Guest Writings
10/10/04 John Kerry and the Democrats' Project for a New American Century by Roy Rollin

lefthook.org/Politics/Rollin101304.html

Many of those on the liberal “left” who have jumped on board the “Anybody But Bush” bandwagon cite the current administration's non-stop saber-rattling and war-mongering as a justification for their doing so – as if such behavior was the private preserve of the Republican right. In particular, they point to the “neo-cons”, who serve as Bush's brain trust, and whose “Project for the New American Century” (PNAC) for “maintaining global US pre-eminence and shaping the international security order in line with American principals and interests” has served as Bush's blue-print for further imperial expansion. But when it comes to defending and extending the empire, the Democrats are no slouches either. Nor have they ever been– something their own spokesmen don't hesitate to reiterate whenever they get the chance.

The already infamous Democratic Leadership Council, which master-minded the Democrats right ward lurch during the Clinton-Gore years, has its own think tank, the “Progressive Policy Institute” (PPI), which calls for virtually all of the same things the PNAC does, and in language that is almost identical to that used by their Republican “rivals.” This is hardly shocking. Many of the PNAC “neo-cons” started their careers as Democrats, working for “Cold War” stalwart Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson in the 1970s before they jumped ship to join forces with Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. That these fanatics and firebrands of the radical right could switch sides so seamlessly illustrates just how insignificant the “differences” are between both bosses' parties. Thus a 19-page manifesto for the “New Democrats” calls for “the bold exercise of American power” as the central point in “a new Democratic strategy, grounded in the party's tradition of muscular internationalism that would keep Americans safer than the Republican's go-it-alone policy.”

“Muscular internationalism” is nothing more than a polite parlor term for what used to be known as “gunboat diplomacy,” i.e., aggressive imperialism. Similarly, words like “human rights” are far more effective when it comes to hoodwinking easily influenced intellectuals, who are always looking to justify to themselves their either supporting an imperialist war or voting for the “lesser evil.” Hence they cite “the Republican's go-it-alone policy” as a key “difference” between the two parties and work themselves into a frenzy over whether uni- or multi-lateralism is a better vehicle for imperialism to implement its agenda with. Indeed, those who think that cluster bombs and depleted uranium are somehow more “moral” when they are served up in UN blue rather than just in the red, white and blue of Uncle Sam usually think that the Democrats are preferable to the Republicans as well.

And that preference also extends to their wars. Thus, many of the “Anybody But Bush” crowd supported Democrat Bill Clinton's war against Yugoslavia in the name of “humanitarianism” while opposing Bush's war on Iraq. Some of them even wound up supporting the Butcher of Belgrade, General Wesley Clarke as a replacement for the Butcher of Baghdad, George Bush. For those on the receiving end of their destruction and devastation, however, it's just as ugly whether it's a Democrat or a Republican who carries it out.

When it comes to “boldly exercising American power,” that is, waging wars abroad, the Democratic party has long been the preferred party of the ruling rich; from Wilson in WWI to FDR in WWII to Truman in Korea to JFK and LBJ in Vietnam to Clinton in Iraq and Yugoslavia. In addition to launching the “cold war” against the USSR after World War II, Democratic party politicians were behind most of the dirty deeds the CIA carried out to fight it during the sixties from the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba to “counterinsurgency” in Indochina to death squads in Central and South America. Indeed, it was a Democrat who atom bombed two Japanese cities in order to set the Soviets straight on who was to be boss in the post-WWII world.

Some of the left-wing intellectuals who are once again holding their noses with one hand while they pull down the lever for the Democrats with the other (and urging the rest of us to do the same) may find such behavior abhorrent, but those that they hope to put in office as a “lesser evil” certainly don't. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are, after all, part of “tough-minded strategy…championed by Truman…in the cold war.”

While many of those on the liberal “left” may feel a bit uneasy about rubbing shoulders with the unabashed and unapologetic cold warriors and counter-revolutionaries in the PPI in their efforts to unseat Bush, the later, for its part, is “proud of our party's tradition of tough-minded internationalism and strong record of defending America.” And no-one, it seems, is “prouder” of that “tradition” than John Kerry, the “anybody” who the “Anybody But Bush” crowd now finds itself backing. In his book, “A Call to Service,” Kerry proclaims that “the time has come to revive a bold vision of progressive internationalism” that echoes “the tough minded strategy of international engagement and leadership forged by” past Democratic party administrations.

While such acts of “international engagement” carried out under Democratic “leadership” as Vietnam and the Bay of Pigs may seem “progressive” to Kerry and the Fortune 500, in whose exclusive interest they were carried out, their victims know that they constituted plain old fashioned imperialism just as the war in Iraq does today.

Major General Smedley Butler, a Marine Corps officer who served under the “leadership” of Democrat Woodrow Wilson, was more on the money than Kerry when he described this “tough-minded strategy” as “the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street (and) mak(ing) Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914-5 (and) Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank … to collect revenues in.” Unlike Kerry, who hails this “tradition” as “progressive internationalism,” Butler concluded that “war is just a racket … conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.”

For his part, Kerry (along with almost every other prominent Democratic party politician) helped to “revive” that “tradition” by giving Bush a blank check to wage war where-ever and when-ever he pleased. This included voting for the war in Iraq, which Kerry, who “fell” hook, line and sinker for all the Bush administration's lie about “WMDs,” still thinks “was the right thing to do.” And while Kerry now says that Bush “fuck(ed) up badly” in Iraq, his “tough minded strategy of international engagement” means being even “tougher” than Bush and sending in “another 40,000 active service troops” and “spend(ing) whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq.”

Many anti-war activists from the 1960s may remember John Kerry as a spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and recall his eloquent testimony before Congress on their behalf. Therefore his current views on that war should be of some interest to those in today's anti-war movement who are urging a vote for him. According to Kerry, “it's time to get over it and recognize it as an exception, not as a ruling example of US military engagements of the 20th century.” For his part Kerry “got over it” a long time ago, having “voted for the largest defense budgets in the history of our country” and having supported “US military engagements” in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The only difference between these imperial adventures and Vietnam that makes the latter “exceptional” is that in Vietnam the US lost. Indeed, the real reason Kerry wants the rest of us “to get over” Vietnam is so that we can join him in supporting future wars, since he, no less than George Bush, “will not hesitate to order direct military action when needed against terrorist groups and their leaders.” Only according to those running the Vietnam war (mainly “progressive internationalist” Democrats like JFK and LBJ) those Vietnamese who resisted American imperialism were “terrorist groups” as well. In 1971 Kerry, as an anti-war veteran, asked the Senate “how do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake” in Vietnam. In 2004, as a Senator, he has no qualms about asking one of the “40,000 active service troops” that he would send to Iraq “to be the last man to die” there.

Insofar as “defending America” goes, the Vietnam war, like the Iraq war, was no different than all the others that Kerry and the PPI are so “proud” of, an attempt to make the world safe for big business. Nor were any of them “mistakes.” Just as imperialism is the continuation of capitalism in the epoch of international economics, war is the continuation of imperialism by more forceful means. When the Soviet Union was still around, this could be justified in the name of opposing “communism.” Only the “communism” that Washington had in mind was not the supposed “threat” posed by the military might of the USSR, but the threat to their corporate interests posed by the workers and peasants of the world taking the resources of their countries into their own hands and out of those of American corporations who controlled them. Now, under the guise of fighting against “terrorism,” the imperialists intend to take them back. In “cold war” days, the government claimed it was defending “democracy”…while it supported dictators abroad and suppressed democratic rights at home with “red scares” and witch-hunts.

Bush, who was never elected in the first place, claims to be fighting for “freedom” in Iraq while stamping it out here. Kerry, who supported Bush in both of those endeavors, stands for more of the same, only in the name of “progressive internationalism.” For the only “freedom” that “matters” to both bosses parties is the “right” of the same American corporations, who already can invest and exploit and pillage and plunder where ever and when ever they please in the US, to do the same thing in the rest of the world.

The Democrats, with John Kerry in the front lines, have made it a point of honor to continue to pledge allegiance to Bush's so-called “war on terrorism.” They “differ” only insofar as the targets are concerned. As if to make it clear to those who, like Noam Chomsky, still profess to see “small differences (that) can translate into large outcomes.” between Kerry and Bush, Kerry proclaims that “the war on terror… is a clash of civilization against chaos; of the best hopes of humanity against dogmatic fears of progress and the future.” While some Democrats may argue that the war on Iraq was a “diversion” from the “war on terrorism,” it was, in fact, part and parcel of it and had little to do with “progress” and a lot to do with oil and empire. For the only thing that the “war on terrorism” has to do with terrorism is that it is being run by terrorists in Washington and on Wall Street. They are intent on terrorizing the rest of the world into submitting to their dictates, just as they have already done to working people in the US. Seizing Iraq's oil and dominating the Middle East was as key a component of their game plan as is driving down American workers living standards.

For Kerry and the PPI, “President Kennedy epitomized America's commitment to the 'survival and success of liberty.'” Of course the “liberty” Kennedy was committed to included staunch support to dictators and death squads throughout the “Third World” and is historically “epitomized” by the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam. Kerry, sees himself following in the footsteps of his fellow Boston brahmin, who in the 1960 election, actually attacked Richard Nixon from the right, accusing him of not being tough enough on the commies and allowing, as vice president, a “missile gap” to unfavorably emerge between the US and the USSR. Needless to say JFK's missile gap was as real as Bush's “WMDs” were. Once in office, Kennedy proceeded to escalate the cold war against Castro's Cuba and the Vietnamese revolution.

Kerry, who accuses Bush of being too soft on “terrorism” would like to do the same thing in Iraq that JFK did in Vietnam by bringing in 40,000 more troops. So while Kerry's comparisons with JFK are certainly on target, should he get into office and have his way he may find himself being compared to Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson. LBJ was undone by the debacle in Vietnam, but only after being passed off by the liberal left as the “peace” candidate vs the right-wing Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964. Like LBJ, Kerry is now being being pushed by today's liberal “left” as the “lesser evil.”

While the “Anybody But Bush” crowd appears to have forgotten most of what they may have learned from the left in the 1960s, some of them must at least remember Karl Marx's famous quote about historical events appearing first as “tragedy,” and then later as “farce.”

Roy Rollin attends the College of Staten Island (CUNY)

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