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WHAT WE THINK
Kerry promotes himself as the alternative war president
Letting Bush off the hook

June 4, 2004 | Page 3

GEORGE W. BUSH'S occupation of Iraq is unraveling day by day--and with it, the centerpiece of his presidency, the U.S. government's "war on terror." So why is the administration still getting away with its full-steam-ahead methods--and why is Bush an even-money bet to sneak back into the White House in November?

Every day or so brings news of another fiasco for the occupation. The latest crisis, though certainly not the last, as Socialist Worker went to press--Washington's handpicked Iraqi Governing Council was insisting that Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer be appointed president of the interim government that takes office when the U.S. changes the form of its occupation with the supposed "hand over" of power on June 30. U.S. overseer Paul Bremer and United Nations diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi sounded like parents lecturing their misbehaving children when they sternly warned the council to confirm their choice--81-year-old Adnan Pachachi.

If anyone still buys Bush's rhetoric about the U.S. promoting "democracy" in Iraq--and it's harder than ever to see how anyone genuinely can--this episode was the perfect illustration of who really calls the shots.

The lack of weapons of mass destruction, widespread armed resistance, the torture of Iraqi prisoners, squabbling among U.S.-funded exiles over the sham handover of "sovereignty"--nothing of the Bush administration's arrogant plans for Iraq has survived the last few months unscathed.

The millions upon millions of people who opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq have been vindicated--more quickly and more fully than anyone could have expected a year ago when Bush was still strutting around in flight suits. Yet at the very moment when more people than ever are questioning the occupation, opposition to Bush and his war machine seems to be mute.

The central reason for this is that the Democratic Party actively promotes itself as an alternative party of war.

The Democrats' certain presidential nominee, John Kerry, went through last week making a series of speeches that were supposed to outline how his foreign policy would differ from George Bush's. But posturing aside, the substance of his proposals for Iraq are identical to Bush's--internationalize the occupation and maintain effective U.S. control until "the job is done."

The fact that Bush and Kerry are both pro-war candidates is widely accepted today. This is the reason why Ralph Nader's independent campaign has steadily gained support in opinion polls, despite the abuse he has faced from Democratic Party liberals--because he alone among the candidates calls for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Even so, however, liberals and organized labor are falling in line behind Kerry. "Kerry has less of a problem on the left in the Democratic Party than any Democratic candidate in my memory, which goes back to [John F.] Kennedy," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). "The proof of that is I am less busy this presidential campaign than other ones. I'm not being sent out to calm down the left."

The left's silence is a product of the rightward turn of the Democratic Party over the last 25 years. By forging ever-closer ties to Corporate America while pushing policies that attack its traditionally more liberal base, the "party of working people" has been systematically smothering dissent from the left for a long time. The Democrats, moreover, are also determined to prove that they're capable of running the U.S. empire--because they are just as committed as Republicans to the U.S. imperialist project.

This has opened a huge vacuum in U.S. politics between the widespread discontent not only over the war, but the health care crisis, the economy, cuts in education and more--and the lack of a real alternative among the two parties of the status quo. More clever Democrats--like Bill Clinton--have been able to move right and talk left at the same time. Kerry can't seem to manage this.

But if Kerry can't connect with voters, other Democrats will try to cover for him. That was the aim of Al Gore's foreign policy speech May 26, in which he made a blistering critique of Bush, denouncing the "American gulag" of military prisons worldwide and calling on top White House officials to resign. But what was his conclusion? "In my opinion, John Kerry is dealing with this unfolding tragedy in an impressive and extremely responsible way."

In other words, get rid of Bush--but keep Bush's policies.

Electing John Kerry isn't a step towards ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq. On the contrary, Kerry is every bit as committed to maintaining U.S. control over Iraq's oil wealth and upholding U.S. power in the Middle East and beyond.

A trip to the polling booths on November 2 isn't a shortcut for the antiwar movement. We need to renew our organizing efforts--step by step--until U.S. troops are brought home and Iraqis gain the ability to determine their own future.

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