Antiwar activists who thought they were going to be able to communicate their views to Democratic party delegates in Boston this week are in for an unpleasant surprise:
"Protesters for the next few days will be enclosed in a shadowy, closed-off piece of urban streetscape just over a block away. The maze of overhead netting, chain link fencing and razor wire couldn’t be further in comfort from the high-tech confines of the arena stage where John Kerry is to accept the Democratic nomination for president during the four-day convention that kicks off Monday. Abandoned, elevated rail lines and green girders loom over most of the official demonstration zone that slopes down to a subway station closed for the duration. To avoid hitting girders, tall protesters will have to duck at one end of the 28,000-square-foot zone. Train tracks obscure the line of sight to much of the Fleet Center. Concrete blocks were set around streets in the area, a transportation hub on the north side of downtown."
Wall them off, get them out of our sight, cage them the Democratic party isn’t interested in antiwar protests. Their candidate is for the war: he voted for it (but not to fund it), he wants to expand it (by sending in at least 40,000 more American troops), and his only argument with the Bush administration is over which direction to escalate. The Bushies want to invade Iran, and perhaps Syria, while the Kerry-ites are straining at the leash to go after Saudi Arabia, as evidenced by Kerry’s pronouncements and the Democratic party platform, which threaten to impose draconian sanctions on the Kingdom.
Rand Beers, Kerry’s foreign policy chief, is a longtime veteran of the national security bureaucracy, having served under the last four presidents in some capacity or other, including Special Assistant to the President for Combating Terrorism, under George W. Bush. Reporting on a Kerry speech in which the candidate called "for a harder line toward Saudi Arabia and a softer approach to Iran," the New York Times cited Beers as saying that "thousands more new coalition troops were needed to stabilize Iraq and that Kerry would not rule out sending more Americans as part of that mix."
While working in the current Bush administration, Beers was the foremost advocate of supporting the repressive government of Colombia and conducting a campaign that basically involved poisoning coca farmers to death. He once testified to Congress that the Colombian rebel faction, known as FARC, had received training from dum ta dum dum!!! al-Qaeda, an assertion that was met with incredulity on Capitol Hill:
“‘There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of FARC going to Afghanistan to train,’ a U.S. intelligence official said. ‘We have never briefed anyone on that and frankly, I doubt anyone has ever alleged that in a briefing to the State Department or anyone else.’ […] ‘That statement is totally from left field,’ said a top federal law enforcement official, who reviewed the proffer. ‘I don’t know where (Beers) is getting that. We have never had any indication that FARC guys have ever gone to Afghanistan.’ […] ‘My first reaction was that Rand must have misspoke,’ said a veteran congressional staffer with extensive experience in the Colombian drug war. ‘But when I saw it was a proffer signed under oath, I couldn’t believe he would do that. I have no idea why he would say that.'”
Bush lied, and Colombian peasants died thanks to Rand Beers.
John Kerry’s foreign policy chief honcho has a lot of ‘splaining to do to all those Anybody But Bush (ABB) types, whose mindless support for the warmongering Kerry is based on an addled but sincere desire to at least mitigate the immense evil now emanating from Washington.
The only problem with the ABB strategy, however, is that the man they want to replace George W. Bush with is potentially even more of a monster. After all, Kerry personally killed a great many Vietnamese during our losing war in Southeast Asia: listen here as he confesses to what he himself describes as "war crimes."
As part of the murderous "Phoenix" program, designed to dry up the pool of support in which the Viet-Cong was submerged, Kerry and his cohorts unleashed a reign of terror, and killed many thousands of Vietnamese villagers, most of them ordinary peasants, including women and children. He brags about his three Purple Hearts, and his campaign compares his military record favorably to the AWOL Bush, who managed to stay well out of it, while the Bush-haters screech that the president is a "chickenhawk" because he wasn’t eager to become a mass murderer.
In the partisan heat of a presidential election, great hunks of the "antiwar" movement go off on a frighteningly pro-war tangent, pouring their hopes, and their financial support, into a man who, if elected president, may turn out to be the Lyndon Baines Johnson, and not the Kennedy of the new millennium, in terms of foreign policy.
Kennedy, you’ll remember, is thought to have wanted out of Vietnam, and I tend to sympathize with those who opined, upon his assassination, that they offed him because he was "turning pro-American" and seeking an honorable way out. When Johnson took over, the War Party was back in the saddle, and ready to roll, as the Johnson-Humphrey-"Scoop" Jackson-dominated Democratic party led the way to escalating the Vietnam conflict, with more troops and more bombing. Like Kerry, Johnson vowed he wouldn’t "cut and run."
Upon Kerry’s election, the Iraq war will become Kerry’s war and I wonder how many of his current "antiwar" supporters will suddenly discover that the "democratization" of the Middle East at gunpoint is an "idealistic" project, one requiring the expenditure of billions in tax dollars and untold buckets of blood.
This election year is a conundrum that is baffling the antiwar Left, and the great debate over whether or not to support Nader is separating the wheat from the chaff. As I noted in a previous column, the self-promoting and largely self-appointed "leaders" of the "progressive" movement i.e. what used to be called liberals are fanatically devoted to Kerry, and attack the Naderites with the same mindless ferocity as the old Nation magazine used to denounce the Trotskyites as "wreckers," "splitters," and "agents of Hitler and the Mikado." Uncle Joe Stalin may be long dead, but his spirit lingers on in the mindset of the ABB’ers, even down to mimicking the vicious smearing campaigns that were the hallmark of the Stalinist propaganda machine.
Speaking of Stalin, the Kerry camp will be delighted to hear that they’ve been endorsed by the Communist Party USA, the "official" Commie party in the United States, which gives voice to the ABB movement on the Left. While Kerry’s economic platform is "not as dramatic a program as we would place, but one that goes in a significantly different direction," on the other hand, say the Commies:
"He is the vehicle by which George W. Bush, representing the most extreme reaction, can be defeated. A Kerry presidency by itself will not bring the changes, it will undoubtedly require huge mass pressure to bring the changes. In this regard …, a Kerry election presents the possibility for greater struggles to undo damage and move forward.
"There is concern in many quarters that Kerry has not taken a strong enough stand, especially on issues of race and on the war in Iraq. Placing this criticism, Julian Bond said at the Take Back America conference, ‘Too often the opposition party has been absent without leave. When one party is shameless the other can’t afford to be spineless.’ Yet, he concluded, given the threat to civil rights enforcement on every front and right-wing control of all branches of government, ‘The consequences of loss are too high to bear. We have to ensure every citizen registers and votes and guarantee the theft of Black votes never happens again.’ These formulations speak volumes to those within peace and left organizations who insist there is no difference between Kerry and Bush. On the basis of the record alone, this is not the case.’"
It isn’t surprising that a party that could ignore the crimes of the gulag would subordinate the deaths of thousands of Iraqis to the issue of how many chads were counted in Florida. As a way to prove their complete lack of any moral sense, not to mention their slavish devotion to the Democratic party machine, such a stance is a stroke of strategic genius on the part of these latter-day Leninists.
I guess the Commies will be among the "protesters" at the Democratic national convention, which we’ll be subjected to all week, and I had to laugh when I read the complaint of the protesters’ leader, Medea Benjamin, at being caged up in Boston:
“We don’t deserve to be put in a detention center, a concentration camp. It’s tragic that here in Boston, the birthplace of democracy, our First Amendment rights are being trampled on.”
Even more tragic is that self-proclaimed leftist leaders such as Benjamin a founder of the trendy-lefty Global Exchange, as well as "Code Pink," a women’s antiwar group, and a former Green Party candidate are supporting Kerry, sliming Nader, and basically taking the CPUSA "united front" line of Anybody But Bush. No, Ms. Benjamin doesn’t deserve to be put in a concentration camp: nobody does. But she does deserve a pointed reminder that Iraqi lives are valuable, too. Sadly, the necessity of such a reminder underscores the imperialist arrogance that pervades our political discourse, and can infect even the "antiwar" movement of an imperialist country.
The antiwar Right is even more confused, given their electoral choices this year. Anti-interventionist conservatives and libertarians face an even bleaker prospect: without even the luxury of having a major party opponent of the Warmonger-in-Chief, the Anybody But Bush League of the Right has a plethora of bad options. They can choose one of the right-wing splinter parties on the ballot this time around, all of which are opposed to the Iraq war: unfortunately, the Libertarian candidate, in the unlikely event that he wins, could possibly be arrested for tax evasion before taking office. That leaves the Constitution Party candidate, what’s-his-name, who would probably have me arrested for just a few of the activities around my house this weekend. Which is not necessarily, in my view, a complete non-starter, because oh well, we won’t go there. Suffice to say that, in any case, the right-wing ABB’ers are in a right quandary.
The Bush supporters among the antiwar rightists rationalize away the admittedly horrific consequences of a Bush victory by claiming that the president is balking, and, as Pat Buchanan puts it, the high tide of American empire was reached at Fallujah, where the Americans backed down and the insurgents held their ground. Bush, Buchanan avers, has become a realist: "We are on the way out." If only it were true. The problem is that the same neoconservatives who seized control of the government after 9/11 will keep the levers of power within their grasp after November. They will claim that, by reelecting George W. Bush, the administration will be getting a mandate for war, and phase two of the Great Mideast War will begin.
It will begin in any event, no matter which of the two major party candidates wins this November, because wars, once started, have a momentum of their own. The disaster that antiwar commentators predicted prior to the invasion and conquest of Iraq is now unfolding, in all its bloody futility and moral squalor. Short of a massive vote for, say, Ralph Nader, or any of the other antiwar third party candidates, the upcoming election won’t moderate the consequences of our actions in the slightest.
We are in for a very bad time, and there isn’t any way out of it. The electoral system is rigged against the expression of antiwar sentiment through any "legitimate" channels, and, thanks to Congress, our rights to assemble, to organize, and to protest the actions of our government, without being harassed, spied on, and otherwise intimidated into silence, have been signed away. But, as Ralph Nader points out, our "representatives" are safe in their gerrymandered districts, while the corporate sponsors of both parties feed at the public trough.
What Nader calls "corporate socialism" rules the day and the uncomprehending silence that greeted Nader’s denunciation of it at a San Francisco rally last week just underscores how clueless much of the Left is to what’s really going on in this country. Nader’s rhetoric was greeted with a single cry of "Down with corporate socialism!" that rang out over the stunned audience. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing, and my loud applause startled the people sitting in front of me enough to crane their necks to see who was causing this unseemly outburst.
It’s too bad the Democratic party was so successful in its "dirty tricks" campaign against Nader, keeping him off so many state ballots that he won’t be on but a dozen or so. He could have given voice to a large constituency of antiwar voters, and given his own unique if not always correct analysis of what empowers the power elite.
I’m afraid that we’re just going to have to grit our teeth, endure the next few months as best we can, and wait out the partisan static until the air clears after November. Then we can face what has to be faced and move forward from there.