REFUSE TO VOTE FOR PRESIDENT IN 2004
by John Spritzler
February 19, 2004
If the Democratic Party truly wanted to turn U.S. foreign policy away from dominating people in the name of liberating them, then it would tell Americans the truth, as many in the anti-war movement have been doing, that American foreign policy for decades has been about strengthening the power of America's wealthiest people to dominate foreign nations and resources. Instead, the Democratic candidates paint the Bush invasion of Iraq as a fundamental departure from a formerly benevolent U.S. role in the world. Kucinich, for example, arguably the most "anti-establishment" of all the candidates, praises pre-G.W. Bush U.S. foreign policy, saying, "America's always been a nation that's worked with other nations."  All these candidates dutifully keep their criticisms of Bush within the framework of the fairy tale that our nation's foreign policy was (and should again be) about "American security" and "spreading democracy and freedom." Kerry even gives Bush credit for having these good intentions now, saying, "Ambassador Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority should be sincerely thanked for their service."  The problem, say these candidates, is simply a disagreement about the best way to achieve these noble objectives -- preemptive war versus, say, working through the UN.
The dynamics of the 2004 Presidential election are presently throwing the anti-war movement in the United States into disarray. Very few people who participated in the big anti-war demonstrations last year, and who have paid close attention to the actual statements of Howard Dean and the other candidates, are at all enthusiastic about any presidential candidate that they also think has a chance to win in 2004. Everybody is asking the same question Lenni Brenner posed in his January 8 CounterPunch article, Dean Hits the Demagoguery Pedal...Hard: "So what do we do? Boycott the election? Vote for one of the above? If so, which one? Or does it matter?"
If we think carefully about what we are trying to accomplish, and compare it to what we would in fact accomplish by following the "anybody but Bush" logic in the 2004 presidential election, it becomes clear that the election is a trap and the Democratic party is the bait.
First, what are we trying to accomplish? We want to stop our government from killing people around the world to strengthen the power of the wealthiest people on the planet. Our strength to affect what the government does comes from our ability to expose government lies and speak the truth clearly, to demonstrate that large numbers of people oppose the government's attacks on foreign peoples, and to carry out mass actions of protest that force government leaders to stop attacking people abroad or risk losing control of the American people at home.
This is how the anti-Vietnam war movement became such an important factor in forcing Nixon to withdraw from Vietnam. That movement never elected an anti-war president (unless one counts LBJ himself, who campaigned in 1964 on the promise that he would not send American boys to fight an Asian war). But what it did was far more important. It so successfully exposed the government's lies -- using everything from personal conversations within families, to teach-ins and public debates and publications and speeches at rallies -- that by the end of LBJ's term of office demonstrators prevented him from giving public speeches anywhere except military bases, demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of working class and middle class people occurred more and more frequently, soldiers in Vietnam started refusing to fight the war and in many cases joined groups like Vietnam Veterans Against the War and publicly threw their medals away in protest, and the Civil Rights movement joined in denouncing the war and linked it to the fight for equality at home. Nixon knew that if he continued fighting in Vietnam he risked losing control of Americans in what had become the greatest social upheaval since the Civil War.
Now consider what we can accomplish by voting for "anybody but Bush." Let's assume the most optimistic scenario: we all agree who is the best Democratic Party candidate, we work for him in the primaries, he gets the nomination and then wins the presidency. (Needless to say, we shun any third party candidate as a "spoiler.") What do we accomplish?
No matter which Democratic candidate we line up behind, we will end up helping our rulers convince the American people that our government's attacks on foreign people are a GOOD thing. Why is this? Because all of the politicians seeking the Democratic Party nomination (seven of them at the time of this writing) have foreign policy positions that facilitate such attacks, their campaign rhetoric is designed to prevent Americans from understanding what our government is really doing to people around the world, and we dare not dispute what "our man" tells the public because that would only hurt his chances of winning the election.
From Kucinich to Lieberman, the Democratic candidates' views on the Iraq war represent merely different strategies for ensuring that America's corporate elite, who use the United Nations and/or NATO as their instrument for killing and terrorizing people when it suits them, will continue to control ordinary people and resources like oil in the Middle East.
To interpret the candidates' own words presented below, it is helpful to first recall some facts about the U.N. and NATO, since these organizations are central to the foreign policy positions of most. Denis Halliday in October, 1998, resigned from the UN as its Assistant Secretary-General in protest of its sanctions on Iraq (endorsed wholeheartedly by the entire Clinton administration), of which he said: "However, with the embargo in Iraq, we have a United Nations whose decisions in the Security Council have led to the deaths of possibly more than one million people in ten years. Now that is a tragedy. And that begins to meet some of the definitions of the United Nations Convention on Genocide."  NATO, whose Clinton-appointed Supreme Commander was General Wesley Clark, deliberately targeted and bombed innocent Serb civilians in their residential neighborhoods, in their factories and even a passenger train. Far from being a "humanitarian" force, NATO backed the terrorist KLA under whose umbrella Bin Laden's forces fought. 
Here are the foreign policies we get to endorse with our vote:
Kucinich, Kerry and Edwards all want to use the U.N. to control Iraq. This comes in different flavors. Kucinich wants "the U.N. in and the U.S. out."  Kerry, however, makes it clear that the "U.N. in" does not really mean the "U.S. out." He says, "Ambassador Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority should be sincerely thanked for their service -- and replaced by a UN Special Representative in Iraq who will remove the stigma of foreign occupation from our presence there. The United States has ample power and influence to establish a working relationship which guarantees -- indeed guides us to -- an outcome which meets our goals and security needs."  Edwards likes the U.N. and NATO both, saying: "Involve our allies, the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in establishing a free Iraqi government with legitimacy in the region and around the world."  Clark, on the other hand, favors relying mainly on NATO and just getting the U.N.'s blessing. His web page puts it this way: "Transform the military operation into a NATO operation. General Abizaid, commander of US forces in the Middle East, would remain in charge of the operation, but he would report to the NATO Council...If we take these steps, we can expect NATO countries to contribute around 50,000 troops. With NATO support and U.N. endorsement, we can also get Arab countries in the region to step in. Their presence would prove that this is not an American occupation, but an international and regional effort to stabilize Iraq."  Lieberman just echoes Bush, saying, "The goal is to stabilize Iraq. When that happens, we can leave." 
Which leaves Dean, the "serious anti-war candidate" who actually wants to keep occupying Iraq with U.S. troops, but do it like Bush Senior did. Dean says, "George Bush's father had over 100,000 foreign troops in Iraq, many of whom were from Muslim nations. We need to bring troops from those countries back to Iraq to replace our Guard and Reserve troops and one of our two divisions in Iraq."  Dean is now being tutored in foreign policy by Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright , who, when asked by Leslie Stahl in a 1999 interview on 60 Minutes, "I understand that 500,000 Iraqi children have died due to our sanctions...was it worth it?" replied, "It was worth it."  Dean's web site quotes Albright approvingly: "As Madeleine Albright once put it, we are the 'indispensable power' for addressing so many of the challenges around the world."  One challenge Dean will certainly not address is stopping Israel's war on Palestinians. His web page declares, "Our alliance with Israel is and must remain unshakeable." 
The Democratic candidates are not "lesser evils"; they are different evils. They want to militarily occupy Iraq, just not with what Kerry calls the "stigma of foreign occupation." Keeping in mind that Clinton, relying on the U.N. and NATO, killed a million innocent Iraqis and many Serb civilians, the "use the U.N. and NATO" foreign policies of the Democrats could quite possibly result in more innocent deaths than George W. Bush was able to inflict with his unilateral approach.
It is because the Democratic Party shares the same fundamental foreign policy goals as the Bush administration that the Senate and House leadership of the Democratic Party collaborated with Bush in his Iraq invasion. Not only did they support the Congressional resolution Bush needed to invade Iraq, but they also refused to expose how Bush was lying about what the intelligence community actually believed. Tom Daschle, as the Democratic Senate Majority Leader (at the time), was privy then to the fact that, except for those responding to intense pressure from Cheney, the intelligence community did not believe Iraq posed an imminent threat to the U.S. The New York Times, in its Feb 1, 2004 editorial about what U.S. intelligence experts believed prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, noted that "the most important intelligence document leading up to the invasion was a National Intelligence Estimate [NIE] hastily assembled and presented to Congress shortly before the vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq" and that the claims this document made about Iraq's danger to the U.S. were "out of kilter with the government's own most expert opinions." The editorial points out that while the NIE said the aluminum tubes Iraq tried to import were for a nuclear program, "the Energy Department, the government's leading source of expertise, thought the tubes unfit for that purpose." It points out that the NIE's claim that Iraq had drone aircraft intended to deliver biological agents to American soil "was disputed by Air Force intelligence, the chief source of expertise on drones, which thought the drones were primarily for reconnaissance." And the editorial adds, "Also left unexplained was how the estimate's [NIE's] authors could conclude that Iraq was continuing and expanding its chemical weapons programs when a Defense Intelligence Agency report had just acknowledged that there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons." Yet the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, with access to all of these dissenting intelligence authorities, chose to accept Bush's lies as the gospel truth. The Democratic Party is fully complicit in U.S. criminal aggression in Iraq.
Even if they fail to win the nomination or the election, these politicians are already propping up the legitimacy our rulers need to attack foreign people and kill them with bombs or sanctions. Serious politicians know this is the only way to get the backing of the truly powerful people in the United States, like the elite Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). (Since 1940 every U.S. secretary of state but one, and every secretary of defense (or war) and most of the directors of the CIA have been CFR members. Dick Cheney, Al Gore and Bill Clinton are all CFRers.) Thus Dean, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations June 25, 2003, tried to reassure them that he was their man, telling them, "Two days ago, I formally launched my campaign for President with a call for a Great American Restoration. I spoke of the need to restore the American people's faith in their political system and government."  (The recent episode of the "Dean howl" illustrates how important elite approval is to a politician. Dean's speech to his supporters in a locker room atmosphere after the Iowa defeat was patently un-newsworthy when seen in full context. But the elite owners of the mass media seized upon it to bring Dean down a notch.)
The logic of "anybody but Bush" is not only to support the Democratic nominee, but to tone down our own criticisms of Bush, lest we scare away votes for our man. For example, when Michael Moore, during his speech supporting General Clark, accused Bush of being a Vietnam deserter, the media attacked Clark for not denouncing Moore. Lesson: to get your man elected, don't embarrass him with sharp attacks on Bush.
If the anti-war movement backs the Democratic Party, and it wins the election, we will have set the anti-war movement back by many years, because all of our earlier work to show the world that American foreign policy has no legitimate claim to represent the will of the American people will have been undermined. The new President's foreign policy, whether the troops are officially U.S., U.N. or NATO, will be sanctified as the "will of all the American people, even those who opposed Bush's Iraq war." Ouch! And this is the best we can hope for if we fall for the elections trap. This is what happens if the Democratic candidate wins. No matter which way the election goes, the result will be an even more demoralized anti-war movement.
There is a much better alternative, one proposed by New Democracy (see MassRefusal.org.) We can refuse to vote in the 2004 presidential election, and tell the world why. Instead of holding our noses and unenthusiastically telling people to vote for a different evil, we can engage in a unified action that focuses public attention on the root of the problem -- a foreign policy that attacks ordinary people to benefit the wealthy. We can have actions during the election that continue to do what we did earlier -- tell the truth about who controls U.S. foreign policy and what their real aims are. We can have public debates and teach-ins (like those that helped force the government to pull out of Vietnam). We can have small discussions with our friends and neighbors (like campaign "coffees") and we can go to the polls on election day with literature that tells the truth. Doing these things will give the anti-war movement a real presence with a strong message, not one rendered incoherent by the need to defend the Democratic Party candidate's praise for the U.N. or NATO or Ambassador Bremmer. It will rekindle our confidence in each other, win more people to our side on the basis of a principled position, and enable us to think about building on this strength after the election. We can expand mass refusal to vote for President of the Empire into mass refusal to do the Empire's bidding: refusal of young people to enlist in its military, refusal of workers to produce its weapons, refusal of teachers and journalists to pretend to believe its lies, and refusal across the board to let it turn the economic screws on us in its attempt to make us more insecure and controllable. This is how to build a movement that connects all of the dots, that has real hope and enthusiasm, and that can win.
John Spritzler is a co-editor of
and the author of
The People As Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda in World
War II (Black Rose Books, 2003.)
10. Boston Globe, 12/28/2003
This article may be copied and posted on other websites. Please include all hyperlinks.
Other articles by this author
This article may be copied and posted on other websites. Please include all hyperlinks.