Democrats' War Party and the Real Way to Say NO to the Bush Agenda

Revolutionary Worker #1248, August 8, 2004, posted at

"Mr. Kerry is determined to present himself as a leader of strength, one who would more effectively pursue the same goals Mr. Bush has established for progress in Iraq and the broader anti-terror war."

Wall Street Journal

The Democratic National Convention had a single-minded message to hammer into all our heads: The war in Iraq and the global "war against terrorism" need to be pursued until victory, and John Kerry is the best man to do it.

There was nothing subtle about any of this.

Kerry opened his July 29 acceptance speech by giving a military salute and declaring that he was "Reporting for duty." He announced that his party and campaign have "one simple purpose: to make America stronger at home and respected in the world."

Kerry pledged himself ready to launch new wars, saying "Let there be no mistake, I will never hesitate to use force when it is required." He called for expanding the U.S. military, expanding spy networks, even more tightly closing the border and aggressively hardening U.S. domestic life.

Day after day, this political circus shamelessly exploited every nauseating symbol of "Faith, Family, Country." The criminal war against Vietnam was put forward as a symbol of "heroism"--and the ugly imperialist medals that veterans once righteously threw away now were treated as Kerry's most important credentials for wielding state power.

At times, the Democratic convention looked like it had been taken over by some military coup--with a parade of military brass at the podium. On Wednesday, 12 retired generals and admirals publicly endorsed Kerry and that night, General John M. Shalikashvili, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke from the podium. The next night General Wesley Clark, the commander of the U.S. attack on Yugoslavia, praised Kerry as a potential "commander in chief."

When his time came to speak, Kerry made an unprecedented promise: saying that in his future administration, the opinions of the military high command would carry more weight than they do today (under the Bush administration).

For days, the Democratic convention had "beaten around the Bush"--enforcing a respectful tone towards the current president. When it came time for Kerry's big speech, his main complaint about the current Bush team was that they have not waged war to victory--and especially, that they did not have a successful plan for pacifying Iraq after invading it.

Kerry has criticisms about how the Bush crew launched the invasion of Iraq and the reasons they gave for the war. But fundamentally , Kerry and his party promised to "finish the job"--crush any resistance in Iraq, and impose a pro-U.S. government by military force. His main proposal on Iraq? To mend fences with France, Germany and Russia, in order to enlist their help in successfully finishing the U.S. conquest of Iraq. "I know what we have to do in Iraq," Kerry said. "We need a president who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden."

On the opening day of the convention, former President Jimmy Carter offered Kerry to the ruling class--as the best man to carry forward their international moves. "With our allies disunited, the world resenting us, and the Middle East ablaze," Carter said, "we need John Kerry to restore life to the global war against terrorism."

At a time when the false justifications for the war on Iraq have been exposed, Kerry's convention and campaign worked to revive and reinforce one of the most poisonous themes of our times: That the people of the United States must give the government a blank check to pursue constant, open-ended global warfare , all supposedly in the name of keeping them "safe." As the war in Iraq becomes an unpopular quagmire, Kerry is working to refocus people's attention on the supposed "terrorist threat" and rebuild support for future wars on that basis.

After Boston, it is even more clear (in case there were any doubts): John Kerry embraces and promotes the global crusade the U.S. government has launched over the last three years. He is not a "peace candidate"-- he is the other candidate for imperialist Commander-in-Chief.

Lessons in U.S. Democracy: The Raw Enforcementof Political Limits

Over and over Democratic Party spokespeople said on TV: "We Democrats have never been so united." This is a lie.

The Boston Globe reports (July 26) that 80 percent of delegates at this convention opposed the Iraq war from its very beginning, and 95 percent say they oppose it now. A clear majority of the delegates (and a majority of rank-and-file Democrats nationally) support the withdrawal of U.S. troops--even if a stable U.S. puppet government has not yet been established.

In one revealing moment at the convention, Medea Benjamin, from Global Exchange and CodePink, raised a sign that said "End the Occupation of Iraq." She was dragged off the floor and thrown out of the convention center--and she heard Democratic Party officials actually discussing with police whether to have her formally arrested and jailed, as if expressing antiwar views at this convention might now be considered a criminal act!

To borrow a phrase: "THIS is what Democracy looks like!"

Think about what that means!

The Democratic Party establishment has imposed a pro-war presidential ticket--despite the views of most people in the country and the solid majority of their own party. And, in a convention where the vast majority of delegates support a withdrawal of U.S. troops, these views were simply NOT ALLOWED on the podium, on TV, or on the floor, and barely even in the surrounding streets of Boston.

Hours were spent in nauseating homage of Kerry's creds as an oh-so-traditional father and husband--while there was silence about gay people and their right to get married. Kerry proclaimed his hope that America would be "on God's side." He has said that life begins at conception--meanwhile at the convention, no one was allowed to challenge the fundamentalists' "cultural war" to impose their fascist morality as a state religion.

Kerry made obscure references to the need to respect the Constitution--but who rose to condemn the Orwellian Guantánamo Bay camp, or the officially approved torture at Abu Ghraib, or the rounding up of immigrants, or the imprisonment of "terror suspects" without trial or charges?

The Democratic National Convention stayed rigidly "on message." It was a message of war and empire, of accepting and bowing to the ugly creep toward rightwing extremism. Nothing was supposed to hint at a course that would be sharply different from the dangerous program that the Bush clique and the U.S. government have been aggressively carrying out.

The Poisoned Logic of Anybody-But-Bush

"Let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."

Bob Dylan, "All Along the Watchtower"

Millions of people have looked to the Democratic Party as a way to protest the dangerous extremism of the current government. Many rallied excitedly to Howard Dean when he offered heated criticisms of the Iraq war and the Bush White House. Others stuck with the campaigns of Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton as they promised to take antiwar politics and progressive concerns "all the way into the convention."

And where did all this lead? To a pro-war convention that went down without any organized fight.

Dennis Kucinich asked his delegates to accept the Democrats' pro-war platform. And when he spoke to the convention, he talked over and over about Democratic Party unity, and not about withdrawal from Iraq! Howard Dean did not even mention Iraq when he spoke (causing one reporter to ask why he avoided the "I- word"). Sharpton used his convention speech to insist that Black people have no choice but to stay inside the Democratic Party. "We never got the 40 acres and we never got the mule--so we decided to ride this (Democratic) donkey as far as it would take us," Sharpton said--which, if you look at where that donkey is taking people, is a pretty shameful and pathetic argument.

Their delegates didn't launch any floor fight, they didn't organize a walkout. None of them stormed the anchor booths to demand that their views be heard.

This road--of staying within the election framework, of working within the Democratic Party to "pull Kerry and the Democrats to the left"--has failed utterly. And those who pursued this dead end, often with sincere intentions of opposing the war and the larger Bush agenda, have found themselves neutralized. Kerry and his spokespeople were able to speak in their name and claim that the whole party was "united as never before" around its pro-war and pro-imperialist politics.

They were neutralized not mainly by the tons of armed guards, but by embracing the dangerous illusions of "Anybody But Bush."

Think about what it would mean if the larger discontent of society got neutralized this same way--trapped in the pro-war campaign of John Kerry. Think what would happen if the "opposition" to Bush remained confined to complaints about how best to wage global war and win victory in Iraq.

Imagine how, the day after the election, no matter who ends up winning, we would be told that the American people had given a mandate for a "stronger America," a more repressive "homeland," a bigger military, and a firmer unity around "finishing the job" in Iraq.

This cannot be allowed! Something radically different has to happen. The Republican Convention is approaching rapidly. It is a moment to be seized. It is a time to powerfully unleash the political opposition that was so shamelessly suppressed in Boston.

It is a time to reject and renounce the plans to reshape this planet under U.S. domination--to run over whole peoples, directly take over strategic regions, implant U.S. bases, dispatch U.S. hit squads, impose "regime change" and obedience.

It is a time to denounce the rise of police power and the targeting of Arab and Muslim people--and the not-so-subtle reshaping of U.S. legal norms to give the government powerful new means to lock up and suppress whoever they want.

It is a moment to call out the official embrace of Christian fascist morality--and the attempts to impose its ugly standards as a legal norm and national religion.

We need to seize this moment to launch a fight over the very future of this planet and against all those forces who are determined to press ahead with their juggernaut of war and repression.