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      What's the Democratic Peace Platform?

      This year’s Democratic primary debate has been dominated by criticism of Hillary Clinton for her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq war, and her general support of regime change. It’s forgotten that Bernie Sanders was for regime change as well. This week Jeremy Scahill, author of Dirty Wars and his new The Assassination Complex, sets the record straight on Democracy Now on Bernie’s earlier involvement in promoting sanctions and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. 

      Scahill told Amy Goodman on May 3rd that Sanders, “has been given a pass,” on these issues. He supports Obama’s kill list. He signed on to the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which mandated Bill Clinton, “To make regime change in Iraq the law of the land.” Sanders “signed on to neoconservative agenda,“ that led straight to, “the most brutal regime of economic sanctions in world history that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.” And so on. 

      Scahill may err at times because of the purity of his stance, but he’s an investigative journalist, not a political organizer. He definitely speaks truth to power, as is his function.

      His perspective only deepens the challenges, intellectual and political, as we enter the endgame of the primary campaign. Scahill criticizes the Democrats for our own defaults on foreign policy. Where to begin with the crucial task of generating an independent and non-sectarian anti-war movement with a presence on the ground in key Congressional districts and races this Fall? 

      First, as Rep. Barbara Lee and President Obama have long insisted, we need a revised Authorization for the Utilization of Military Force (AUMF). There is little chance of that happening this year, even if Obama keeps demanding an authorization for war against ISIS. We are floating in constant wars, running up our deficits, casualty rates, and even military suicides.

      Such an authorization needs to target the “enemy” in question, to avoid the current policy that targets Al Qaida and “associated forces”. Our politics are so paralyzed that war with ISIS is impossible to legalize. This failure leads to the slippery slope. 

      Next, an authorization should limit or bar US ground troops. Despite the rhetoric, thousands of US troops are on the ground anyway, including Special Forces. 

      Third, an authorization will either include a timeline with metrics and reports to Congress or be open-ended, a green light to the permanent doctrine of “the Long War”, which was projected to continue for eighty years just a decade ago.

      History clearly shows that Congress begins to respond when there is an active anti-war movement, as in the 60s and the 80s. But the peace movement today is undermined by fatigue and factionalism, no doubt promoted by agents of domestic counter-insurgency and paid informants. Sectarianism and extremism are toxins, which infect too many activist groups. There are liberal-left institutionalized groups like the NAACP, the immigrant rights organizers, the labor movement, and more, but there is no AFL-CIO or Sierra Club for Peace. The task of rebuilding the peace movement lies ahead, in a time of permanent war.

      Bernie, or his followers, could stimulate a new movement against regime change and nuclear weapons, but there is no sign yet that he intends to. Perhaps he will, if there’s platform agreement on an alternative to regime change.

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      Reader Comments (8)

      i think bernie has been vocal against war. and i am sure he is sorry he voted for any of the stuff you mentioned in the article.

      hillary has always been known to be a hawk, the biggest of the remaining candidates according to the new york times magazine from a couple of weeks ago that included cruz and kasich as well as trump and sanders.
      May 7, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercheryl davis
      Bernie has said he is against endless war, that the people of other countries can take care of their own problems. This indicates at least a bit of respect for other societies. My understanding is that he voted against Bush, Jr.'s Iraq War I wonder if he ever turned against the sanctions regime, which Clinton continued as he did the bombing. Yes to a strong peace movement and there are so many groups today working for peace, but we need a big concerted effort that unites us in one big action.
      One thing not mentioned in your comments is that the dropping of bombs and bursting of bullets destroys the climate: War is Suicide -- and it is NOT painless! The Obama plans for smaller, more usable nukes is insane! and NATO encircling Russia is madness! Lee Loe, TX Grandmother for Bernie & Peace
      May 7, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLee Loe
      This is the Democracy Now! 3 May broadcast Tom refers to:

      Scahill did say what Tom said about Sanders, however, Scahill also said this of Clinton in that interview:

      "JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, you know, first of all, Hillary Clinton is one of the sort of legendary Democratic hawks in modern U.S. history. She’s—you know, she is what I like to call a cruise missile liberal, where—you know, they believe in launching missiles to solve problems and show they’re tough across the globe. Hillary Clinton, while she was secretary of state, really oversaw what amounted to a paramilitarization of some of the State Department’s divisions, and was the main employer of the private contractors that were working on behalf of the U.S. government, and was one of the key people in the horrid destruction that we’re now—in creating the horrid destruction that we’re now seeing in Libya, because of her embrace of regime change. But Hillary Clinton, on these issues, is sort of, you know, an easy target, because she is so open about her militaristic tendencies."

      Also in that Democracy Now! program on 3 May was Glen Greenwald and this is what he said:

      "AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, I’m going to give you the last word on this. You, too, have been writing about these candidates.

      "GLENN GREENWALD: It’s actually kind of amazing there’s nobody with a more adept skill at being able to just selectively concentrate on some things, while ignoring unpleasant things, than the Democratic partisan. I mean, Jeremy is right that Bernie Sanders has been given a pass, but that’s because Democrats have largely chosen to ignore foreign policy as part of the Democratic primary, because they simply don’t care. They only pretend to oppose wars when there’s a Republican in office and doing so can lead to partisan gain. So Hillary goes around the world vowing to get even closer to Netanyahu, to take our relationship with Israel to the next level, refuses even to talk about Palestinians like they’re human. She is responsible for one of the worst disasters of the last five or six years, which is the NATO intervention in Libya, and obviously supports President Obama’s bellicose policies and wants to escalate them. She criticizes him for not being aggressive enough. And yet Democrats just simply pretend none of that exists. They don’t care how many people outside the borders of the United States are killed by a Democratic president. And so Bernie has gotten a pass, unjustifiably, and hasn’t been asked about the things Jeremy described, because Democrats collectively—with some exceptions, but more or less generally—have decided to ignore all of the heinous things that Democrats do outside of the borders of the United States, because paying attention to them reflects so poorly on Hillary, and they just ignore things that reflect poorly on her."

      Given what Scahill and Greenwald said about both Sanders and Clinton, my vote in the California Primary Election still goes to Senator Bernie Sanders.
      May 7, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMargie Bernard
      "But the peace movement today is undermined by . . . factionalism, " Attacking Sanders for his stance on something 18 years ago is an example of factionalism in itself. One wonders what not-so hidden agenda Scahill might have in attacking Sanders and defending Clinton. No one ever said Sanders was perfect. The issue is not the Iraq war then but what his position is now. The wonder is that Sanders has not been more corrupted than that by being in the Congress these many decades. To play with the cards you are dealt. It's not about purity or perfection or ideal. It's a dirty "game" and you have to get your hands dirty to win. Jeremy loves to point the finger to show off his manicured nails.
      May 7, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterANTONIO
      There are many of us in the peace movement who support Bernie as the best choice in the presidential election. He does seem to want to reduce our involvement in the Middle East and concentrate on the struggle with Wall St. and the fossil fuel industry.
      May 7, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMarjorie Boggs
      I don't disagree with your critique of Sanders's stance. Of course, what standing you might have had with the progressive forces at the convention has been greatly diminished by your unfortunate decision to jump ship and back Clinton.
      May 7, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTom Gallagher
      Just back from Dan Berrigan's funeral. Hundreds gathered to celebrate the life of a great man. But most were greying survivors of a once vibrant movement. Many had been arrested because of their civil disobedience against the War machine. Will we see another generation of Truth Sayers? I fear that the proliferation of war has numbed younger generations to its harsh realities. Tom Hayden is a voice in a growing wilderness...
      May 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterThomas F. Lee
      There's no doubt that Bernie's economic agenda is vastly superior to his past and even present stances on the use of military power to resolve issues more effectively dealt with by diplomacy, but he has changed his tune, and while the same could be said of Hillary, there is the lingering suspicion, borne out by her and her husband's pasts, that the conviction is paper thin. Whatever people say about Bernie, one thing they all agree on is that he is more frank and sincere than most politicians, not exactly a high bar to clear, I admit.

      My biggest fear is what will happen when/if we are hit by a terrorist attack before the November elections. No doubt Trump will only double down on his scare tactics, and then, given the Dems past fecklessness when confronted with Repub hyperbole regarding the danger of Islamic terrorism, I expect Hillary to immediately go full Likud in an effort to nullify what would be an area perceived to be Trump's strength. How I long for a national leader to point out that the military might of any and all combined Islamic extremists is less than that of say Columbia.

      The fact is that even as the actual number of Americans who have served is at an all time low, the mindset of this country has never been more militaristic, and that is no coincidence. If the political leaders of this country learned one lesson from Vietnam it was the wrong one, if morality is the measure, and that was to make future wars have as small an impact as possible on the average American by having an all volunteer force, ramp up the use of high tech, god awful expensive weapons to reduce our casualties, make war resemble a video game as much as possible, never increase taxes to pay for it and require nothing from the public other than to go shopping, thank the troops for their service and get all ramped up by the sight of some high tech flying death machine as it soars over the Super Bowl, the crowd below basking in a supposed glow of military might.

      To me, this country seems fatally hooked on militarism. On a recent Lawrence O'Donnell, a talking head, Mitt Romney's former campaign director, I believe, said that Trump would have to bolster his weak area, foreign policy, by appointing someone from the military as a running mate.

      Cry, the beloved country.
      May 8, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermichael nola
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