A Party of Cowards

It’s a shame, really, that John Kerry isn’t taking full advantage of the war issue to make his case for regime change in Washington. Opining that he would have gone to war in a different way, on a different timetable, just doesn’t cut it. Many of his most high-profile supporters are sorely disappointed, such as Susan Sarandon and Danny Glover, both longtime Democrats, whose open letter to the candidate pulls no punches:

“So far, all we have heard from you are politically-calibrated platitudes about staying the course. Tell the people of this country the war was wrong, the occupation is a disaster, and that we can have no future as a colonial power. Speak up for what’s right, right now.”

Uh, don’t hold your breath, guys. The Democratic party bigwigs put the kibosh on antiwar sentiment early on. A platform plank calling the invasion of Iraq a mistake was quashed by a handpicked 186-member committee, along with other planks endorsing Palestinian rights and denouncing the Bushian doctrine of preemptive war. That didn’t stop Jimmy Carter, the only convention speaker whose speech wasn’t vetted by the Kerry people, from calling for a more balanced policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and confronting the President’s war policies head on:

"Recent policies have cost our nation its reputation as the world’s most admired champion of freedom and justice. What a difference these few months of extremism have made! The United States has alienated its allies, dismayed its friends, and inadvertently gratified its enemies by proclaiming a confused and disturbing strategy of ‘preemptive’ war."

You can bet the Kerry people wouldn’t have approved that particular point, if they’d known about it in advance, because Kerry, as the Guardian reported, is all for preemption. Pardon me for agreeing with Rush Limbaugh on this, but, as that Neocon shill and fake-"conservative" put it the other day:

"Well, wait a minute, John. You’ve got to get together with your buddies in the press because they’re doing everything they can to destroy the whole doctrine of preemption, and they’re using Iraq as the weapon to say that preemption is wrong. It’s bad. It’s fraught with mistakes. We can’t take preemptive action. Here comes Kerry, ‘Yeah, I would do it.’"

It didn’t matter to Kerry and the Democratic party bosses that supporters of Dennis Kucinich presented the platform committee with petitions signed by more than 200,000 backers of an antiwar plank. This was rejected out of hand, and, instead, the following bone was thrown to them:

"The U.S. will be able to reduce its military presence in Iraq, and we intend to do this when appropriate so that the military support needed by a sovereign Iraqi government will no longer be seen as the direct continuation of an American military presence."

We’re going to reduce the American military presence in Iraq – "when appropriate" – so that the occupation won’t be seen for what it really is: an occupation.

I don’t care how many Purple Hearts Kerry has. The man is a coward. It’s as simple as that. And the party that nominates him for the highest office in the land is a party of cowards, because they want to have it both ways. Polls show that 95 percent of the delegates to the Democratic convention think the war was a mistake, that we should never have gone: and yet here they are nominating someone who voted for it, and who has backed "regime change" since the days of Bill Clinton and the "Iraq Liberation Act."

This is a candidate, and a party, that deserves to lose, and will lose – disappointing an awful lot of very sincere but misguided people along the way. As one report on antiwar sentiment in Boston put it:

"Kerry has one other hurdle with vets: Some are fervently antiwar, and they’re ticked off that Kerry refuses to withdraw the troops from Iraq on a timetable. They’re trying not to hassle Kerry about that, because the buzz phrase at this confab is that Democrats are united. But occasionally they’re boiling over. Consider, for example, vet Frank Corchran, a teacher who lives in Lansdowne, the Philadelphia suburb: ‘Kerry voted yes to send those kids off to die, and he won’t talk about pulling them out? There are times when I despise the man, and a lot of other antiwar vets here are saying, ‘We can’t vote for him, we feel betrayed.’ But I’ll try to get a grip, because when I look at Bush and Cheney – well, those guys are just dangerous.’"

As the campaign progresses, and Kerry makes an effort to prove his militarist bona fides, these antiwar vets are going to be lot more ticked off. If they’re starting out by despising the man, just think how they’ll end up. By the time this campaign is finished, maybe they’ll "hassle" him a bit more – by not voting for him.

The first rule of politics is: energize your base, and that’s one thing the Republicans know how to do. But if the Democrats believe that the tepid platitudes of the Kerry-ites are going to somehow ignite a winning campaign, they are in for a major disappointment. The Bush administration may not have to bother canceling the election, as one of their lesser minions suggested to a chorus of nays, since it looks like the Democrats are intent on throwing the election to the GOP anyway.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

I received a number of letters asking me why I’m being so hard on the Democrats, but what they don’t seem to acknowledge is that I’m even harder on the Republicans – and the minor party candidates too, including my own beloved Libertarians. "Behind the Headlines" is an equal opportunity calumniator. I don’t question the sincerity of any of these people, as I said: what I challenge is their strategic sense, and the charmingly naïve and oh-so-American idea that they can solve the problem of the madness that currently afflicts us with an election. Not when both "major" candidates represent different wings of the War Party – and the "minors" refuse to nominate anyone either credible or rich.

This is one of the most boring conventions in recent memory, as predictable as a Soviet party congress, but the coverage is nothing less than obnoxious. How many times do we have to read the word "unity" or "united" in a headline? It’s like reading the Soviet press in the Brezhnev era.

And in my own little corner of the libertarian woods, Reason magazine has sent Matt Welch and the viciously pro-war Australian twit Tim Blair to "blog" from the convention floor. What, two real libertarians, say, Brian Doherty and Jesse Walker, weren’t available? Here’s Welch, in one of his more thoughtful moods, questioning Kerry’s multilateralist approach:

"But what if Western Europe is a hypocritical foreign-policy basket case of knee-jerk America-bashers and diplomatic softies who refuse to back rhetoric with concrete money or troops? This question is getting decidedly less play."

Since when do libertarians demand that foreign countries tax their citizens to support America’s wars? Remember that the next time you get a fundraiser or a subscription renewal letter from Reason exulting in their libertarian credentials. But if Welch is merely clueless about the nature of the audience he’s writing for – this is Reason, after all, and not the Weekly Standard – Blair is positively and openly contemptuous of his readers’ libertarian proclivities:

"Protests here remain minimal. It could be that the Bear won’t be needed. C’mon, people! Do something! I want to see this device in action."

There’s something … unseemly about a foreigner coming over here and gloating at the prospect of Americans being run over by a tank. Go back Down Under, Tim, before I call Immigration – and take your permanent smirk and your bad case of terminal snarkiness with you.

Read more by Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].