As the new presidential campaign season starts, most Republican candidates are competing to show off who can sound the most belligerent, with many echoing George W. Bush. Brother Jeb stumbled over his own tough-guy message, as William Blum wrote at Anti-Empire Report.
By William Blum
Jeb Bush has gotten himself into trouble because, like all politicians running for office, he is unable to give simple honest answers to simple straightforward questions, for fear of offending one or another segment of the population. How refreshing it would be to have a politician say only what s/he actually believes, even if it’s as stupid as usual.
The brother of the previous president has been asked repeatedly: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?” At first his answer was “yes”, then at times “I don’t know”, even “no” at least once, or he’s refused to answer at all. Clearly he’s been guessing about which reply would win him points with the most people, or which would lose him the least.
This caused a minor uproar, even among conservatives. Right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham was moved to make a rare rational remark: “You can’t still think that going into Iraq, now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to. If you do, there has to be something wrong with you.”
Such discussions always leave out a critical point. Why did millions of Americans, and even more millions abroad, march against the war in the fall of 2002 and early 2003, before it began? What did they know that the Bush brothers and countless other politicians didn’t know?
It was clear to the protesters that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were habitual liars, that they couldn’t care less about the people of Iraq, that the defenseless people of that ancient civilization were going to be bombed to hell; most of the protesters knew something about the bombings of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Panama, Yugoslavia, or Afghanistan; and they knew about napalm, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, etc.
Those who marched knew that the impending war was something a moral person could not support; and that it was totally illegal, a textbook case of a “war of aggression”; one didn’t have to be an expert in international law to know this.
Didn’t the Brothers Bush, Hillary Clinton (who voted for the war in the Senate), et al know about any of these things? Of course they did. They just didn’t care enough; supporting the empire’s domination and expansion was a given, and remains so; no U.S. politician gets very far certainly not to the White House questioning the right of American Exceptionalism to impose itself upon humanity (for humanity’s sake of course).
Consider the darlings du jour of the American Left, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. They very seldom speak out critically about U.S. foreign policy or even the military budget. The anti-war/anti-imperialist segment of the American Left need to put proper pressure on the two senators.
Mr. Sanders should also be asked why he routinely refers to himself as a “democratic socialist.” Why not just “socialist”? It’s likely a legacy of the Cold War. I think that he and other political figures who use the term are, consciously or unconsciously, trying to disassociate themselves from communism, the Soviet Union, Marxism, etc., all those things that are not good for you. (The word “socialist” once connoted furtive men with European accents, sinister facial hair, and bombs.)
It would be delightful to hear Sanders openly declare that he is simply a “socialist.” Socialism can be democratic; indeed, a lot more so than capitalism, particularly concerning the distribution of wealth and all the ramifications of that. Presented here are some relevant thoughts on these issues, from myself and others:
It’s only the socialists who maintain as a bedrock principle: People before Profit, which can serve as a very concise definition of socialism, an ideology anathema to the Right and libertarians, who fervently believe, against all evidence, in the rationality of a free market. I personally favor the idea of a centralized, planned economy. (Oh my God, a damn Commie!) Modern society is much too complex and technical to leave its operation in the hands of libertarians, communitarians or anarchists seeking to return to a “community” or “village” level.
“Washington has always regarded democratic socialism as a greater challenge than totalitarian Communism, which was easy to vilify and made for a handy enemy. In the 1960s and ’70s, the favored tactic for dealing with the inconvenient popularity of economic nationalism and democratic socialism was to try to equate them with Stalinism, deliberately blurring the clear differences between the world views.” Naomi Klein
“If it is true, as often said, that most socialist regimes turn out to be dictatorships, that is largely because a dictatorship is much harder to overthrow or subvert than a democracy.” Jean Bricmont, Belgian author of “Humanitarian Imperialism” (2006)
Without a proclaimed socialist vision, radical change becomes too many different things for too many different individuals and groups.
“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.” Martin Luther King
The United States is so fearful of the word “socialism” that it changed the “social sciences” to the “behavioral sciences.”
If for no other reason than to save the environment, the world needs to abandon the capitalist system. Every day, in every spot on earth, in a multitude of ways, corporations are faced with a choice: to optimize profits or to do what’s best for the planet.
The great majority of people in any society work for a salary. They don’t need to be motivated by the profit motive. It’s not in anyone’s genes. Virtually everybody, if given the choice, would prefer to work at jobs where the main motivations are to help others, improve the quality of life of society, and provide themselves with meaningful and satisfying work.
It’s not natural to be primarily motivated by trying to win or steal “customers” from other people, no holds barred, survival of the fittest or the least honest.
And what about this thing called “democracy”, or “majority rule”? Many millions marched against the invasion of Iraq before it began. I don’t know of a single soul who marched in favor of it, although I’m sure there must have been someone somewhere. That lucky soul was the one they listened to.
Finally, the question being asked of Jeb Bush and others is not the best one. They’re asked: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?” A more important question would be: “Knowing what we knew then, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?”
And the answer should be “no”, because we knew that Saddam Hussein had destroyed his weapons of mass destruction. This is very well documented, from diverse sources, international and Iraqi, including Saddam himself and his chief lieutenants.
William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others. [This article originally appeared at the Anti-Empire Report, http://williamblum.org/ .]