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The other war party

by Quark Thursday, Dec. 04, 2003 at 10:01 PM

Democrats are just as committed to advancing U.S. military, economic and political power across the globe as the Republicans. The means may differ between them. But the ends have always been the same.

Why the Democrats aren’t the antiwar alternative in


The other war party

December 5, 2003 | Page 8

MOST ANTIWAR activists view the 2004 presidential

election as an opportunity to improve U.S. foreign

policy by voting out the warmonger-in-chief, George W.

Bush. Even among radicals who usually have sharp

criticisms of the Democratic Party, the idea that

activists must back a Democrat against Bush in

November is widespread.

On the face of it, the argument for "regime change"

through the ballot box seems to make sense. After all,

the opposition of close U.S. allies, international law

and a huge worldwide antiwar movement didn’t stop Bush

from lying his way into a war on Iraq. And according

to the Bush Doctrine, the conquest of Iraq and

Afghanistan are the opening shots in an endless

campaign for oil and empire--in which unilateralism,

pre-emptive wars and tactical nuclear weapons are all

fair game.

But for all their extremism, Bush’s policies are, in

crucial ways, a logical extension of U.S. foreign

policy dating back before September 11--when the

Democrats controlled the White House. AARON HESS

explains why.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

ANTIWAR ACTIVISTS arguing to vote Bush out--and a

Democrat in--stress that the war in Iraq and the Bush

Doctrine represent a sharp departure from past U.S.

foreign policy. For example, Michael Albert of ZNet

argues, "However bad his replacement may turn out,

replacing Bush will improve the subsequent mood of the

world and its prospects of survival. Bush represents

not the whole ruling class and political elite, but a

pretty small sector of it. That sector, however, is

trying to reorder events so that the world is run as a

U.S. empire."

Writers like Albert aren’t wrong to point out the

extremism of the Bush Doctrine. But it is wrong to

claim that empire-building is the project of only a

small sector of the U.S. elite.

September 11 provided the pretext for the U.S. ruling

class to push its imperialist agenda across the

globe--as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice

pointed out, the hijackings provided an "enormous

opportunity." The Bush gang has pushed this agenda in

a more brazen fashion than the Democrats--for

instance, by flouting traditional allies and using

cowboy "with-us-or-against-us" rhetoric.

But there are no differences of principle between the

Republican and Democratic Party when it comes to war

and empire. Much of the political groundwork for

invading and occupying Iraq was laid by the Clinton


Pro-war hawks Robert Kagan and William Kristol make

this point in a recent article in the right-wing

Weekly Standard magazine--subtitled "The case for war

in Iraq, with testimony from Bill Clinton." Kagan and

Kristol cite a speech that Clinton gave at the

Pentagon in 1998, which was meant to prepare the

American public for a full-scale invasion. In it,

Clinton declared that the U.S. was threatened by "an

unholy axis‚ of international terrorists and outlaw

states"--and singled out Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Sound familiar?

It was under Clinton’s reign that "regime change"

became official U.S. policy, with the passing of the

Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. Although they didn’t

follow through on the threat, Clinton and the

Democrats kept Iraq firmly in the crosshairs of U.S.

imperialism--and spared ordinary Iraqis no suffering.

During the Clinton years, the U.S. regularly bombed

Iraq and enforced deadly economic sanctions that took

the lives of more than 1 million people. The Clinton

administration also paved the way for a number of

other policies now enshrined in the Bush Doctrine.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

BESIDES BOMBING and starving Iraqis, Clinton sent the

U.S. military to fight wars across the globe. In

Serbia, Somalia and Haiti, the Clinton administration

cloaked its wars in the rhetoric of humanitarianism.

But these invasions had no more to do with liberation

than Bush’s rampage in Iraq. Rather, they were aimed

at establishing the U.S. as the world cop after the

Cold War.

As the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR)--the

administration’s main statement of military

policies--put it in 1997, the U.S. must shape "the

international security environment in ways that

promote and protect U.S. national interests." Further,

the QDR asserted that "preventing the emergence of a

hostile coalition or hegemon" was a key goal of U.S.

foreign policy.

In other words, the U.S. must use every

means--including its war machine--to advance its

domination of the planet. Another Pentagon document

during the Clinton years, Joint Vision 2020, promoted

the idea that the U.S. must strive for "full spectrum

dominance"--military superiority of land, sea, air and

outer space.

The Clinton record shows why it is wrong to see

empire-building as merely a policy of isolated sectors

of the American elite. Historically, Democrats have

been responsible for some of the worst crimes of U.S.


Democratic President Harry Truman ordered the atomic

obliteration of two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and

Nagasaki, as a demonstration of U.S. power at the end

of the Second World War. And Lyndon Johnson, who many

in the 1960s peace movement supported as a "lesser

evil," dramatically escalated the war in Vietnam.

Democrats are just as committed to advancing U.S.

military, economic and political power across the

globe as the Republicans. The means may differ between

them. But the ends have always been the same.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

WHAT INTERNATIONAL institutions to employ or ignore,

what rhetoric to mouth, what timing and tactics to

use--these issues will always be up for debate within

the ruling class. But the content of these debates are

restricted to our rulers’ common agenda of advancing

U.S. power.

This agenda flows from the nature of the capitalist

system itself, which is based on the competitive race

for profits between corporations and the national

states that they’re tied to.

The growing resistance in Iraq today has hampered

Bush’s plans. In turn, Democratic candidates in recent

months have voiced disagreements over Bush’s war and

occupation. For instance, most candidates have urged a

wider United Nations (UN) role in Iraq and a decrease

of U.S. forces.

But these disagreements do not question the U.S.

government’s right to intervene anywhere in the

world--the basis of Bush’s "war on terrorism." In a

key policy speech at the Council on Foreign Relations

in July, Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean argued

"that despite winning a military battle in Iraq, the

U.S. may be losing a larger war." Every Democratic

presidential candidate supports the U.S.’s "war on

terrorism"--even as they argue over different

strategies for fighting it.

The antiwar movement can’t go forward by backing a

party that supports the occupation of Iraq, whether by

U.S. or UN forces. History shows that when our side

backs a Democratic "peace candidate," it is a recipe

for demoralization and confusion.

In 1964, many in the antiwar movement--including its

main student organization, Students for a Democratic

Society--backed Johnson’s presidential run with the

slogan "Half the way with LBJ." After winning the

election, Johnson massively escalated the Vietnam War.

Rhetoric aside, the Democratic Party is a party of

war. The only force that has ever reined in the war

makers in Washington has been a mass movement from

below. U.S. imperialism was humiliated in Vietnam by

the combination of the Vietnamese resistance, protests

on the streets at home and revolt within the U.S.

armed forces.

Although the seeds of such a revolt today have yet to

fully blossom, they are present--in the demonstrations

around the world, the anger of American GIs and the

growing resistance of ordinary Iraqis to Bush’s

colonial occupation. Our job in the antiwar movement

today is to build that revolt.

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