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Kerrycrats and the War

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

I asked one usually radical friend of mine, now a Kerrycrat, how she could support a fellow who pledges a “better”, wider war in Iraq and then a march on Teheran. “Oh” she said airily, “you can’t believe anything a candidate will say.”

From where we sit, here at mission control, CounterPunch hq, (currently a facility known as the Claremont Inn off Interstate 10 east of LA, where Jeffrey St Clair is watching three inches of rain sluicing down on the San Gabriel mountains) voting for John Kerry now is like voting for LBJ in 1964 with full precognition of what he was going to do in Vietnam for the next four years. By all means vote for the guy if you think your ballot will really count in keeping Ralph Nader out of the White House, but don’t do so with the notion that all along John Kerry has been holding a secret withdrawal plan close to his chest and that his first three months in office will see the US Marines haul down the colors from the US embassy in Baghdad, scoop Ambassador Negroponte off the roof and head for home.

That’s not what Democrats do when they get into office. When they settle down in the White House and put up the portraits of Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman in the Oval Office, they settle down to fight the usual good fight of all Democratic presidents, which is battling the slur that they are wimps, and less than real men.

Like Jimmy Carter back in the 1970s, President Kerry will be well aware that what shoe-horned him into the White House was an entirely negative public emotion, hostility to George Bush. Just as Kerry consistently disdained his eager and all-forgiving left supporters before November 2, he’ll redouble his public and private displays of rejection thereafter, contemptuously wiping Michael Moore’s moist kisses from all his cheeks. The constituencies President Kerry will be eager to placate and to satisfy will be exactly the ones he has courted the whole of this election year: the Neocons in Washington, and the bankers in Wall St.

You doubt this, Kerrycrats? Take a look at what realistic right-wingers are saying. Here for example is Edward Luttwak, no fool. Last weekend Luttwak, currently ensconced at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, had an article in Britain’s conservative Sunday Telegraph, whose editors gave his piece the headline, “John Kerry will make his adoring anti-war groupies look like fools”.

Luttwak reckons that Kerry is credible in those pledges to Wall Street and the bankers to cut the deficit. (So much for any hopes of any job creation at home.) But “to support him in the hope that he would make American military policy more doveish is absurd. All the evidence is that he will do the exact opposite.”
Luttwak rolls out his case:

“He has declared that he wants to increase the US Army by two divisions, more than the total of Continental Europe’s intervention troops. That too is a credible promise, in part because Iraq has exposed an acute shortage of ground forces and an excess of navy and air force personnel. But beyond any specific policy positions, there is Kerry, the very combative man.

“In the televised debates, when President Bush spoke of ‘defeating terrorism’, Kerry invariably spoke of ‘killing the terrorists’. This was not just an electoral pose: the words accurately reflect the character of the man. … he is a fighter, and a ferocious one. I am quite certain that if Kerry had been president on September 11 he would have reacted more violently than Bush, sending bombers into Afghanistan, not just Special Forces scouts, and demanding immediate co-operation – or else – from Saudi Arabia, not just Pakistan. European anti-militarists have really picked the wrong guy as their hero.

“It is true that Kerry opposed the 1991 Gulf War (as did Senator Nunn, among other certified hawks) but he urged the use of force in Bosnia, regretted the failure to invade Rwanda before that, approved the Panama intervention of the first President Bush and was an enthusiast for the 1999 Kosovo war, before voting in favor of the war in Iraq. If Kerry is elected next month, he will certainly not act out his apparently clear-cut opposition to the war by immediately withdrawing US forces from Iraq – although even the Bush Administration is pursuing a form of disengagement, striving to add to the number of Iraqi police and National Guard as quickly as possible rather than sending more US troops…The only difference – and here is the greatest irony – is that Kerry would almost certainly disengage more slowly than Bush simply as a matter of political positioning: he is the one more vulnerable to accusations of abandoning Iraq to Islamic fanatics, warlord-priests and Saddam loyalists.

“It is not just over Iraq that the hawkish Kerry will confound European liberals. He has harshly criticized Bush for not being tough enough with Iran – another irony, because it implies a preference for unilateral action rather than the multilateral diplomacy he supposedly espouses.”

Luttwak concludes: “Unless Kerry really does ask Congress for the money to add two Army divisions, one will need a microscope to tell the difference in military policy if Kerry wins the election. Perhaps The Guardian and its readers should take a close look at those pictures of Kerry with his shotgun after last week’s goose shoot: there goes a genuine American hawk, red in tooth and policy.”

Of course Kerrycrats mostly eschew any analysis of what President Kerry might do, probably because they know that to do so would be to open Pandora’s Box. CounterPuncher Joe Paff just called me to say that before him on his breakfast table is a begging letter from Peace Action (the merger of Sane and The Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign). The letter discloses that “for the first time in its 47 years” the group is advocating the defeat of an incumbent president. Joe says he’s read the letter three times but nowhere could espy the name Kerry. So he’s writing back assuring Peace Action he’s sending money to Nader.

From Chicago Suzanne Erfurth writes: “ Look what came over my electronic transom from the local ‘Peace Calendar’ of the American Friends Service Committee. In 35 years, will they be hawking invitations to movies glorifying the torturers at Abu Ghraib in an attempt to help defeat whoever is running against the Democrat?

Here’s what the AFSC featured on its calendar: “Event: Brothers in Arms: The Story of the Crew of Patrol Craft Fast 194 Description: Acclaimed author and first-time filmmaker Paul Alexander (Man of the People: The Life of John McCain) began his Vietnam war-era documentary on John Kerry and his crewmates of the patrol boat in the Mekong Delta long before Kerry became the Democratic presidential nominee. In the context of a smear campaign casting doubt on Kerry’s military service, the film takes on new meaning as it uses interviews, photographs, and archival footage to examine the bond formed by six men of diverse backgrounds under combat conditions.“

In Oregon, we hear from Michael Donnelly, Oregon Peaceworks is supporting a war candidate, Kerry. This is the same group that back in the Nineties possibly helped Republican Senator Mark Hatfield over the top in a desperately close race against Democratic challenger Harry Lonsdale. Oregon Peaceworks endorsed Hatfield, saying he’d been a staunch antiwar senator. Today Oregon Peaceworks supports a prowar candidate, rather than the vehemently antiwar Ralph Nader.

No deed or slur is too dirty for the Kerrycrats, in their frenzy to
have a Democrat back in the White House. In years to come the list of liberals and leftists renouncing their support of Nader in 2000 and urging support this time for Kerry even in safe states will, I think, be correctly brandished as a shameful advertisement of political hysteria and even prostitution (often enforced by big foundations threatening to cut funding from any outfit not bending the knee to Kerry.) Until this year I don’t think I’d ever fully understood the inner psycho-political dynamic of the cold-war liberals, eagerly signing on to, and often leading, the witch-hunts of the late 1940s and 1950s.

Seeing the ABB-ers and Kerrycrats in action now, I am a wiser man.

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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