WHAT WE THINK
September 17, 2004 | Page 3
IF JOHN Kerry loses the presidential election, future historians may point to one moment when his fate was sealed. And no, it wasn't when Ralph Nader announced he was running for president. The moment was Kerry's answer to a question that Bush posed right before the Republican National Convention.
Knowing what he knows now, Bush asked, would Kerry have voted in favor of the congressional resolution giving Bush the authority to invade Iraq? And John Kerry--the hope of so many opponents of Bush's war--stepped right up and declared: Yes.
Knowing that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed no weapons of mass destruction. Knowing that Iraq's alleged ties to al-Qaeda were fabrications. Knowing that more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers would die. Knowing that untold tens of thousands of Iraqis with not the slightest connection to Saddam Hussein would lose their lives, and that Iraqi society would be plunged deeper into poverty and desperation.
In that moment, Kerry gave up all credibility in claiming to offer an alternative to Bush on the single most important issue of the 2004 election. Kerry apologists who lawyerly dissect the exact wording of the resolution claim that his vote wasn't a definite "yes" to war. But everyone knew what the resolution meant when Congress considered it at the end of 2002--just as Kerry knew what Bush was asking in August.
Since the Republicans' flag-waving celebration of war at their New York convention, Kerry has tried to take a tougher stand, charging last week that Bush waged "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." But the administration, with some justification, dismissed this as another example of the Democratic nominee trying to be on both sides of the same issue.
As the Chicago Tribune wrote in an editorial: "[P]residential contender John Kerry has confronted his fellow Americans with a bracing dilemma: whether to number his policy positions on Iraq like Super Bowls or nickname them alphabetically like hurricanes."
Only a few months ago, the Bush administration was being hammered every day by the latest disastrous turn in the occupation of Iraq--the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the Pentagon's retreat from Falluja, mounting U.S. casualties a full year after Bush had declared "Mission Accomplished." The media wondered if Bush's re-election hopes were already doomed.
"[It] was always an over-the-top view," left-wing commentator Steve Perry wrote recently, "but it was one you had to take seriously--that Bush would manage to lose no matter what Kerry said or did." Now, the election picture is the mirror opposite--no matter what Kerry says or does, especially on the issue of Iraq, Bush seems to come out on top.
It's tempting to blame the colossal ineptitude of the Kerry campaign. In fact, leading liberals such as Rev. Jesse Jackson and Michael Moore last week vented their frustration with the Democrats' lackluster effort.
But there's a bigger reason for Kerry's problems on Iraq. Put simply, he can't very well distinguish himself from the Bush administration's project of occupation for oil and empire when he agrees with the substance of it.
The Democratic Party has a reputation as antiwar, but the truth is different. As one of the two mainstream parties that serve Corporate America, the Democrats are every bit as committed to the agenda of expanding U.S. economic and military power overseas.
What stands out about the period since the defeat of the U.S. in Vietnam three decades ago is not the differences between the presidents of different parties, but the continuity of the project they pursued--of re-establishing U.S. dominance over whole areas of the globe and its competitive position with any rival.
Bush and his administration of Texas oil boys place a high priority on U.S. control over the Middle East--and especially, the flow of oil. But it was Jimmy Carter who initiated the reorganization of the priorities of U.S. imperialism to focus on the Middle East.
Bush is despised for "going it alone" in the invasion of Iraq. But Bill Clinton's administration laid the basis for Bush's "unilateralism" in the 1990s--for example, by going around the United Nations to wage the NATO war on Yugoslavia.
At most, Kerry is simply more forthright than his Democratic predecessors in his commitment to militarism and empire. So why couldn't Kerry just say "no" when Bush asked him if he would still vote the same way on Iraq?
Simple. Because his party--whatever the Democrats may say on the campaign trail--is committed to the "war on terror" and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. From his own mouth, Kerry has made it clear that he is a pro-war candidate. No one who opposes the Washington war machine should vote for him.