Last week eight Democratic presidential candidates met in South Carolina for a debate. The candidates were senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joseph Biden, Chris-topher Dodd; former senators John Edwards and Mike Gravel; Gov. Bill Richardson; and Representative Dennis Kucinich. Although most of what was said during this so-called debate was no more than “campaign sound bites,” it is important to look at what was said and also what was unsaid to see the alternatives the Democratic Party is offering to replace the Bush regime in 2009.
Clinton was the first of the candidates to speak. In discussing the invasion and continued war in Iraq, she stated, “We have given the Iraqi people the chance to have freedom, to have their own country … it is past time for them to demonstrate that they are willing to make the sacrifice, the compromise that is necessary to put together a unified government and provide security and stability without our young men and women in the middle of their sectarian civil war.”
In what alternative universe does Clinton live? “Freedom?” Four years ago a massive invasion of the country was launched by the Bush regime. Today some 200,000 U.S.-led forces, “allies,” and contract mercenaries occupy “free Iraq.” “Sacrifice?” More than 650,000 Iraqis have been sacrificed on the altar of U.S. imperialism. If that is not enough sacrifice, maybe Clinton can take a look at the pre-war sanctions enforced by the United States which led to more than a million deaths of Iraqis, about half of the deaths being children. But then Clinton voted for the war and her husband was president while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died under the sanctions regime so maybe looking back is not a good idea for the good senator. And the sectarian civil war to which she refers is a direct result of the invasion and occupation.
But let’s move on to see what other issues were raised in the debate. What concerns did Sen. Obama have? Early in the debate he stated his compassion for the military occupiers of Iraq. “We have seen our Army and our Reserves and our National Guard all being stretched to a breaking point. And that’s one of the reasons why I proposed that we’re going to have to increase the size of our ground forces, so we can stop the sort of rotations that we’ve been placing them on, which have been putting enormous strain not only on the soldiers themselves, but also their families … The men and women in uniform have performed valiantly in terms of overthrowing Saddam Hussein and giving the Iraqi people an opportunity to bring their country together.” In a recent foreign policy speech Obama proposed increasing the size of the Army and Marines by 92,000 and also getting the support of other countries when fighting wars of choice.
So Obama wants to increase the size of the military so that “our” poor military will not be over-stretched when the U.S. launches wars of choice. He also prefers more allies in his wars. In effect he is proposing a stronger “multilateral imperialism” in place of the Bush regime’s “unilateral imperialism.” And this is a good alternative?
And where is Obama’s compassion for the suffering of the Iraqi people? He feels sorry for those who have brought on this suffering. I guess the deaths and horrors imposed on Iraqis do not count. He forgot to mention it in the debate if it does. But then he did mention the “opportunity to bring their country together” that the U.S. invasion has given the Iraqi people. This is like Hillary’s freedom to “have their own country” sentiment. But those ungrateful Iraqis are just not showing their appreciation for these opportunities and the freedom the Bush regime has brought them. What ingrates.
At one point in the debate there was actually real debate. Representative Dennis Kucinich challenged Senator Obama about Obama’s previous statements outside of this debate referring to Iran. Obama has made it clear that he thinks that all options, including the use of nuclear weapons against Iran, are on the table with respect to keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Other candidates including Clinton and Edwards have expressed similar views.) In response to Kucinich, Obama said, “I think it would be a profound mistake for us to initiate war with Iran. BUT have no doubt, Iran possessing nuclear weapons will be a major threat to us and to the region … I think it is important for us to also recognize that if we have nuclear proliferators around the world that potentially can place a nuclear weapon into the hands of terrorists, that is a profound security threat for America and one that we have to take seriously.” (Does this remind you of Bush’s statements before he launched the attack on Iraq?)
At that point former Senator Mike Gravel pointed out correctly that the United States is the “greatest violator of the Non-Proliferation Treaty…We signed a pledge that we would begin to disarm, and were not doing it. We’re expanding our nukes. Who the hell are we going to nuke? ... Tell me Barack … who do you want to nuke?” Obama replied, “I’m not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike, I promise you.” So we are safe from Obama for “now.” But then he is not the president and right now he does not have the power to nuke anyone.
One of the topics that did not come up at the debate was the impeachment of Bush. Although all the candidates claimed they were against indefinitely continuing the war waged by Bush, not one of them talked about impeaching the president who initiated the war. But Kucinich has proposed impeaching VP Cheney. But when the moderator asked who would enter into Kucinich’s effort to impeach the VP no one raised their hand.
Kucinich pointed out the hypocrisy of the candidates that claim to oppose the war, but yet recently voted to give the Bush regime even more money for the war than he asked for in his budget. He said, “I think it’s inconsistent to tell the American people that you oppose the war and, yet, continue to vote to fund the war. Because every time you vote to fund the war, you’re reauthorizing the war all over again … The Democrats have the power to end the war right now, and that’s what we should do.” He also went on to expose candidates like Clinton who say they voted to authorize the war because they were misled by the Bush regime. He stated, “I don’t think that it’s sufficient to say that if we had the information at the beginning that we would have voted differently. That information was available to everyone.” Millions around the world opposed the war before it was launched. They knew the Bush regime was attempting to deceive the world.
Kenneth J. Theisen is an Oakland