By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. Originally published at at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.
I mentioned near the end of a piece called “Blowback, Money & the Washington War Party” that I would compare Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton with respect to its main subject, America and its wars. For context, I’d like to repeat the start of that piece:
In a provocative piece called, “Blowback — the Washington War Party’s Folly Comes Home to Roost,” David Stockman asks, in effect — “Does America have the wars it seeks and deserves?”
Whatever your answer might be, or mine, I think Stockman’s answer is Yes, and he details that answer in an excellent looking-back and looking-forward essay about the U.S. and its Middle East “involvement.” I have excerpted several sections below, but the whole is worth a full top-to-bottom read.
Before we turn to Stockman’s points, though, I just want to highlight two semi-hidden ideas in his essay. One is about money. What Stockman calls the “War Party” in Washington is really the bipartisan Money Party, since the largest-by-far pile of cash looted from the federal budget (in other words, from taxpayers) goes to fund our military and its suppliers and enablers. Which means that most of it is stolen and diverted in some way. Which means that those who do the stealing have a lot of “skin in the game” — the game that keeps the money flowing in the first place.
Recall that what’s now called the Money Party was what Gore Vidal called the “Property Party”: “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.”
Which means the Washington War Party is a bipartisan gig. Thus our bipartisan wars, which for Stockman answers the first part of the imputed question above. Yes, America does have the wars it seeks. …
It concludes with this:
How Will This End?
It’s easy to see that this ends in either of two ways. It will end when we stop sending money and arms into the region — i.e., when we impoverish our wealth-drunk arms industry and starve the fighting — or it will not end.
Which means, it will lead to continuous tears, American ones. And when, again, you factor in the continuing spiral toward chaos guaranteed by continuing global warming, we may look back and say, “Paris was our generation’s Sarajevo.” It’s hard to stop a war when only a nation’s people don’t want it. It’s almost impossible to stop a war when the people unite with the wealthy to promote it.
Which brings me to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, war, and speeches each gave recently. But that’s for later. …
Later is now. I’m providing this context because I don’t want to leave the impression this piece is about Sanders and Clinton. It’s not. This piece is about us, our future, and that of our children … the future of all of us, in other words, who may choose to live in Washington’s endless war-profiteering environment — until that war comes home with a vengeance.
Do we have I choice? I believe we do, for now. I don’t think that choice will persist, will be available forever.
Sanders, Clinton & America’s Endless War
In a piece by Tom Cahill in usuncut.com, which starts with a report of Bernie Sanders’ “socialism” speech, we find this near the middle, a comparison of the foreign policy statements in Sanders’ speech with a speech given at nearly the same time by Hillary Clinton.
First, about Sanders, Cahill writes:
Sanders Acknowledges Error of CIA-Sponsored Coups
Sanders’ [socialism] speech also surprised many viewers with exhaustive foreign policy proposals aimed at reaching peace in the Middle East, while letting Muslim countries lead the fight against ISIS. the Vermont senator cautioned against using the military to force regime change, citing past CIA-sponsored coups in Latin America and the Middle East as examples of forced regime change gone wrong.
“Our response must begin with an understanding of past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign policy,” Sanders said. “It begins with the reflection that the failed policy decisions of the past – rushing to war, regime change in Iraq, or toppling Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, or Guatemalan President Árbenz in 1954, Brazilian President Goulart in 1964, Chilean President Allende in 1973. These are the sorts of policies do not work, do not make us safer, and must not be repeated.”
To defeat ISIS, Sanders urged the US to form a new NATO-like coalition with Russia and enemies of ISIS in the Middle East, and force Muslim countries to lead the fight with support from the West. …
“Saudi Arabia has the 3rd largest defense budget in the world, yet instead of fighting ISIS they have focused more on a campaign to oust Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen,” Sanders said. “Kuwait, a country whose ruling family was restored to power by U.S. troops after the first Gulf War, has been a well-known source of financing for ISIS and other violent extremists. It has been reported that Qatar will spend $200 billion on the 2022 World Cup, including the construction of an enormous number of facilities to host that event – $200 billion on hosting a soccer event, yet very little to fight against ISIS.”
“All of this has got to change. Wealthy and powerful Muslim nations in the region can no longer sit on the sidelines and expect the United States to do their work for them,” Sanders continued.
Not perfect if you’re strongly pro-peace, but this would nonetheless represent a major shift in both policy and spending, if implemented — something that can be done, I remind you, by our commander-in-chief, acting alone. It may take Congress, or the illusion of congressional approval, to make war. It doesn’t require a single Republican (or war-making Democratic) vote to make peace.
Now about Clinton, from the same piece (my emphasis):
Hillary Clinton: U.S. Should Lead War on ISIS
Sanders’ Georgetown address was a stark contrast to Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York[.]
The former Secretary of State outlined her proposal to fight ISIS, which primarily consisted of the US military taking and maintaining a leading role for an undetermined period of time.
“It is time to begin a new phase and intensify and broaden our efforts to smash the would-be caliphate and deny ISIS control of territory in Iraq and Syria,” Clinton said early in the speech. “That starts with a more effective coalition air campaign, with more allied planes, more strikes, and a broader target set.”
“The Iraqi national army has struggled. It is going to take more work to get it up to fighting shape,” Clinton continued. “As part of that process, we may have to give our own troops advising and training the Iraqis greater freedom of movement and flexibility, including embedding in local units and helping target airstrikes.”
Clinton’s entire speech (about 30 minutes) is above.
Endless War or a Move Toward Peace — Last Chance to Decide?
I’m not suggesting to you what to want. If you really want to enrich billionaire arms manufacturers and their enablers in and out of office, that’s up to you. If you want to give a well-organized foreign fighting force yet more reason to encourage the same acts in the U.S. as their local sympathizers perform in Europe, that’s also up to you. If you want to remove American fingerprints — and national entanglement — from foreign feuds, that’s also your choice as well.
I merely want to point out that for once, there is a choice, and you can make that choice by choosing between these two candidates, just as you can choose, using these two candidates, whether to aggressively reign in carbon use or continue to serve the wealthy who serve up global warming.
Withdraw from foreign wars, or expand into them? Sanders or Clinton? The day is coming soon when this will have mattered, and not just on late-night comedy shows. It’s entirely likely that within the term of the next president, our foreign policy chickens will come home to roost.
Me, I’d prefer those chickens not be armed.
(Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. If you’d like to help him, click here. This page also lists every progressive incumbent and candidate who has endorsed him. You can adjust the split in any way you wish.)