Stephen Zunes : Democratic Party Foreign Policy
The capitulation of the Democratic Party’s congressional leadership to the Bush administration’s request for nearly $100 billion of unconditional supplementary government spending, primarily to support the war in Iraq, has led to outrage throughout the country. In the Senate, 37 of 49 Democrats voted on May 24 to support the measure. In the House, while only 86 of the 231 Democratic House members voted for the supplemental funding, 216 of them voted in favor of an earlier procedural vote designed to move the funding bill forward even though it would make the funding bill’s passage inevitable (while giving most of them a chance to claim they voted against it).
Israelis from across the political spectrum, emboldened by the interim report from the government’s Winograd Commission, which investigated Israel’s ill-fated assault on Lebanon, are expressing regrets over last summer’s conflict with their northern neighbor. Uproar over the way a relatively minor border incident managed to escalate into a full-scale war is leading to demands for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s resignation and other top government officials are under pressure or stepping down.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has already assumed front-runner status for the Democratic Party nomination for president despite a foreign policy agenda that closely parallels that of the Bush administration.
With power comes responsibility. Once they take over both houses of Congress on January 3, the Democrats will have the responsibility to get American troops out of Iraq as soon as practicable.
On January 4, Congressional Democrats re-elected California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi as minority leader in the House of Representatives. This comes despite that, since assuming her current leadership position two years ago, Pelosi has not only disappointed her liberal San Francisco constituency, but the majority of Democrats nationally as well, through her support for President George W. Bush’s policies toward Iraq.
Back in December of 2002, as independent strategic analysts were arguing that the evidence strongly suggested that Iraq had rid itself of its chemical and biological weapons some years earlier, Pelosi categorically declared on NBC”s Meet the Press that “Saddam Hussein certainly has chemical and biological weapons. There”s no question about that.
The overwhelming selection of Nevada Senator Harry Reid as minority leader of Congress’ upper house shows that the Democrats are still willing to give their backing for the Bush administration’s reckless militarism and contravention of international legal norms.
Against the backdrop of ongoing death and destruction in Iraq as a result of the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation, the Democratic Party formally adopted its 2004 platform on July 28 at its convention in Boston. The platform focused more on foreign policy than it had in recent years. It represented an opportunity to challenge the Republican administration’s unprecedented and dangerous departure from the post-World War II international legal consensus forbidding aggressive wars as well as a means with which to offer a clear alternative to the Bush Doctrine.
The moment images of Saddam Hussein’s capture flashed across TV screens around the world, John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman jumped on the opportunity to lash out at Howard Dean for not supporting the war on Iraq, even as they congratulated the Bush White House for a job well done.
It was not, however, the first time that the two Democratic candidates have attacked the former Vermont governor for being too “liberal” on foreign policy. Nor is Iraq the only issue where the Democratic leadership — and its anointed heirs — have revealed an unmistakably rightwing agenda.
It is a less-known fact that when it comes to the Israel/Palestinian issue, the Democratic establishment is virtually indistinguishable from the Bush administration.
On Jan. 29, Israeli voters will face perhaps the most crucial vote in their nation’s history, between the right-wing incumbent prime minister Ariel Sharon of the Likud Bloc and the more moderate Amram Mitzna from the Labor Alignment.
This should have been the Democrats’ year.
The country is still mired in recession. Polls consistently have shown that the Republicans’ positions on such basic policy issues as the environment and the economy are decidedly unpopular. The connection of top administration officials with scandal-plagued corporations provided ample opportunities for a populist message against corruption and in support of economic justice.