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Critics of Gravel: "He's a foil for the Democrats."
The socialists would have us reject the Democrats totally, not a bad idea. So, one hears that in their criticism of Sen. Gravel,
"...Illinois Senator Barack Obama said he had opposed the war from the start and then attempted to justify his repeated votes to fund it as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and more than 3,300 US soldiers have been killed. He claimed that the troops needed the best military hardware possible in order to “come home safely.” In reality, Congress has the power to assure the safe return of the troops by cutting off funding, something the Democratic leadership refuses to do.
Representative Dennis Kucinich pointed out this anomaly, saying every time the Democrats voted to fund the war they were “reauthorizing the war all over again.” The Democrats, he said, “have the power to end the war right now, and that’s what we should do.” Criticizing the Senate war-spending bill, Kucinich said he had proposed a bill that called for the United Nations to provide peacekeepers and security forces that “will move in as our troops leave.”
Gravel—a Vietnam-era senator who opposed the Nixon administration on the military draft and the war—also denounced the war-spending bill, saying he was “embarrassed” by what was going on in Congress. Because Bush is determined to continue the war, the Democrats should pass a law, he said, making it a “felony” to keep the troops in Iraq.
Neither Kucinich nor Gravel enjoys any support from the Democratic Party leadership, let alone from the Wall Street investors and other corporate backers who are pouring millions of dollars into the campaigns of the top contenders. Nevertheless, they play a central role in fostering illusions that the pro-war and pro-big business Democratic Party can be pressured to stop the war and defend the interests of working people. Kucinich in particular presents himself as the “voice of conscience” in the Democratic Party and living proof that there is an antiwar, progressive faction within it.
In the 2004 elections, the Ohio congressman also sought the party’s presidential nomination. After the Democratic Party leadership smothered the Howard Dean campaign—around which significant antiwar sentiment had gathered—it took measures to suppress antiwar opposition within the party and to make sure the elections were not turned into a referendum on Iraq. This campaign culminated in the nomination of a pro-war candidate—Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Kucinich immediately dropped his campaign and called for “unity” behind Kerry, thus attempting to confine the opposition to the war tightly within the borders of a pro-war party.
Earlier this week Kucinich introduced three articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney for the campaign of lies about WMDs and Iraqi-al-Qaeda ties that was used to justify the war against Iraq, as well as similar fabrications used to prepare another war against Iran. These are indeed grounds for impeaching Cheney. However, there is zero support for this within the Democratic Party leadership, which is averse to any serious struggle that might bring masses of working people into a political confrontation with the Bush administration. For that reason, when the debate moderator asked for a show of hands from the Democratic candidates on who supported Kucinich’s action against Cheney, not one hand was raised.
In the end, Kucinich and Gravel functioned as foils during the debate so that the leading Democratic contenders could re-assert their commitment to defending the interests of corporate America with military force. This point was noted by the Washington Post, which said that Kucinich and Gravel “provided a counterpoint of left-wing ideas that drew rebukes for a lack of seriousness from Biden and Obama. The challenges from the liberal flank allowed almost all the others to assert that, despite their criticisms of President Bush’s Iraq policy, they are ready to use military force to retaliate against future terrorist attacks.”
Fully embracing the “global war on terrorism,” the leading Democratic candidates singled out as potential future targets of US military action not only Iran and North Korea, but also Russia and China. Biden also specifically raised the possibility of intervening in Darfur, which leading Democratic think tanks hope will be a launching point for defending US interest in Africa, while at the same time selling it to the American people as a “good, humanitarian” war.
Kucinich pointed out that Obama and Clinton had told pro-Israeli lobby groups that “all options were on the table with Iran” and that this was a thinly-veiled threat to use nuclear weapons. Obama justified his remarks by saying a nuclear-armed Iran “will be a major threat to us and to the region.” Calling Iran “the largest state sponsor of terrorism” because of its support for Hezbollah and Hamas, Obama repeated the same threats made by Bush and Cheney in the run-up to the war with Iraq, saying Iran could “place a nuclear weapon into the hands of terrorists,” posing a “profound security threat for America.”
Gravel pointed out that the US has carried out sanctions against Iran for 26 years, while constantly threatening the country with military strikes. “Tell me, Barack,” he said, “who do you want to nuke?” Obama shrugged the question off, responding, “I’m not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike, I promise you.”
Biden was even more forceful, calling on Kucinich and Gravel to “stop all this happy talk here about the use of force doesn’t make sense. The use of force in Afghanistan is justified and necessary; in Darfur, justified and necessary; in the Balkans, justified and necessary. You guys can have your happy talk, there’s real life.”
The debate made clear that the Democrats’ chief criticism of the war in Iraq is that it has placed an enormous strain on the fighting capacity of the US military and diverted attention from other threats to US interests throughout the world. The plan for “strategic redeployment” advocated by the Democratic candidates is aimed at maintaining colonial control in Iraq—by waging a bloody counter-insurgency with fewer troops, primarily US Special Forces and the Air Force—and freeing up troops for Afghanistan and interventions in other global hot spots.
This support for militarism stems from the fact that the Democratic Party speaks for the same financial oligarchy as the Republicans. This truth was reiterated throughout the debate, as Clinton, Obama and Edwards went out of their way to praise the multi-millionaire and multi-billionaire hedge fund managers and Wall Street speculators who have enriched themselves at the expense of the great mass of working people. Clinton praised the people willing to invest their money in the “free market system” and the “entrepreneurial economy,” many of whom have poured some of that money into her multi-million-dollar campaign war chest..."
I have questions about Kucinich. Would he ask us to support the Democratic war profiteers against the republican war profiteers. The devil you know is better than...?
Would Sen. Gravel do the same kind of thing? Should this even worry us at the moment? I think if that would be their strategy, fall back position, would that influence how effective they could be in the campaign lead up?
Isn't that what a foil would do, provide token opposition?
I'm not saying Sen, Gravel would do such a thing. But, we have to wonder.
The socialists point out that there is no support for the antiwar position in the Democratic party leadership. This is true,, I suppose. I can believe it, at least. But, does that make any difference? I'm sure there was no support in the Democratic Party leadership for opposition to the Viet nam war either.
I think it does make a difference whether the particular candidate is supported by a party that would help get the candidate's policies enacted. A socialist party President without a socialist power in the Congress would be as impotent as a Gravel or Kucinich in the White House without support from enough of Congress.
I don't know what the socialists are offering at the moment, so they are really offering no better option at the moment.