Kerry: A Less Dangerous Imperialist?

“Did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? The answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power…”

President George W. Bush Oval Office Remarks, July 14, 2003

“The president’s assertion that the war began because Iraq did not admit inspectors appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring: Hussein had, in fact, admitted the inspectors and Bush had opposed extending their work because he did not believe them effective.”

Washington Post, July 15, 2003

“We invaded Iraq to bring Iraqis freedom or Wal-Mart or Disneyland or prevent same sex marriages or stop immoral stem cell research.”

Prospective speechwriter for Bush re-election campaign

“I’m pretty tough on Castro, because I think he’s running one of the last vestiges of a Stalinist secret police government in the world…and I voted for the Helms-Burton legislation to be tough on companies that deal with him.”

John F. Kerry, addressing a West Palm Beach, Florida crowd, March 13, 2004

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s “close relationship with Fidel Castro has raised serious questions about his commitment to leading a truly democratic government.”

John F. Kerry, March 18, 2004

“Kerry’s beginning to sound downright Lincolnesque – after the assassination.”

Gore Vidal

It seems obvious that Bush recapturing the White House in November would make the world more dangerous. Just last week, the Bushies demonstrated their character by launching a jugular attack on former White House counter terrorism chief Richard Clarke. Clarke’s new book, Against All Enemies, like his lengthy appearance on “60 Minutes” (3/21/04) and his testimony before the 9/11 Commission (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States), reveals the foremost Bush obsession: war on Iraq (a fixation stronger even than his hatred for abortion and gay marriage).

Before the attacks, Clarke maintains, the top officials had brushed aside warnings about an impending terrorist attack. After 9/11, according to Clarke, rather than focus on getting the fiends who planned the dirty deeds against the twin towers and the Pentagon, President Bush and his leading cabinet members seemed obsessed with making war on Iraq – well before 9/11. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill supports Clarke on that point.

“Sour grapes,” said one Bushie of Clarke’s statements. “He’s auditioning for the Kerry campaign,” said another high official. The Bushies, however, have no proof to refute Clarke’s carefully documented accusations. Indeed, Clarke, who has thus far withstood the smears, revealed that he registered as a Republican in the 2000 election.

But Clarke obviously anticipated the retaliatory war. Previously, the Bush gang had struck back against former diplomat Joseph Wilson, who disproved the phony administration claim that Iraq was trying to buy yellow cake uranium from Niger. Pro-Bush columnist Robert Novak published the name of Wilson’s wife, an undercover CIA operative. Valerie Plame worked for the Agency on nuclear weapons proliferation. Evidence points to the leaker as a high official in Vice President Cheney’s office.

Ironically, Bush had sworn to punish anyone who revealed the name of a protected national security employee. He has been remarkably passive in finding the culprit in this case.

But the 9/11 blame issue transcends the exposing of a covert official. As the bi-partisan 9/11 commission probes for information about lack of preparedness in the pre 9/11 period in the Clinton and Bush Administrations, I added up the factors that argue for a vote for John Kerry, presumably the Democratic presidential nominee.

Bush’s unscrupulous tactics toward “disloyal” officials, critics in general and whistle blowers is minor compared to the multiple lies he told about why we had to go to war with Iraq. His vindictiveness pales before the horrendous loss of civil liberties that have ensued under the Ayatollah Ashcroft’s reign as Attorney General. Then, there’s Bush’s skewering of the public wealth, thanks to his reward the rich tax plan, his proposal for a Constitutional amendment to stop gay marriages, his wholesale destruction of the environment and his sneaky appointments of ultra reactionary judges and heads of agencies — more than sufficient reasons to vote for Kerry.

I almost convinced myself that the gravity of the 2004 elections might compare to the momentous 1860 contest that decided whether the United States remained a union or split into a slave and a free state. So worked up had I become, that an old radical friend laughed at me. “You’re nothing but a liberal,” he said.

I spilled my latte, closed the New York Review of Books and placed it on the coffee table, pushing aside my Picasso print book and laying it atop my piles of The Nation and the New Yorker. I even turned off the CD playing Dylan’s greatest hits.

“Are you crazy?” I retorted. “If Bush wins in 2004, why, we might not have another election. If his gang recaptures the White House, will any public property remain? Will government offer any services to poor and middle class people? Surely, in his three plus years Bush has validated Jim Hightower’s quip: “never have so few done so much for so few.”

“True, enough,” my friend retorted, “but is Kerry any better?”

“Yes,” I screamed. “This is a contest between fascism and….” I couldn’t think of the proper word. “…Old fashioned imperialism,” I weakly uttered.

He chuckled triumphantly. Why couldn’t my mouth articulate what my gut was telling me? In despair I watched Dick Cheney on TV attacking John Kerry. Cheney’s smirk alone almost converted me into a Kerry fanatic.

The chutzpah-loaded Cheney, who should make medical history — having heart attacks without possessing a heart – questioned Kerry’s fitness to be president. Cheney echoed a Bush campaign ad that charged Kerry with voting against an $87 billion war funding bill. Cheney, almost whispering, said that Kerry — who fought courageously in Vietnam — did not have “an impressive record for someone who aspires to become commander in chief in this time of testing for our country.”

I recall Cheney saying he didn’t serve in the military because he “had better things to do.” Did he not remember that he conspired (consulted) with Enron officials on a 2001 national energy plan just as those officials were looting the company and bilking shareholders and employees?

My antipathy for the Bushies, however, might well have colored my positive feelings for Kerry. “He hasn’t said he would pull the United States out of Iraq, after all,” my friend reminded me.

“The Democrats,” he admitted, “have a clear cut issue: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Powell lied, lied and then lied some more to make a plausible case for war with Iraq. No WMDs, nor proof of Saddam’s intention to use or them Al-Qaeda, nor any ties between Saddam and the 9/11 gang. Since there was no cause for war, Kerry should logically want to withdraw US troops from Iraq.

But instead he proposes to add 40,000 troops to the active-duty Army. And he hasn’t said he would withdraw US troops. Kerry even phoned newly elected Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to try to persuade him not to withdraw Spain’s 1,300 troops. Zapatero refused, saying he would reconsider only if the United Nations replaced the current “coalition” in Iraq. Kerry wants to share responsibility with other countries in the military operations in Iraq, but hasn’t said he’d turn command over to the UN. No way!

“So, who’s the bigger imperialist?” my friend asked. “Kerry wants to cover his occupation of Iraq with multinational alliances and agreements, while Bush wants to take on the world with only those he can bribe and intimidate.”

The more I thought about him, the less I liked Kerry. He attacked Bush’s military leadership, and then pandered to the military – saying we needed more people in the army, with new benefits and better pay to go die in Iraq and other exotic places.

Kerry kissed the butt of the Miami Mafia by claiming Bush has been soft on Castro and sought additional right wing Latino votes in Florida by tossing an ignorant barb at Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

In the 1960 campaign, another JFK charged Richard Nixon with being soft on Castro. Kennedy knew that Nixon could not answer because he was the man in charge of the covert Bay of Pigs operation designed to overthrow Castro by force and violence. Thus, he pretended to get to the right of Nixon, who wrote in his memoirs that at that moment he knew Kennedy had made a serious inroad: he had gotten to the right of Nixon and posed as strong while portraying Nixon as weak.

This strategy may work for Kerry, but it discourages people who would work hard to register others.

Yes, I rationalize, if elected, Kerry will appoint better judges and heads of agencies. His attorney general’s policies will probably be an improvement on those of John Ashcroft and women will not worry about losing their reproductive rights.

I will vote for Kerry, try not to throw up as I leave the voting booth and remember: if God had really intended us to take voting seriously he would have given us better candidates.

SAUL LANDAU is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University. For Landau’s writing in Spanish visit: His new book, PRE-EMPTIVE EMPIRE: A GUIDE TO BUSH S KINGDOM, has just been published by Pluto Press. His new film is Syria: Between Iraq and a Hard Place, now available from the Cinema Guild. He can be reached at:


SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.