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.