Probing Bernie Sanders’s Identity

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may be a strong voice on income inequality but his positions on military spending and foreign policy are muddled and his criticism of ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s neocon-oriented world view is muted, as anti-war activist David Swanson notes in this book review.

By David Swanson

Every time I write about a book about Bernie Sanders, somebody sends me a better one. If this keeps up, by the time his campaign is over I should be reading the best book ever written and be completely out of touch with reality. The latest is The Bern Identity by Will Bunch.

These books don’t make me like Bernie Sanders any more or less, or for that matter take seriously any more or less the idea that a likable personality is particularly relevant. But they do inform me about Sanders and about his supporters. Bunch’s is the most substantive, best researched, and most coherent book of the bunch so far.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Bunch admires Bernie for learning the lessons of the 1960s and, for the most part, never selling out. Bunch finds this remarkable, almost unique. And, of course, it is that among U.S. Senators, and among the gang of misfits occupying the two stages at the freak shows we call presidential primary debates.

But there are many thousands of people who woke up during the 1960s and never went to sleep. Many of them have worked for peace and justice ever since with hardly a burnout. One could pick any number of them and stack their accomplishments up quite impressively against those of Bernie Sanders.

Yes, I agree that Bernie’s injecting of a little bit of sense into corporate television is important and very hard to measure. Yes, I have no doubt that there’s a bit more integrity and relevance in Bernie’s background than there was in the legend of the African-American community-organizing author come to save us while shrewdly pretending not to. But Bernie holding the biggest political rallies in some big cities since Eugene McCarthy may not be an unmixed blessing.

I’ve written before about Bernie volunteers professing to be motivated by policies that their candidate explicitly opposes. Yet I cannot stay untouched by the excitement Bunch depicts at massive Bernie rallies he’s attended. It’s wonderful for people to suddenly discover that something might be possible, to suddenly give a damn, to suddenly do a tiny something about it. But it’s also miserable to consider that they have been so well trained to do this only as cheerleaders for a candidate.

Surely that’s not the lesson of the 1960s in which the civil rights and antiwar and other movements organized around issues and imposed change on the entire bipartisan political structure — just as major change has usually been brought about. Yes, elections were hugely important in the Sixties, but they were secondary. Now they are Everything.

The peace movement shut down in 2007 because there was to be an election in 2008, and it won’t start up again until a Republican moves into the White House. Elections are terrific — I’d love to see a fair and open one in the United States some day — but there is a danger in the new myth that they are all that there is.

Bunch’s book celebrates Bernie Sanders as having stayed true to his Sixties politics all these years, while the public moved away and has finally returned to him. I think there’s something to that, but would offer a few caveats.

First, there have always been millions of people wanting progressive policies, and they have been effectively shut out by the media, by the Democratic Party, and by an increasingly corrupted political system. Second, the other candidates have moved so far right that Bernie is closer to where a middle of the roader sits. Third, Bernie is fundamentally rightwing on militarism, and nobody wants to analyze that problem in any depth.

On the first point, I recommend Ted Rall’s book on Bernie, the first half of which is a history of the Democratic Party’s flight to the right.

On the second point, let’s be honest, there are many people who could be doing more or less what Bernie is doing right now in the Democratic Primary. Most potential candidates sat this one out, either because Hillary Clinton claimed such a lock on the nomination or because committing to support her should she win was too revolting a decision to make in order to run as a Democrat.

The media completely whites out third-party candidates like Jill Stein, and the public has been convinced they’re useless. And yet, even as the Republicans ape Hitler and Mussolini, Hillary Clinton tries to position herself to their right. Bernie is a brilliant, dedicated, relatively honest candidate who has been given an opening by a combination of circumstances, not least of them perhaps the media’s notion that an undecided primary is better for ratings as long as there’s no risk of someone like Sanders actually winning.

On the third point, Bunch’s history of Sanders’ life suggests that it’s not entirely new for him to give far less interest to peace than to domestic matters. There’s no account of Sanders growing outraged over the war on Vietnam, rather over President John Kennedy’s opposition to the Cuban revolution. Sanders registered as a conscientious objector, but he organized against racial discrimination and against restrictions on having sex on campus.

Bunch seems not to notice the elephant that’s not in the room. He says a Sanders speech is a laundry list of liberal issues in which everyone will hear whatever they’re waiting for. Not if you’re waiting to hear about peace.

Bunch doesn’t hide the shortcomings. He notes that the Sanders campaign staff forced the removal of a banner advocating rights for Palestinians, that in 1983 peace activists protested a GE weapons plant in Burlington demanding conversion to peaceful manufacturing and Mayor Sanders had them arrested in the name of preserving 3,000 weapons-making jobs, and that in recent years Sanders has supported the production of the F-35 also in the name of jobs for Vermonters.

In 1972 Sanders wrote, as Bunch quotes him, that the daily U.S. military budget was greater than the annual state budget of Vermont. At $4 billion today, the state of Vermont is slightly over one day’s military spending (taking annual military spending to be $1.2 trillion) but it has been a long time since Sanders has demanded conversion to peaceful spending.

Instead, he has accepted the truly sociopathic notion that jobs (and jobs of a particular sort, as if a good socialist doesn’t know that the same dollars could produce more jobs if spent on peace) justify militarism. Imagine how that sounds to the 96% of humanity never mentioned by Sanders, except when citing the successes of European nations whose radically lower military spending he seems not to have noticed.

Dear parent of dead children in Yemen just blown up by U.S. weapons, let me assure you that the money Saudi Arabia paid for those weapons — if not the “contributions” to the Clinton family — produced a lot of jobs. And while we could have had even more jobs by investing in something useful like green energy that would keep you from baking to death in the years to come, the fact is that I don’t really give a damn.

Militarism is at least half of what Congress spends money on each year. It’s not my personal quirky interest. Is it OK that Bernie excuses Israel’s crimes because he’s Jewish? Should we overlook his support for guns because he’s from Vermont?

These are debatable because he’s so wonderful on so many other things. But continuing down the path of sociopathic militarism is not an option if we are to maintain a livable planet. Bernie voted against the 2003 attack on Iraq, but then worked against those in Congress trying to block funding for it. Was that the right compromise? Was that authenticity?

Of course, the military spending debate is usually about the wars that add 10% or so to the standard military spending. When it comes to those, Sanders wants Saudi Arabia to start paying for them. But there are problems with that scheme.

First, Saudi Arabia gets its money by selling the world the poisonous fossil fuels that will destroy it. Second, Saudi Arabia buys the biggest pile of its weapons from the United States, which thereby contributes to the mass slaughter — and everyone knows it.

Third, Saudi Arabia is one of the largest sources of funding and support for the people that Bernie imagines it funding a war against. Fourth, continuing these insane wars in the Middle East will continue to spread violence around and outside of that region, including to the United States, regardless of what share of the bill the United States is asking Saudi Arabia to pick up.

That cycle of violence will only end by taking a different approach, not by continuing down the same road with a different billing scheme.

The great hope that comes to the smarter people at rallies for good candidates under corrupt electoral systems is that they are building a movement that will outlast the campaign. But when has that actually happened? And how can such a candidate-focused movement not bow before the candidate’s own compromises?

The election book we really need is the one that explains the minor role elections play in social change. The next-best election book that we need, the one I keep looking for, is the one that outlines what each candidate proposes to do if elected. What would their proposed budgets look like? Which nations would they bomb first? Does Bernie think military spending is too high or too low? Who knows! I expect the question not to come up in the next dozen Bernie books, but I’ll keep looking.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

39 comments for “Probing Bernie Sanders’s Identity

  1. elmerfudzie
    January 3, 2016 at 16:00

    Dear CONSORTIUMNEWS readers, I regret to inform you all that there is but one political party running this country, the Property Party. There is but one group controlling the nation and what candidate is permitted to be put forward: I refer to the “five thousand” family clique, in who’s hands, eighty percent of our economic power resides and it is their hard cash that will buy the next president or other official (s). Don’t forget to add to the equation, the other feudal lords, Intel agencies and their active hand behind the scenes. For example; when JFK’s father tilted the scoreboard and narrowly got an Irish Catholic into the highest office, to their surprise, you know what happened next! When Prez Obama (O-bomber as I like to call him) visited the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1983, you all should at least suspect that a deal was struck between him and our (global) intelligence community, something to the effect that, if he keeps a secret covenant with them, he’d be the 44th president of the United States of America. That is why it not necessary for Obama to know how many states are in our Union or really know the meaning of our Constitution even tho his formal training claims he’s a constitutional lawyer (from Harvard, no less!!). Further, not only is there just one party in our political system, there’s only one remaining industry of any significance, that is, The Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex, of which Bernie is a card carrying member. Now that these War Mongering corporate entities have taken (stolen) from our national treasure all that they can, ask yourselves why are the top thirty corporations of America leaving US soil and moving their research & development programs plus their finest scientific minds and their means of production ( as Marx would say) off to Chinese soil? Lastly, dear readers why has DHS recently purchased one and a half billion bullets, curiously, the bulk of which will end up at your local Social Security office ? Again, dear friends, there aren’t “candidates!” represented here, these are shadows of what once was, are you all so involved with group-think not to see the real powers? the CFR and Rockefeller boys, still calling the shots, and long in advance of the mere appearance of the next “electable” face? Well, in any case, I’ll will now happily contradict myself and throw in a vote for Bernie, perhaps a smidgen of his socialist leanings will surface again, when he’s in the hot seat (President) , when all the banks close and a forgotten song, brother have you got a dime, returns….

  2. b.grand
    January 3, 2016 at 14:25

    Bruce Marshall, GREAT IDEA !!
    You wrote. ” [Bernie] 1. Introduces concurrent legislation in the Senate, to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) Bill HR 4108 that calls to a stop to the illegal war against Syria.”

    In the last debate, Hillary doubled down on making concurrent war against both Assad and ISIS. Bernie contradicted her mildly, saying that ISIS is the primary enemy, but you can’t convince me he’s not just sheep-dogging for her. Furthermore, as I understand his remarks, he not only wants the Saudis to fund the Syrian war, but also to put their boots on the ground there. Meanwhile, his anti-Russian stance is pathetically conventional.

    Bernie’s flamboyant rhetoric about social programs is meaningless if he couldn’t pass any legislation through a hostile Congress. So he should step up on the Syria/ISIS question, and prove that he’s not Hillary’s toady. Introducing a companion to H.R.4108 in the Senate would be a concrete action for peace.

    Tulsi Gabbard’s bill is not a be-all and end-all. (It doesn’t plumb the depths of US enabling of ISIS, although it comes surprisingly close.) But it is a healthy start, and would force public debate about US action in Syria. Here is the complete text:

    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, funds available to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, or any other agency or entity of the United States involved in intelligence activities, or to the National Security Council or its staff may not be obligated or expended to provide assistance, including training, equipment, supplies, stipends, construction of training and associated facilities, and sustainment, to any element of the Syrian opposition or to any other Syrian group or individual seeking to overthrow the government of the Syrian Arab Republic, unless, after the date of the enactment of this Act, funds are specifically authorized to be appropriated and appropriated by law for such purpose.

    • Jay
      January 5, 2016 at 15:46

      “So don’t bother, vote Hillary”.

      Gee what a shock.

  3. Jay
    January 2, 2016 at 20:14

    But, but Hillary is so much better on these issues. Not.

    Fairly typical misdirection about Sanders weaknesses, mixed in with a few problematic policy position’s Sanders has taken. There is no evidence pro Palestinian types were prevented from attending the Sanders Boston rally because of their banner or its contents, but this is repeated as established fact here. It’s not good for Consortium New’s reputation.

    Stein aint winning the democratic nomination. But when Hillary starts to lose the nomination there’ll be a push to say “Sanders is not the perfect liberal”, oh wait never mind that’s what this “review” is.

    • Lusion
      January 3, 2016 at 12:28

      I do feel a bit bad now, too, for having searched for “negatives” concerning the only person with a chance and a truly progressive agenda, but on the other hand it’s early days and he might yet change some of his positions, if confronted with the concerns his prospective voters are harbouring.

      His campaign’s dealing (according to CNN) with the Palestine-banner story is indeed rather a good sign:

      “Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign apologized to a group of pro-Palestinian student activists who were booted from a campaign rally in Boston and threatened with arrest.

      The activists, members of Boston Students for Justice in Palestine, showed up at the Saturday rally with a large banner asking “Will ya #Feel the Bern 4 Palestine??!” before a campaign staffer asked them to either leave the event or put the sign away. A police officer then told the students to leave or they would be arrested. …

      Sanders’ spokesman Michael Briggs confirmed the incident Tuesday and said campaign manager Jeff Weaver called the activists “and apologized to them.”

      “They shouldn’t have been excluded,” Briggs said. “It was an overreaction by an over-eager staffer who didn’t show good judgement.”

      Briggs said the campaign would have allowed the students to remain at the campaign event with their poster.

      Briggs described the staffer in the video as a low-level aide and said she remains with the campaign but “won’t be doing this kind of job” going forward.

      Sanders is a strong supporter of a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      Boston Students for Justice in Palestine said in a statement that it discussed the incident with Sanders’ campaign manager and said it hoped the incident could spur Sanders to speak more about the conflict and what it described as “Israel’s human rights abuses.””

      It would have been nicer, had he personally apologized for this staffer’s “misjudgement” and used the occasion to make a clear statement of support for Palestinian rights – but better so than not at all.

      I really hope he’ll be ironing out some more of those dodgy points.

      If only he’d begin addressing Putin/Russia neutrally, or even strike a conciliatory tone, contemplate possible cooperation, then I wouldn’t think twice and support him.

      Maybe he’s got the right ideas and the motivation and ability to bring them to fruition, but just doesn’t dare (yet?) to be vocal about them.

      I wonder if Jesse Ventura will follow through with his plans to start running as an independent next year. That could add some spice to the debates — if he managed to get admission to them, that is. But I guess he just might, if only for the sake of viewing figures…

      Whatever might be coming about – I’m wishing you (and all of us) good luck from the other side of the pond!

      • Jay
        January 4, 2016 at 11:13


        “His campaign’s dealing (according to CNN) with the Palestine-banner story is indeed rather a good sign:

        “Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign apologized to a group of pro-Palestinian student activists who were booted from a campaign rally in Boston and threatened with arrest.

        The activists, members of Boston Students for Justice in Palestine, showed up at the Saturday rally with a large banner asking “Will ya #Feel the Bern 4 Palestine??!” before a campaign staffer asked them to either leave the event or put the sign away. A police officer then told the students to leave or they would be arrested. …”

        Sorry didn’t happen, and there’s video of it NOT happening.

        This is exactly the point I already made and you missed it. This again looks bad for Consortium News.

        The activists were NOT asked to leave when they showed up with a banner; they were asked to leave when they showed up with big sign (contents unknown) on a big stick. It makes perfect sense that they’d not be allowed in with a big stick.

        Later they lied and claimed a banner had be the reason for the refused entry. You have quoted that lie.

  4. Bruce Marshall
    January 2, 2016 at 19:23

    Excellent Article

    Unfortunately Bernie Sanders identity is really:

    Bernie Bin Saud !!!

    Yup Bernie Bin Saud until further notice when Sanders decides to be
    a Senator and act Presidential as a Senator. (for there is no leadership)

    1. Introduces concurrent legislation in the Senate, to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) Bill HR 4108 that calls to a stop to the illegal war against Syria.

    2. Calls for the release, or leaks the content, of the 28 Classified Pages from the 9/11 Commission Report that is said to show the involvement of Saudi Arabia and another country in the 9/11 attacks.

    3. Bernie be as honest as Donald Trump who has at least called Hillary (Obama) for what they are “killers of hundreds of thousands of people”. Trump has also called Bush a killer of a million people in Iraq.

    This would be a start

    Thank God for Tulsi!

  5. Richard Braverman
    January 2, 2016 at 13:22

    David, thank you for your insight into Bernie’s past and present. In order to get a better understanding of the guy, more areas need to be explored. In 2010, I agreed with Ron Paul’s assessment that Bernie ultimately gutted and sabotaged the bill to Audit the Fed. While that action tells me a great deal about Bernie, it will not impact the upcoming Presidential race.
    Why? Well if we are honest with ourselves, we would recognize that most presidential primary elections and most presidential elections over the last several decades have been RIGGED. At this point, we are no longer debating whether the manipulation took place but rather the degree of blatancy associated with the process. Before, you needed to be an advanced statistician to recognize the incongruities. Now all you have to do is smell the manure. In the past, the electorate worried about one group or individual having undue influence on the results. In 2016, we should be concerned with the possibility of multiple disparate entities trying to rig elections in competition with each other. Clearly the political charade has reached a new level of absurdity. Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

  6. David Smith
    January 1, 2016 at 15:08

    Residential Rental Landlordism is the realistic issue that is never spoken of. The Poor pay at least 50% of their income each month on rent. Over a lifetime that apartment is paid for 4 times, and they get zero equity.The silence is only broken by vicious smearing that “tenants are tearing up the place!!!!!”. A secret river of money. In our society, if you seek truth, you must look where there is Silence and Darkness.

  7. Eddie
    January 1, 2016 at 14:47

    Good article on the progressive down-sides to candidate Sanders, especially as regards his views on US militarism/war-mongering (as Mr Swanson and others have laudably written against).

    Like most Progressives, I’m always conflicted about what to do regarding POTUS candidates — vote for the lesser of two evils (still evil) or vote idealistically for a candidate who finishes 5th or 6th with <1% of the vote (i.e.; as the Green candidate I voted for in 2004 did). Sadly, I'm getting less and less hopeful that intelligent, humanistic ideas & communication (such as in this article and website, as well as others) are going to become influential enough to have any significant impact on the political scene. I'm pessimistically starting to believe it's in the 'genetics' of the US (that we were founded by a greedy, invading European group who also harbored religious zealots) and that there is no real concern in the US about the welfare of anybody beyond each individual's family. I still recall my first vote for POTUS was for George McGovern, a peace-candidate at the near-end of the Vietnam 'War', when there was extreme dissatisfaction with that war and Nixon — but Nixon STILL carried 49 states! And that was during the point where there was highest anti-war/anti-military sentiment in the US since pre-WWII (mainly brought on by the continued combat deaths of white, middle-class kids). If these views can't politically prevail during that era, it's hard to get optimistic that they'll gain traction nowadays.

    Note: It would've been nice IF Mr. Swanson had linked to Ms Stein's website (or other 3rd party candidates) in his statement about "The media completely whites out third-party candidates like Jill Stein, and the public has been convinced they’re useless." It seems that he subtly perpetuates the self-same white-out of third party candidates by doing so..?

    Also, his statement that "The peace movement shut down in 2007 because there was to be an election in 2008, and it won’t start up again until a Republican moves into the White House." might come as a surprise to groups like Peace Action, which continues to criticize the militarism of the White House, no matter which party is in power. They still do weekly anti-war vigils here (Milwaukee, WI), so it's an over-statement to say that the 'peace movement shut down in 2007'.

    • Lee Kronick
      January 2, 2016 at 02:45

      OK Eddie, you’ve got another conflicted Progressive here. A few months ago, I had the privilege of going to a Green Party “get together” to see Jill Stein, live and in person She is the “real deal.” But, Third Parties get short shrift by today’s Democratic-Republican duopoly. I’m really in a quandary as to what to do. Frustrating isn’t it? Do you think Ray McGovern can give us a hint?

  8. Bart
    January 1, 2016 at 14:32

    I’m betting Bernie is cool with Obama’s sanctions rattling over Iran testing missiles.

  9. Joe Tedesky
    January 1, 2016 at 12:41

    After watching Obama beat Hillary, and then installing a WH Cabinet of Clinton people, I think all presidential candidates should be required to tell us voters who will serve in their cabinets if they won.

  10. January 1, 2016 at 00:57

    So true, dear Izzy Stone:
    “Every government is run by liars
    and nothing they say should be believed.”
    Take but the U. S. in the last 50 years –
    wopper after wopper without pause,
    without shame, without being brought
    to account – and not just words,
    but nasty deeds as well and the blowback
    from myriad acts of hubris and ignorance.
    Truly we’ve become the new Grand Guignol.

    * * *

    © Gregory Driscoll 2015 at

  11. Joe Deems
    January 1, 2016 at 00:04

    “And yet, even as the Republicans ape Hitler and Mussolini, Hillary Clinton tries to position herself to their right.”

    As an independent this so far over the top one wonders whether the author knows reality at all. My gosh, Obama has used drones with abandon and the results of collateral damage have been well reported. Why doesn’t the author call Obama Hitler-like? Double standards are norm in so much writing today- left and right. That is why the country needs not only more political parties but more points of view in major publications which we do not have today.

    • Ash
      January 1, 2016 at 18:09

      When it comes to militarism/foreign policy, the statement is true; Hillary consistently tries to out-hawk the hawks. (She speaks a lot more like a leftie when it comes to lifestyle issues, but this article doesn’t really pertain to those.)

  12. Lusion
    December 31, 2015 at 21:49

    Another interesting find:

    “I think the answer is generational: Sanders is an old Jewish guy for whom the establishment of Israel was a glorious response to the helplessness of the European Jewish story. Notice that Israel played an important role in his political progress and in his moving from the city to Vermont as a young man. New York Times, 2007:

    He spent time on a kibbutz in Israel after graduation and then moved to Vermont with his first wife. “I had always been captivated by rural life,” he says.

    Sanders graduated from the University of Chicago in 1964– 50 years ago, when he was 23. So working on a kibbutz was part of his fifty years of work on the conflict, in his view. I am betting he was shaped by the ideals of Labor Zionism.”

    • January 1, 2016 at 00:05

      A typically well-thought-out critique — thanks David. Helps a lot.

      BUT (and I know you hate this question): Bernie compared to whom??? His instincts are so much on the mark on domestic policy that I think it is okay to harbor some hope he would, in time, tackle military spending and even the Israel-Palestine imbroglio.

      He is, after all, talking REVOLUTION (and scaring lots of fat cats in the process). Maybe he needs enough tangible support from revolutionaries to warrant going out on some precarious limbs. The next couple of months are crucial. … and so I ask again, compared to whom? It will be a Happy New Year — or a very unhappy one. A lot will depend on that tangible support, if any.


      • Zachary Smith
        January 1, 2016 at 01:39

        Bernie compared to whom??? His instincts are so much on the mark on domestic policy that I think it is okay to harbor some hope he would, in time, tackle military spending and even the Israel-Palestine imbroglio.

        There is presently no doubt in my mind that Sanders is the “least bad” of all the candidates. That said, it’s my current belief that’s not enough to justify my efforts to make him President. The man is ‘whole hog’ on the totally worthless F-35. How on earth could I possibly assume he’d tackle the military overspending problem? So far as the Israel – Palestine issue goes, all Sanders would have to do would be to announce that the Occupation is illegal. Have you heard even a hint of this? Or of anything remotely similar? Years ago there was the observation “Only Nixon could go to China”. Why couldn’t Sanders – the only American Jew in the running – turn that into “Only Sanders could ….” Point is, he hasn’t made the slightest move in that direction so far as I know. Sanders is at least as hawkish as the warmongering Hillary so far as I can detect.

        Among the people with whom I discuss politics, the prevailing attitude is that Sanders has no other goal in this election than being a Judas Goat for Hillary. The more paranoid of us wonder if the entire Republican Clown Show wasn’t specifically designed on the same general principle. Those fellows are so crazy that they may well make the horrible Hillary look sane and reasonable by comparison.

        For me “least bad” doesn’t hack it anymore. Earlier yesterday evening a relative took me to task for not voting in the 2012 election. My explanation was that choosing the “least bad” Obama would put me in the position of supporting a warmongering & lying & Constitution-trashing person, and I wasn’t about to do that. I’m not about to do it now, either. If Sanders were to make a dramatic declaration about the necessity of Israel totally removing itself from the stolen lands, I’d vote for him.- given the chance. I don’t expect to get that chance, for I don’t believe he’s any more serious about winning the 2016 election than was Kerry in 2004.

      • January 1, 2016 at 07:49

        I wasn’t comparing a person to other persons, but election obsession to other types of activism. Again, see

        Try this dialog:
        A: Wouldn’t policy based activism be more useful?
        B: But which candidate is better than mine?
        A: None? Jill Stein? Wouldn’t policy based activism be more useful?
        B: Are you saying you’d rather work for Hillary Clinton?
        A: Wouldn’t policy based activism be more useful?
        B: You mean backing Donald Trump?

        • Bruce Marshall
          January 2, 2016 at 19:35

          Yes Bernie could well have taken concrete policy oriented steps to stop this illegal and insane Drone War, but instead it would seem apparent that Bernie Bin Saud
          wants to inherit the helm of extrajudicial murders, and get to pick some people to kill as Obama Bin Bush has.

          I have listed two policy based actions in a comment below that Senator Sanders could do right now, such that we would not have to expose his hypocrisy repeatedly.

          Yes that article you link and this one are excellent articles David, thanks for your work.

        • b.grand
          January 3, 2016 at 14:58


          Thank you for pressing Sanders on his foreign policy. You are one of the few. It’s distressing that so many “progressives” give him unqualified support. And I second your call for policy based activism. That’s why I support H.R.4108 – PROHIBITION ON PROVISION OF ASSISTANCE TO SYRIAN OPPOSITION GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS, and Bernie should too. (more posted below)

          As to Ray’s, “Bernie compared to whom??? “, isn’t anyone else comparing him to Trump? The Donald has some really obnoxious positions, but 2 points. First, if you think he could sweep into office and enact all his proposals by decree, then you have lost all faith in our system of government. Second, even if Trump did make some ugly shifts in domestic policy, that would be recoverable in the future, and the scale would be more or less moderate.

          On the other hand, it goes without saying that the scale of (Bernie enabled) Hillary’s atrocities are potentially apocalyptic. And what Bernie might bumble into with anti-Russian and R2P nonsense, who knows?

          • dahoit
            January 5, 2016 at 12:33

            Yes,Trumps proposals would all have to be countenanced by Congress,so the hysteria over his statements is suspect,while the true monsters blow up the world.
            America desperately needs a nationalist to rescue US from Zioneocapitalism which is turning America back to feudal times.
            Trump is the only one running.

          • dahoit
            January 5, 2016 at 12:36

            Yes,Trumps proposals would all have to be countenanced by Congress,so the hysteria over his statements is suspect,while the true monsters blow up the world.
            America desperately needs a nationalist to rescue US from Zioneocapitalism which is turning America back to feudal times.
            Trump is the only one running who fits that bill.

        • dahoit
          January 5, 2016 at 12:35

          Trump is the only nationalist running,the rest are internationalist criminals,and we desperately need a nationalist.
          End of story.

      • Lusion
        January 1, 2016 at 12:05

        Policy based activism independent of the election circus would certainly be more useful than relying on vague hopes. It would be great if something were to stay alive, no matter the result of the election, I agree with you Mr. Swanson!

        Shame it’s not very likely to happen, I believe, except maybe if the WWIII scenario begins to loom large enough, something I can well imagine under Hillary Clinton and most of the Republican candidates as well.

        I’m following the presidential race from Germany and not very closely, and look at Jeremy Corbyn as a comparison, whom I view as the “real deal” and courageous enough to attempt meaningful change, were he to become prime minister of Britain, but I am still afraid that even he might buckle on issues of foreign policy, Trident, Nato etc. in order to effect changes of economic policy.

        So you think, Ray, that Sanders might yet yield to his base’s pacifist sentiments? I hope he does! You speaking on his behalf definitely counts in his favour, and maybe I could even “feel something”, had I watched the debates myself.

        But the most important issue of them all in my view is to prevent nuclear Armageddon in the shape of WWIII.

        The ‘feelthebern’ site has got this (and more) on Russia:

        “Economic and Diplomatic pressure: To temper Russian aggression, we must freeze Russian government assets all over the world, and encourage international corporations with huge investments in Russia to divest from that nation’s increasingly hostile political aims.”

        “Bernie believes the United States should isolate Putin politically and economically. In March 2014, Bernie commended President Obama on sanctions levied against Russian leaders after voters in the Crimea region supported a Russian-backed referendum to secede from Ukraine.
        At the time, Bernie said:
        “The entire world has got to stand up to Putin. We’ve got to deal with sanctions. There are a number of things that you could do. But this is what you don’t do: You don’t go to war. You don’t sacrifice lives of young people in this country as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

        What else has Bernie said about the use of military force against Russia?
        For Bernie, the situation with Russia is a complex one, “as is often the case with foreign policy.” In an interview with Ed Schultz, he stated that Republicans are blind to any solution to geo-political problems other than the use of military force, adding that the United States has to be tough with Russia, but there is no reason, as of yet, to resort to war. Bernie summaized his position by stating:
        “I would prefer to deal with a complicated issue in a measured way: serious international discussions about how we proceed, but force, force should be the last option we use.”
        Instead of rushing in and making the same mistakes we’ve made in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bernie recommends making informed decisions and working with ally nations to isolate Russia economically and politically. He believes that only after all peaceful and diplomatic efforts have been exhausted should we consider war.”

        Well – I think “we” should not consider WWIII, if arm-twisting efforts on Putin fail to discourage him from his — in my view — completely rational approach to “Western Aggression” around the world. It could be worse, but I am not satisfied at all by…

        Sanders also didn’t react overly well to being asked — and heckled — about Palestine:

        But at the least he distances himself from Netanyahu and sounds better on the conflict than anybody else I’ve heard from, except Jill Stein.

        This is from ‘feelthebern’ on Palestine/Israel:

        “Haven’t both sides employed violent tactics at times?
        Yes. Bernie believes both sides have to own up to their failures in order to achieve a resolution to the conflict — and they must both acknowledge the other’s right to exist.
        Bernie has condemned — and sees as a barrier to peace — the terrorist actions of Hamas, including their practice of firing rockets into houses and urban centers. Bernie has also called Israel’s attacks on Palestinians “reprehensible,” particularly in the context of Israel being the occupying power in the conflict.
        Bernie distinguishes between Hamas’ tactics and the Palestinians, and has supported U.S. legislation that provides aid for Palestinians. Similarly, Bernie distinguishes between Israel and its government. Although he is supportive of the State of Israel, he is “not a great fan” of the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his tactics to address issues in the Middle East region.”

        If I were American, I guess I would vote for Jill Stein or not at all, but then, Sanders and lesser-evilism/the hope-principle might get the better of me in the end.

        Trump has some good points on foreign policy — US intervention in the Middle East being the root cause of current problems, appeasement with Putin etc.

        If he wouldn’t be playing that proto-fascist game of his — whipping up hatred against people based on who they are, chiming in with anti-muslim fear-mongering, spreading general xenophobia — and if he wasn’t running for the Republicans, I might even consider voting for him, goodness help me…

        • Jay
          January 4, 2016 at 11:21

          So more “Sanders isn’t perfect, support Hillary instead” garbage.

          Or is it “support Trump”?

      • Bob In Portland
        January 1, 2016 at 15:46

        I think a good read of Peter Dale Scott’s last half-dozen books should be required reading for people who think that there is a perfect presidential candidate out there and that such a person would immediately change our foreign policy. In fact, the president hasn’t been in charge of foreign policy since Eisenhower. Those presidents who tried to reign in the CIA and its allies in the corridors of power have been neutralized. Saying that the US can’t be the policeman of the world, as Sanders has said, is a pretty radical statement these days for a presidential candidate to make.

        I see the Democratic debates as a kind of shadowplay, with Clinton talking about supporting the Sunni regimes who are responsible for ISIS. Her support for a no-fly zone doesn’t make sense considering that Russia has pretty much done that already. Would she go to war with Russia to guarantee our planes control the air and allow trade between ISIS and Turkey? When Sanders talked about getting the House of Saud and Qatar to fight ISIS I’m pretty sure he realizes who’s behind what. In that sense Sanders seems to be calling for an end to the false narrative.

        Beyond Syria, I can see a Clinton presidency expanding US presence in Ukraine as well as further attempts at regime change in Central Asia for the benefit of energy corporations. If Clinton is elected Americans will learn more about places like Chechnya, Dagestan and the like.

        If the author is going to sit out the election because Sanders isn’t “worth” his effort, that’s his choice. It’s important to respect your own morals when voting. But I’ll vote for Sanders, thank you.

      • Pat
        January 1, 2016 at 21:25

        Thank you for your wisdom, Ray, and for going out on some mighty precarious limbs yourself over the years in search of the truth. Unfortunately, your ability to see the gray areas is lost on those who can see only black and white.

      • Lee Kronick
        January 2, 2016 at 02:19

        By George, Ray, I think you’ve got it…OR at least as much as we can get, at this point in the campaign. I’m sure you like Jill Stein of the Green Party better than Bernie. But the “two parties” that are really two heads of the same monster, given the present electoral procedural process, can sandbag any third party challenger, and send them into political oblivion. Perhaps we have to take our chances with Bernie and try to push him off his pro-Israel, pro-Defense Dept.stances. What do you think, Ray?

      • January 2, 2016 at 18:57

        It’s moot, since the Empire isn’t going to select him.


        It is my belief that since the JFK assassination the secret government, the CIA and the [Military Industrial Complex], have been running the show. They have not allowed anyone to become president, from either party, that was not under their control.

        — Bruce Gagnon, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

      • Peter Loeb
        January 3, 2016 at 07:38


        “Compared to whom?”

        It is not a requirement that I

        1. Support Israel and its oppression

        2.Support increased military bills

        The requirement that I vote was a belief I was taught
        so many times in my childhood, youth and early
        adulthood. About a dislikeable candidate in New York
        my parents would say again and again, “Hold your
        nose and vote for Rose!”

        I didn’t vote for Obama in 2012 and I am proud of
        that decision still. (I voted for him in 2008).

        When Bernie Sanders condemns Israel for its
        oppression for decades, when he proposes
        cutting the military budget in half and re-directing
        it to domestic concerns (health, education, social
        services, infrastructure etc.) even that will fail
        to impress me. For Bernie knows that there is
        not a chance in hell that Congress will approve
        any of these program expansions. He is not
        that stupid.

        —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

        • Jay
          January 4, 2016 at 11:45

          “So don’t bother to vote Sanders, the better candidate, vote Hilary”.

          PL, Boston MA.

          And I voted 3rd party in both 2008 and 2012.

  13. Lusion
    December 31, 2015 at 20:12

    Not nice to know about Sanders as well:

    “And here is where Sanders greatest equivocation has come. In spite of claims of being antiwar, his “hawkish” support of Clinton’s military actions in the 1999 Kosovo War caused one of his advisors to quit. When antiwar activists occupied Sanders’ office in 1999 because of that support of Clinton’s war policies, he had them arrested.
    In 2001, Sanders did not support the vote in Congress to oppose the war in Afghanistan. Congresswoman Barbara Lee stood alone! This vote was followed by his support for appropriations to support both the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2003 he supported the resolution that gave support to George W. Bush in both Iraq and in the larger war against terrorism, although Sanders has been a critic of the Iraq War.
    Then Sanders supported only a gradual withdrawal from Iraq. When impeachment was on the so-called table against George W. Bush in 2006, he said that impeachment was “impractical.””

    • Zachary Smith
      December 31, 2015 at 21:05

      Good comments, and Mr. Swanson’s essay was an excellent read as well.

      That Mr. Sanders couldn’t condemn the Vietnam fiasco was news to me, and not good news, either.

    • Jay
      January 4, 2016 at 11:16

      And Lusion got caught repeating lies about Sanders below.

      So why would I take anti-Sanders screed linked too seriously.

      What does Lusion expect, that Hillary Clinton would be better in these regards?

  14. Tom W Harris
    December 31, 2015 at 18:52


    • Uncle Sam's comeuppance
      December 31, 2015 at 20:58

      You must have misunderstood? B. Sanders is actually by default against human rights for Palestinians while he is indicating his belief or desire that Israel be allowed to continue committing what is nearly 70 years of war crimes as the Jewish nation.

    • Zachary Smith
      December 31, 2015 at 21:02

      Since the Palestinians are Semites themselves, I believe your post would be better phrased this way:


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