"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds." ~ Isaiah Berlin
How Democrats Can Save America (and Perhaps the World)
Exclusive to STR
May 29, 2007
"You want to tell the Iraqis how to run their country. I gotta tell you: we should just get out." -- Mike Gravel, speaking to other candidates at a Democratic debate
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Last week's column was aimed at Republicans; this week, Democrats. These are not the expected topics for a libertarian/market-anarchist site.
As I pointed out last week, making progress towards a more free and compassionate world will require that many more people begin to consider and to reject the evils of coercion.
We need more than just a small group to support elimination of the use of force and violence to run society. We've had a small group and it hasn't been enough. What we need, clearly, is a large group of people who overtly support both love and freedom, and who understand that love and freedom require each other. If we want to stop not only the current war but the entire, ongoing push for endless war and other aggression, then we need love and freedom to go mainstream.
In short, we need outreach. You can help by forwarding this column to your Democrat friends (and by sending last week's column to your Republican friends).
By addressing myself to people who believe in voting, as most Democrats and Republicans do, am I undermining STR's position that voting is not only useless but actually counterproductive? Decide for yourself; I discuss the topic of voting in next week's column.
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Speaking of voting: Last week, the Democrat-controlled Congress voted to pass a $100 billion spending bill to continue funding the war in Iraq . Not that America has $100 billion lying around or anything; the U.S. is broke and already running a huge budget deficit. Every penny of this $333 per man-woman-and-child boondoggle (more like $850 for every American with a non-government job) will thus be borrowed or created out of thin air, raising the national debt and eroding the value of each existing dollar. Oh, and more people will die, too, not that those who voted for this bill concern themselves with such trivia.
Besides, the money will be well-spent. Someone will benefit from all that cash. Got Halliburton stock?
Despite ever-lower poll ratings for President Bush and for the war itself -- 72% of all adults and 93% of Democrats "disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation with Iraq," per a recent CBS News/NY Times poll -- Democrats managed to do precisely nothing to end the war. No deadlines, no timetables (60% of adults polled want Congress to set one), no funding cut-off. Nothing, other than benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet, under threat of losing U.S. support. These benchmarks can be overruled by the president, however, so again: nothing.
Congress did manage to add some pork to the bill, so there is that. Never let it be said that our men and women in Congress passed up a chance to throw more of your money at special interest groups and corporate campaign contributors.
That, after all, is what wars are for: money. Each generation has to learn this for itself, apparently. Decorated USMC Major General Smedley Butler (retired) wrote War Is a Racket after World War I. Democrat Woodrow Wilson managed to get us into that war despite it clearly being none of our business -- ah, but money was waiting to be made! War Is a Racket is still perhaps the best short indictment of war in print; Butler gives eye-popping details on the profits of various corporations during the war years versus what they typically earned pre-war. When a tough-as-nails decorated Marine Corps officer with battlefield experience indicts war as a scam designed to enrich the power elite, we should listen. The insults hurled at anti-war commentators by today's neo-conservatives--peace-lovers "hate America" or they "don't understand the dangers of the world" or whatnot--are shown for the laughably inept lies they are by Butler's simple, direct, and courageous stand for peace.
But the War Train never stops for long. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Americans became increasingly fed up with Democratic President Lyndon Johnson and others in the Democratic party who supported the War in Vietnam ; eventually, many turned to Eugene McCarthy, who seemed a lone voice of sanity in the world of American politics. McCarthy opposed the war but failed to gain the Democratic nomination. The war raged on, despite the "will of the people" (like that matters!) clearly being on the side of ending the war. Republican Richard Nixon was elected in large part because he promised to end the Vietnam war. Nixon had a "secret plan" for ending the war (although he did not use that phrase), which was never made public. Perhaps it involved the secret bombing of Cambodia , which Nixon ordered and which helped set the stage for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge and their "killing fields." Nixon also ordered secret bombing of Laos . It took (ahem) Congress cutting the budget for the war to finally put an end to America 's military adventure in and around Vietnam .
Today we have Democrats opposing a Republican war -- a refreshing change, except that the Dems are not only failing but have actively participated in the creation and continuation of the war (as did many Republicans in times past, under war-mongering Democratic administrations). Refusal of Democrats to bring the troops home or to even set a timetable for withdrawal has been blamed on cowardice -- on concern that voters would be upset if Democrats actually did something to stop the war machine. Democrats are afraid of being seen as the "cut and run" party, or so the thinking goes.
Yet polls suggest that standing up for principle here would strongly benefit the Democrats: the American people as a whole, and Democrats in particular, want this war to stop. 61% of those polled (in the CBS News/NY Times poll linked above) think we never should have attacked Iraq in the first place.
Why, then, are the Dems not getting the job done? Rank-and-file Democrats (i.e., the little people; e.g., you) may wish to consider that Democratic politicians are co-equal partners with Republicans in our pro-war, pro-torture, pro-corruption system of government. The failure of Democrats to stop the current war(1) is not an anomaly; it is perfectly in tune with past actions by Democratic politicians:
- Wilson (WWI)
- Roosevelt (WWII)
- Truman (dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki , the "Cold War," and the Korean War -- which cost 30,000 American lives)
- John F. Kennedy ( Bay of Pigs and Vietnam )
- Johnson (who ramped up the Vietnam War enough to get 58,000 Americans killed)
- Carter (support and advisers to Afghanistan and Nicaragua; continuation of military support for Korea and other nations; creation of Rapid Deployment Force for violent meddling around the world [and yes, for more positive tasks as well], various skirmishes and small military actions but no real wars or major atrocities that I am aware of; a good record compared to most, especially given the size of the military-industrial complex and its ongoing desire to get a war on somewhere)
- Bill Clinton (the depleted-uranium-soaked adventure in the Balkans and the decade-long embargo of Iraq that famously killed 500,000 Iraqi children from starvation and disease, which Madeline Albright said was "worth it" -- in a 60 Minutes interview seen, eventually, by millions in the Middle East. Remember, though: They hate us for our freedoms). (2)
Nothing has changed. From Hillary to Obama to Feinstein, today's Democratic politicians know full well that he who pays the piper calls the tune.(3) Big money and power, corporate money and power, are at stake.
War! Torture! Corruption!
Let nothing stop the War Train!
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If your own political party is actually part of the war machine, what can you do to help bring about peace? If your own political party is a wolf in sheep's clothing, if it is, for all practical purposes, just another wing of the neo-con Republican party, how do you respond in a truly positive fashion?
First and foremost, you can end your support for any politician who has ever supported war and other evil. Yes, that includes Hillary and Obama (see links above, or use any search engine). It includes every other Democrat currently in the campaign for President other than, maybe, Mike Gravel.
Gravel tells the truth about America 's foreign policy in particular, and supporting him has the advantage of opening people up to the truth of what America has been doing abroad for decades. Supporting Gravel helps delegitimize the other Democratic (and most Republican) candidates by putting the idea of a sane, compassionate, non-aggressive foreign policy into people's minds.
Gravel, like Republican Ron Paul*, makes his fellow candidates look like the monsters they really are -- by simply speaking the truth. Watching Gravel's responses at the South Carolina debates ( 04/26/07 ) is enough to make even me want to vote for the man, despite his coercive-socialist domestic policies and despite my view that voting is generally harmful rather than merely useless.
* Click here for video of Paul's MSNBC debate responses; see also here for Paul's responses in the second [Fox] debate. Paul is closer to the views of most Democrats on foreign policy (and often on domestic policy) than any of the Democratic front-runners, and his long history in Congress proves he isn't just saying what people want to hear; he has always voted in accordance with his stated principles. On the Democrat side, Dennis Kucinich also deserves applause for being vividly anti-war, to the point of calling for Cheney's impeachment over the issue. On the other hand, many of Kucinich's other positions are so intrusive, damaging (including a plan to completely ban handguns) and bizarre (creating yet another cabinet-level department: a Department of Peace -- has this man not learned that when government works to do something, one can be certain of the opposite result? -- that I am reluctant to suggest that anyone support him regardless of his anti-war stance.
Supporting a candidate who can actually get news coverage while speaking the truth is a sensible thing to do, in my opinion, because it can shake up the usual charade. The Gravel and Paul candidacies are high-voltage advertising campaigns for a return to freedom and sanity. That may not be much, but it is a start.
Expecting such a candidate to win is another story.
When Gravel fails to secure the nomination, you can best serve peace and compassion by stopping all support for the Democratic party. If Ron Paul is still in the race (or getting news coverage even if out of the race), consider supporting him. Other than that, consider stopping all support for the political process, period.
We will not regain our country by means of power politics (and certainly not by means of force or violence). I fear it will take a "Great Depression"-style disaster to get people to look at things in a new and more realistic light -- and such a disaster is coming, almost certainly. In the meantime, seeing the two corrupt major parties for what they are, and withdrawing your support from them in general, is a place to start. Helping others to do the same (as Gravel and Paul are doing) is the next step. Creating a non-coercive society with more love and freedom is the final goal.
How to deal with the betrayal of America by the Democrat and Republican parties?
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(1) Although it is common to hear about "the war" or about "the War in Iraq," we actually have two wars going in the Mideast right now -- Afghanistan and Iraq -- and while both are technically "occupations" -- the world's only superpower was able to successfully invade two low-tech, poverty-stricken nations and overthrow their governments--it is the aftermath that we seem unable to handle; they are still generating casualties on a regular basis. (There is also the misnamed "War on Terror [WOT] -- but since terror is a tactic instead of a nation, we cannot be at war with it, and the WOT is clearly no more than a tactic itself -- for creating a police state in America and for shoveling huge amounts of money to favored corporations and special interests). In addition, the administration and its friends in the media have been preparing America for a war against Iran , which may have begun before this is posted. One hopes otherwise, but right now it appears that the balance of forces working for and against such a war could tip either way.
(2) For each one of these presidents, the list could be expanded dramatically with smaller and lesser-known offenses. For one source of detail, see Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer.
(3) Democratic front-runners for the presidential nomination are starting to change their tune on the war as the campaign heats up. I predict that whoever gets the nomination will have disassociated him- or herself from the war enough to claim anti-war status. Don't count on a quick end to the war if a mainstream-yet-"anti-war" Democrat wins the White House, however.
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Next week: To Those Who Vote, And Those Who Don't