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The other party of imperialism

September 22, 2006 | Page 7

ALAN MAASS looks at the Democrats' historical commitment to the agenda of U.S. imperialism.

THE FORMER Republican strategist-turned-critic Kevin Phillips once called the Democrats the "world's second-most enthusiastic capitalist party" because of the zeal of the so-called "party of working people" for promoting business-friendly policies.

The same could be said about the Democrats' support for U.S. imperialism. But "second-most" might be an understatement.

With the campaign for the 2006 congressional elections heating up, the Democrats are determined not to be painted by Republicans as "soft on national security." On the contrary, the Democrats' criticism of one front in the Bush administration "war on terror"--Iraq--is now almost wholly limited to the idea that it distracts from the other "real" fronts, like Iran, Afghanistan and even North Korea.

Partly, the Democrats are making a political calculation based on what party strategists think will play with voters in the November election. But there's more than campaign rhetoric involved.

Ultimately, the Democrats accept the Republicans' basic framework--including using the September 11 attacks as an excuse to project U.S. imperialist power--and they are putting forward an alternative strategy for realizing this agenda.

This is the purpose behind the proposals of John Murtha, the Democrats' most prominent critic of the Iraq war. He supports pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq not to abandon the Middle East, but to better secure U.S. control over the region. "You redeploy to the periphery so that we, if we have to, can go back in," Murtha said in one interview. "Mr. President, let's go back to fighting the war on terrorism."

Murtha, a leading recipient of campaign contributions from defense contractors, is well known as a mouthpiece for a section of the military establishment. But he certainly isn't alone among Democrats in seeing himself as protecting U.S. foreign policy from the dangers that the "neo-cons" of the Bush White House have opened up.

Peter Galbraith, a former Clinton administration official, is flogging a new book called The End of Iraq that proposes an old (at least for him) idea--that the only solution to the disaster the Bush administration's invasion has created is to encourage the breakup of the country along ethnic and religious lines. This is an extension of the divide-and-conquer strategy used by the Bush administration in Iraq--not to mention the preceding Clinton administration in dealing with the crisis in the former Yugoslavia.

The Democratic consensus about Iraq and the wider "war on terror" extends beyond the foreign policy professionals and into the ranks of elected politicians, and not just conservative Democrats like Joe Lieberman. Anyone who doubts it should remember the presidential campaign of John Kerry.

Rand Beers, the Kerry campaign's adviser on national security, opened a high-level briefing in July 2004 with this summation: "In many ways, the goals of the two administrations are in fact not all that different." Not long before, Beers had answered to a different boss--George Bush. He was one of the architects of the "war on terror," but resigned as senior anti-terrorism director because he thought invading Iraq would divert resources from more pressing priorities.

Likewise, Ashton Carter, another senior Kerry adviser on military issues, assured reporters that the Democrats were "in total agreement" on the Bush administration's expansion of military bases around the globe to use as jumping-off points for future operations. "Yes, you have to take the offensive," Carter said. "You can't take the defensive."

Kerry's advisors were taking their 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 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."

The other inspiration for Kerry's foreign policy positions was a few short years in the past--the eight years of Bill Clinton at the helm of U.S. imperialism.

Not only did Clinton maintain the savage United Nations sanctions imposed on Iraq from before the first Gulf War in 1991, but his reign saw "regime change" in Iraq become official U.S. policy, with the passing of the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. In a 1998 speech at the Pentagon, Clinton said that the U.S. was threatened by "an unholy axis' of international terrorists and outlaw states"--chief among them, Saddam Hussein's regime. Sound familiar?

That same year, at a town hall meeting in Columbus, Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger tried to sell a plan to launch a military strike on Iraq by insisting that the U.S. couldn't allow Iraq to get "weapons of mass destruction."

"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." This might have come straight out of the "Bush doctrine."

All this underlines the reality that the Democrats--every bit as much as the Republicans--have been historically committed to advancing U.S. military, economic and political power across the globe. They may differ on the means. But the ends have always been the same.

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