Like tens of millions of American voters, I am desperate to see President Bush out of the White House. But I’m not voting for John Kerry. I’m not that desperate.
When it comes to the centerpiece of the Bush presidency — the invasion and occupation of Iraq — Kerry is taking a more belligerent line than even Bush himself. On July 16, he told the Wall Street Journal that he would be less likely than Bush to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq anytime soon, and that, if he were elected, the occupation would continue at least through his first term in office.
When asked how many additional troops should be deployed Iraq, Kerry said that once in office, he would “sit with the generals” and discuss the size of the increase. Earlier, he had told Defense News that he would add two divisions to the current 10-division army — an increase of 40,000 troops — while continuing reseach and development of the Star Wars missile defense/corporate welfare system and, not surprisingly, raising the overall military budget.
At a press conference also on June 16, Kerry endorsed the two most controversial elements of Bush’s foreign policy: first-strike war and unilateralism. He asked, “Am I prepared to go get them before they get us if we locate them and have sufficient intelligence?” and answered, “You bet I am.” He later added — still in the classic Bush mode — “I will never allow any other country to veto what we need to do and I will never allow any other institution to veto what we need to do to protect our nation”.
The Kerry team has even managed to banish criticism of the Iraq war from the Democratic Party’s 2004 platform. They forced the backers of antiwar challenger Dennis Kucinich to accept instead the statement that “people of good will disagree about whether America should have gone to war in Iraq.”
In moving closer to, and in some cases beyond Bush’s policies, Kerry is ignoring his own party’s rank and file. A recent New York Times / CBS poll found 56% of Democrats agreeing that our troops should “leave Iraq as soon as possible, even if Iraq is not completely stable,” while only 38% believed we should “stay in Iraq as long as it takes to make sure Iraq is a stable democracy.”
The Kerry Democrats’ refusal to criticize the war in their party platform is puzzling, since polls over the past month have shown that a majority of Americans believe we should never have invaded Iraq, and that fully 60% believe we should not attack another country unless it attacks first.
John Kerry has given me no choice but to vote against both him and Bush. In doing so, I refuse to be charged with single-issue voting. A presidential candidate who insists on a long-term U.S. occupation of Iraq is saying that he is not serious about curing our addiction to Middle Eastern oil or the development of renewable energy. A candidate who is willing to spend billions of dollars on Iraq (and, he is hinting, on other wars) in each and every month of his presidency is not serious about reducing the Bush budget deficits or about addressing domestic crises in health, education, and the environment.
A candidate who won’t discuss a timetable for ending America’s military occupation of Arab lands is hardly going to stop supporting Israel’s occupation forces and settlements in the West Bank and Gaza (and Kerry’s positions have become almost indistinguishable from Bush’s on that issue as well.)
And a candidate who wants to continue sending the sons and daughters of working people to fight a war for, in his words, Iraq’s “stability and security” (pointedly leaving out Bush’s rhetoric about democracy) is less interested in the lives of people than in the profits of corporations.
Across the country, as always, good Democratic candidates can be found at the local, state, and congressional levels. But at the top of the ticket, as always, there’s a timid fellow struggling to let as little daylight as possible pass between him and his Republican opponent. Voting dutifully against Reagan, against Bush I, against Dole, and against Bush II over the past two decades has not brought us better Democratic candidates, only worse Republicans.
Now we see close to 900 American troops dead in Iraq, with more than 5000 maimed. At least 11,000 Iraqi civilians haved died so far, and their country is in chaos. All of the rationales for having invaded Iraq lie in shambles. Despite it all, John Kerry is unwilling to condemn this mad adventure; in fact, he’s telling us that he’s thirsty for more.
He thinks I’m desperate enough to vote for him anyway. But he’s wrong.
STAN COX is a plant breeder and writer living in Salina, Kansas. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org