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WHAT WE THINK
Why Kerry and the Democrats won't oppose the occupation
Two faces of U.S. empire

April 30, 2004 | Page 3

MORE THAN 100 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. An uprising against occupation that spread across the country and united Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Revelations that his administration ignored warnings of the September 11 hijacking plot in order to stay focused on its pet priorities.

And a stumbling, bumbling April 13 press conference in which "the president who spoke repeatedly about being on a war footing hardly seemed surefooted, even on questions that could scarcely be seen as overly aggressive," wrote the Chicago Tribune.

April was probably George W. Bush's worst month in office. With the November election half a year away, surely he's finished, right?

Wrong. Despite the escalating crisis of the Iraq occupation and the administration's troubles at home, recent opinion polls showed Bush's approval ratings holding steady--and his reelection chances actually gaining ground.

Liberal commentators despaired that the White House had the American public bamboozled--and that the Bush reelection campaign's incredible $50 million worth of TV advertising had duped the masses. But this picture doesn't fit at all with the renewed expressions of anger about Iraq and other issues--in particular, from military families who fear for their loved ones as the Iraqi resistance grows.

Actually, the liberals should look closer to home--at the pathetic behavior of the Democrats' certain presidential nominee, John Kerry. No matter how many missteps the administration made under the weight of the Iraq crisis or the September 11 scandal, Kerry and his fellow Democrats missed every opportunity to put Bush on the spot.

Kerry has dismissed calls for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as "irresponsible"--and proposes to send more U.S. soldiers to occupy Iraq than Bush has. Kerry joined Bush in denouncing Spain's government for planning its withdrawal from Iraq. And when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon followed his success at winning White House approval for permanent illegal settlements in the West Bank with another assassination of a Palestinian leader, Kerry instantly declared that he and Bush were united in support of Israel's war on the Palestinians.

As historian and veteran activist Howard Zinn--who had previously conceded that getting rid of Bush in November would justify a vote for a Democrat--put it in the Progressive magazine, "Kerry does not seem to understand that he is giving away his strongest card against Bush--the growing disillusion with the war among the American public. He thinks he is being clever, by saying he will wage the war better than Bush. But by declaring his continued support for the military occupation, he is climbing aboard a sinking ship."

So why is Kerry "climbing aboard a sinking ship"? It isn't because his campaign strategy is flawed.

Kerry is a leader of the Democratic Party--an organization that claims to defend "working people" and spouts rhetoric about peace and justice, but which in reality is dedicated to defending the power and privileges of America's rulers. That means at home and abroad.

Kerry is "climbing aboard" the ship of U.S. imperialist wars in the Middle East because that ship belongs to the Democrats, too--and always has.

Kerry says that he will steer the ship differently--by figuring out how to get U.S. allies in Europe and the United Nations to share the burden of the occupation. In fact, if the crisis in Iraq grows rapidly worse, the U.S. ruling establishment could throw its weight behind Kerry as "Plan B" for managing Washington's imperialist agenda. Already, a few neoconservative "hawks" who championed Bush's "war on terror" are signaling that they wouldn't mind switching sides.

Kerry certainly recognizes that he's auditioning for Corporate America. "I am not a redistribution Democrat," Kerry told a roomful of Wall Street contributors several weeks ago--as he declared that he would make reducing the federal budget deficit his top priority, not restoring desperately needed government programs for the poor.

No wonder there's so little enthusiasm for Kerry. He is making it as clear as he can that the Democrats don't care about their millions of supporters who want a real alternative to Bush and his policies.

Activists in the antiwar movement and the other struggles in the U.S. today shouldn't put themselves at the service of Democrats who are determined to defend the status quo and serve the same powers that be as the Republicans.

We need to build a movement that challenges U.S. imperialism and Washington's right-wing, anti-worker agenda--no matter which wing of the U.S. political establishment represents them. That's the way to make sure that Bush--and Bush's policies--are finished for good.

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