, the Middle East, South Asia, “et cetera.” And you hear them talking about how to “mobilize [the country] for a protracted long war.” With more troops.
Those things are not in your interests. This is an agenda coming from, driven by, and serving a system of global plunder.
All this sheds light on what is revealed when Al Gore says that while Bush may be messing things up, “we” are “lashed to the mast of our ship of state.” When we hear things like this, we have to have sense enough to say no, you are lashed to that mast. We are going to stand up in our interests, which are the opposite of yours.
Splits in the Ruling Class…And What We Need
The Democrats and Republicans are both ruling class parties, but there are differences between forces that are represented—more or less—by those two parties. Differences that erupt in debates and scandals, which have been settled—up to now—completely in favor of the Bush Regime and its agenda.
At this moment, there is infighting in the ruling class over how —not whether—to pursue the so-called “war on terror.” What combination of rampaging through Afghanistan (and now, talk is being heard about some form of invasion of Pakistan), sending more troops to establish a more effective reign of U.S. terror in Iraq, and/or attacking Iran—possibly with nuclear weapons—is the best way to pursue the interests of imperialism in the Mideast as part of enforcing U.S. domination of the region?
Again, ALL of these things mean nothing but horror for the people of those countries, and NONE of them are in our interests. At the same time, such infighting among the rulers can provide openings through which the masses of people can influence things. But this can only develop into a positive dynamic that pushes things forward in a good way, if we see these disputes as cracks in the wall to push through, as opposed to hitching ourselves to agendas that have nothing to do with our interests and desires.
All the “alternatives” in the current debate in the ruling class are morally and politically intolerable. They are wrong because the so-called “war on terror” is a war for empire. And they are wrong because the U.S.’s McCrusade, while targeting the forces of Islamic fundamentalism, also strengthens the forces of Islamic fundamentalism. Both sides in this conflict agree that this is a war over whose god is the real god—and those terms feed a terrible polarization in the world.
All of this underscores how inspiring and important it is when people come into the streets to HALT the crimes of the Bush Regime, and drive it from power, and the significance of the protests on October 5th. That movement, which must grow and spread and continue forward, needs to stick to its principles. It must judge all who claim to oppose the Bush Regime based on whether they are really taking a position of bringing the crimes of that regime to a HALT—including the illegal and unjust war on Iraq, and any and all escalation of that war throughout the region.
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