The facts you need to know about...
September 10, 2004 | Pages 6 and 7
"OUR MILITARY must be prepared to defeat any enemy, any time, any place. As president, I will use military force to protect our interests anywhere in the world, whenever necessary." Sounds like a quote straight from George W. Bush's mouth. But in reality, it's the campaign "promise" of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
NICOLE COLSON looks at what kind of foreign policy we can expect from a Kerry presidency.
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"IN MANY ways, the goals of the two administrations are in fact not all that different." Rand Beers, the Kerry campaign's adviser on national security (and a former Bush operative), opened a high-level briefing in late July with this blunt warning that should give pause to any antiwar activist before they support Kerry.
As Beers suggests, while the Democrats have attacked Bush's foreign policy blunders, their own plans have much in common. Kerry's foreign policy views are identical with those promoted by the Democratic Party's conservative wing.
He has taken his cues from the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI)--the Democrats' answer to the Republicans' Project for a New American Century. According to the PPI, not only was it right to wage war on Afghanistan and to pursue "regime change" in Iraq, but "[w]hile some complain that the Bush administration has been too radical in recasting America's national security strategy, we believe it has not been ambitious or imaginative enough."
"Too many on the left," the PPI says, "seem incapable of taking America's side in international disputes, reflexively oppose the use of force, and begrudge the resources required to keep our military strong." For Kerry, this policy of "muscular internationalism" comes down to a point summed up by Beers in April: "Bush is the wrong messenger."
As for the "message" itself--pushing forward with the U.S. imperial drive--Kerry agrees wholeheartedly. This includes:
Expanding the "war on terror"--Kerry's boast to the Wall Street Journal in May that he "can fight a more effective war on terror" is a clear indication that an administration under his leadership would continue the drive for U.S. domination around the globe.
As Michael Klare wrote in Le Monde Diplomatique, "Kerry and his supporters call for substantial improvements in U.S. fighting capabilities. They want improvements in the combat strength of the army and Marine Corps--services that bear the heaviest burden of ground combat, peacekeeping operations and post-conflict stabilization.
"To enhance the Pentagon's capacities, the Democrats seek to establish two army divisions--adding 40,000 active-duty combat soldiers--and procure more basic infantry equipment, including body armor, troop carriers and combat helicopters."
Kerry has also said that he supports the Bush administration's expansion of military bases around the globe as jumping-off points for future operations. According to Ashton Carter, a senior Kerry adviser on military matters, "We're in total agreement on all sides of that. Yes, you have to take the offensive. You can't take the defensive."
Pre-emptive strikes and unilateralism--"Every nation has the right to act pre-emptively if it faces an imminent and grave threat," Kerry said in the run-up to the war with Iraq. Trying to prove his hawkish credentials, Kerry has vowed time and again that he "will not hesitate to use force when it is needed to wage and win the war on terror."
Kerry's views on "multilateralism" are that it's preferable to work with other countries for the benefit of the U.S., not out of some commitment to world opinion. "Working with other countries in the war on terror is something we do for our sake--not theirs," he said in February.
But when multilateralism isn't in the interest of U.S. rulers, Kerry has no problems going it alone. "As president, I will not cede our security to any nation or institution," he said. "And adversaries will have no doubt of my resolve to use force if necessary."
The war on Iraq--Kerry's recent statement that he would still have voted to give Bush the authority to go to war, even knowing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, shouldn't come as a surprise.
Despite a lack of evidence in the run-up to the war, Kerry declared, "Iraq has chemical and biological weapons"--and even claimed that most elements of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs were "larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War."
Today, his only real criticism of the war and occupation is that the Bush administration isn't carrying out its brutality effectively enough--because it hasn't gotten the United Nations to shoulder the burden of troops and reconstruction. Once again, the difference between Kerry and Bush is not the aim, but how best to achieve that aim.
"There is no peace candidate in this race," Kerry adviser Ashton Carter told the San Francisco Chronicle. Bluntly summing up the Democratic Party establishment's scorn for the millions of people across the U.S.--and the world--who oppose the war on Iraq, Carter added: "No candidate who is a peace candidate ought to win."
Spot the difference?
Bush: "The policy of this administration is regime change, for a reason: Saddam Hussein is a man who poisons his own people, who threatens his neighbors and who deploys weapons of mass destruction."
Bush: "Saddam Hussein must disarm himself or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him."
Bush: "[T]he United Nations can contribute greatly to the cause of Iraqi self-government...As in the aftermath of other conflicts, the United Nations should assist in developing a constitution, in training civil servants, and conducting free and fair elections."
Bush: "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people."
Bush: "I'm committed to building a future force that is defined less by size and more by mobility and swiftness, one that is easier to deploy and sustain, one that relies more heavily on stealth, precision weaponry and information technologies."
Bush: "I will never relent in defending America, whatever it takes... We are staying on the offensive, striking terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home."
Hawks flock together
YOU CAN tell a lot about a future Kerry administration by the kind of company he keeps these days. For all of Kerry's complaints about the Bush administration's conduct in the "war on terror," his circle of advisers is made up of Democratic hawks who rival the Republican neo-conservatives. As the Economist magazine put it bluntly: "This is not the peacenik wing of the Democratic Party."
One of the most prominent figures in Kerry's inner circle is chief foreign policy adviser Rand Beers. Until last year, he answered to a different boss--George W. Bush. One of the architects of the Bush administration's "war on terror," Beers resigned his position as senior anti-terrorism director--reportedly because he thought that invading Iraq would divert resources from other priorities.
Presumably, that includes Plan Colombia, the U.S.-sponsored "anti-drug" program that has served as the pretext for supporting the Colombian government's dirty war against left-wing rebels in Colombia with hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and military hardware. Beers, who designed and oversaw the program during the Clinton administration, sunk to a new low following September 11.
Looking to whip up renewed support for Plan Colombia, Beers declared under oath, "It is believed that [Colombian rebels] have received training at al-Qaeda terrorist camps in Afghanistan." One problem: This was a blatant lie, and Beers was later forced to retract it.
Kerry's other advisers are little different. Anyone thinking that a Kerry administration would be less interested in a global grab for oil should look over the resume of Kerry aide Richard Morningstar, who served as special advisor for Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy during the Clinton administration.
Morningstar help set up the deal for the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline that opened the way for a consortium of powerful oil companies to begin exploiting the Caspian's vast oil reserves, without regard for environmental or human rights concerns. In a 1998 interview with the Center for Defense Information, Morningstar was asked if it was normal for an administration to "get so closely involved in what is basically a business decision."
Sounding every bit like today's neo-cons under Bush, he replied that the U.S. has a legitimate foreign policy interest in making sure that it dominates the region and controls the flow of oil. "The point is that the United States has a significant interest from a national interest standpoint in being involved with this decision," Morningstar said.
"The resources from the region should be able to go to the marketplace unfettered. The producers, in our view, should not be relying on competitive countries, such as Iran, to get the resources out. So energy is also a strategic interest."
As for Iraq, Kerry's advisers are hardly peaceniks. Kerry's unofficial adviser Sandy Berger--who was forced to distance himself from the campaign after it was reveled that he pilfered documents from the National Archives relating to the September 11 investigation--was part of the Clinton administration team that imposed economic sanctions responsible for the deaths of more than 1 million Iraqis.
Berger was calling for "pre-emptive" war on Iraq before Bush set foot in the White House. At a 1998 town hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio, Berger justified the plan to launch a military strike on Iraq, telling the crowd that the U.S. could not afford to allow Iraq to have "weapons of mass destruction."
He went on to outline a foreign policy position that could have come straight from the Bush administration. "In the 21st century, the community of nations may see more and more of this very kind of threat that Iraq poses now, the rogue state," Berger said. "If we fail to respond, Saddam and all those who follow will believe that they can threaten the security of a vital region with impunity."
With "advisers" like this, it's no wonder that neo-conservative ideologue Elliott Cohen told the San Francisco Chronicle in April, "When I look at the kinds of people who are advising Kerry...it would be very compatible with the Bush administration."
Devoted allies of Israel
FOR ALL of their similarities, Bush and Kerry are closest of all in their support for Israel's brutal war on Palestinians. Both support Israel's continued construction of settlements in occupied territory. Both support Israel's "security fence"--known to Palestinians as the "apartheid wall. Both support Israel's policy of "targeted assassination" of Palestinian leaders.
In May, when Bush endorsed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plans for a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, more land annexations in the West Bank and permanently denying Palestinians the right of return, Kerry said he agreed with him "completely." In July, when the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel's apartheid wall--a grab for more West Bank land that will confine hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to a virtual no-man's land--was illegal, Kerry condemned the ruling.
"Israel's fence is a legitimate response to terror that only exists in response to the wave of terror attacks against Israel," Kerry said--ignoring the daily violence and state-sponsored terrorism that the Israeli government inflicts on Palestinians.
In some ways, Kerry is even more zealous in his defense of Israel than Bush is. In April, when Israel launched a missile strike that assassinated Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the Bush administration issued a mild criticism, suggesting that such incidents don't promote Israel's security.
Kerry, on the other hand, told NBC's Meet the Press that the assassination was justified because "Israel has every right in the world to respond to any act of terror against it." Kerry vows that as president, he would crack down harder on any country aiding Palestinian resistance.
"I have a 100 percent record of supporting the friendship that we have with Israel," Kerry told an audience in April. "I can guarantee you that as president, I understand not just how we do that, but also how we end this sweetheart relationship with a bunch of Arab countries that still allow money to move to Hamas and Hezbollah and the Al Aqsa Brigade."