Would Gore’s War Look Any Different?

Against the Current, No. 98, May/June 2002

Paul Felton

A FEW DAYS after September 11th (before George Bush declared Osama bin Laden to be the culprit), Congress passed a resolution. It said, “Mr. President, you can bomb any country you like, you can invade any country you like, just tell us it has something to do with fighting terrorism, you don’t even need to give us evidence, just go bomb, go invade, you have our blessings . . .”

Well, that’s not exactly how it was worded, but that was essentially what the resolution said.

Now I challenge you to think of the name of the most progressive member of Congress from Michigan. You’re probably thinking of a Democrat, and there’s more than one name that might come to mind. Whoever you’re thinking of, if they were present they voted for this resolution, and they supported it with their eyes open, knowing it would lead to the evil foreign policy we are witnessing today.

[The only vote against the war resolution was cast by California Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Among the Michigan delegation, Rep. John Conyers was not present. The entire Democratic leadership supported the resolution. –ed.]

It is a foreign policy not about protecting the ordinary citizen, but about protecting corporate profits and expanding the U.S. military presence around the globe. And this is a foreign policy that has always had the support of both the Democrats and the Republicans.

Labor and the War

In addition to being active in the Green Party, I’m a member of the Labor Committee for Peace & Justice. It bothers me that the official leadership of the Labor Movement has taken a stance similar to the Democratic Party: supporting the war, while opposing some aspects of Bush’s domestic policy.

I say that’s impossible. If you support the war in Afghanistan, you support corporate America’s war on working and poor people. The two go hand-in-hand.

The Labor Committee for Peace & Justice aims to change the attitude of the labor movement towards the war. It is a daunting task. But it is no more of an uphill battle than that of the antiwar movement as a whole: to change the American public’s support for the war, to overcome media which distort, and to overcome the near hysterical super-patriotic frenzy that has gripped our nation since September 11th.

Unfortunately, much of the labor movement embraces what I call a phony kind of patriotism. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney fully supports Bush’s war. And I saw an article in the national UAW magazine Solidarity, titled “Building Quality Rifles for the Afghan Campaign.” (It starts: “U.S. Special Forces troops are operating in Afghanistan. And the UAW is helping them.”)

My words, in a union publication with a much smaller circulation, were that the people who favor the most aggressive military response are not necessarily the most patriotic. Sometimes the people who ask the hardest questions are the ones who really care about their country.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has not been asking many hard questions lately.

Last November, I heard former President Jimmy Carter on the NPR program “Fresh Air.“ He not only supported the war, but he said it was time to stop criticizing Bush’s domestic agenda as well, because in wartime, we rally around the leader.

Gore’s What-if War

More recently, Al Gore stated that the time has come for a “final reckoning” with Saddam Hussein. Personally, I believe it would be easier for Gore (if he were president) to invade Iraq than it is for Bush.

The top leadership of the Democratic Party would have no problem with it, and those critics within the Democratic Party would be less vocal if the attack were led by a Democratic president, just as Clinton was able to get NAFTA and a mean-spirited, cruel “Welfare Reform” bill through Congress.

And as a Democratic president, Gore would be more concerned with not appearing to be “soft.” So if Gore were president, I think we’d be invading Iraq sooner, rather than later.

A few days ago, in response to reports that Bush was threatening the so-called “Evil Axis” nations with nuclear weapons, Gore’s running mate Joe Lieberman, said, “frankly, I don’t mind if some of these renegade nations think twice about the willingness of the U.S. to take action.”

But the best indication of “Would Gore’s War Look Any Different” is to check the record of the Clinton/Gore administration.

It seemed like every time the Monica Lewinsky affair got too embarrassing, there we were bombing in Iraq. The excuse given was that Iraq had chemical/biological weapons. It made me angry when I later learned that the means for these weapons were given to Iraq decades earlier, by the United States among others.

In short, there was absolutely no excuse for the tremendous devastation we caused in that country.

But for some reason, it is another incident that sticks in my mind. In 1998, we bombed a chemical plant in the Sudan. This plant, al-Shifa, produced ninety percent of the drugs used to fight deadly disease in that impoverished country.

We claimed it was also producing chemical weapons for use by terrorists, a claim that proved to be false. Just imagine the immense suffering we caused, how many people died, how many people in unbearable pain, because the drugs to cure them were no longer available.

In short, killing innocent people in the name of “fighting terrorism” is not just a Republican policy, it is a bipartisan policy.

Our Rogue State

There’s a wonderful book, called “Rogue State,” written by William Blum. He used to work for the State Department, and he knows what he’s talking about. The book describes, in systematic fashion, how the United States for the last fifty years has subverted democratic elections, assassinated leaders, overthrown governments, invaded and bombed all over on the flimsiest of excuses, exported deadly weapons, trained repressive governments in methods of torture.

It’s a painful book to read, if you care about your country, to learn of the crimes that have been committed in our name. As you go through the pages of this book, one remarkable fact stands out: that it doesn’t matter which party occupies the White House, the foreign policy goes on unchanged.

The aims of that policy, today, as before, are to protect corporate profits (so that, for example, the clothing we wear is mostly produced in overseas sweatshops rather than by union labor), to help the oil companies, and the military contractors, and sometimes, just to be the world’s biggest bully, to let everyone know we can get our way, whenever we want.

And this policy is combined with a domestic war against working and poor people, whether it’s Reagan’s busting of PATCO, Clinton’s free trade and welfare reform, or just about everything Bush has done since taking office.

The September 11th attack on the World Trade Center was evil. But it has unleashed something equally evil inside our country. I’m sure many people are aware of the attacks on our civil liberties, and the massive roundup and arrest of Arab people in our country — it’s a disgrace.

Giving Away the Store

I’m going to concentrate on another disgrace. Behind a mask of patriotism, under the guise of fighting terrorism, there has been a massive giveaway of our tax dollars to wealthy corporations, by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Start with the airlines bailout. Fifteen billion dollars to the corporations and the executives — not a dime to the flight attendants, baggage handlers, ticket agents and mechanics — the working people who got laid off.

A side note on the airports. There was a big fight between the Democrats and Republicans over whether the airport screeners should be federal employees. As a postal worker, I oppose privatization, so I thought the Democrats had won a significant victory for us when they made those federal jobs.

I later learned of another provision in that legislation, which made it illegal for these employees to join a union. So what I thought was a victory was really a bipartisan attack on working people.

Joe Lieberman sponsored legislation that protected companies that make bioengineered food and drugs from being sued by consumers who are harmed by these products. He stuck it in some bill about bioterrorism. But the only thing it had in common with bioterrorism are the three letters “BIO;” it was nothing but an attack on the consumer and a gift to some not-very-needy corporations.

The list goes on. Tom Daschle inserted a provision in a military appropriations bill that protected a mining company from having to clean up the toxic mess it left behind in South Dakota. A Democratic senator from Washington state (together with a Republican from Alaska) wrote a provision into a defense bill that required the Air Force to lease some expensive planes (which the military didn’t even want) from Boeing Corporation.

If it’s supposedly for defense, no-body questions it very much. As a postal worker, I’m angry that while all this money was given to corporations, Congress would not spend the money needed to protect me, and the public, against the spread of anthrax through the mail.

For An Alternative

The fact is, there is a corrupt system in Washington. I’d like to recommend another excellent book, called Washington on Ten Million Dollars a Day by Ken Silverstein. It describes in detail how these lobbyists operate, how members of both parties are intertwined in a system which devises ever new ways to take our money and give it to wealthy corporations.

They are stealing our money, but it’s mostly legal, because corporate lobbyists write the laws which make it so. This process accelerated tenfold after 9/11. As Jim Hightower put it quite simply, “Our country is being stolen.”

I say, it’s a dirty system, and both parties are up to their armpits in the filth of legalized corruption. Its foreign policy, in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Iraq, is little more than the use of military force to protect, defend and expand this corrupt system.

So I urge you to turn away from the filth and evil, and support a new kind of politics. Support the politics of life, not the politics of death. Support the politics of working and poor people, not the politics of corporations.

Support a clean environment, and not poisons. Support the politics of brotherhood and sisterhood, not the dog-eat-dog atmosphere of corporate America. If we act together, we can change the country, and we can change the world.

I urge you to join a party that has a different vision from the two corrupt institutions that have ruined our country and our planet. I urge you to join the Green Party.

from ATC 98 (May/June 2002)