President Bush’s UN Speech: Idealistic Rhetoric Disguises Sinister Policies

Commentators in the mainstream media seem genuinely perplexed over the polite but notably unenthusiastic reception given to President George W. Bush’s September 21 address before the United Nations General Assembly. Why wasn’t a speech that emphasized such high ideals as democracy, the rule of law, and the threat of terrorism better received?

The answer may be found through a critical examination of the assumptions underlying the idealistic rhetoric of the U.S. president’s message. Below are a number of examples:

“We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace. We know that oppressive governments support terror, while free governments fight the terrorists in their midst.”

Notwithstanding the clear moral preference of democracy over dictatorship, this formula fails to withstand closer scrutiny. There are many dictators in the past and present—-as nasty as they may have been toward their own people—-who have not engaged in acts of aggression against other nations and have not supported terrorists. Furthermore, the United States—-one of the world’s oldest democracies—-has demonstrated through its invasion of Iraq, as well as its earlier invasions of Panama, Grenada, and other countries, that it can certainly be “quick to choose aggression.” Similarly, the decision by the Bush administration a few weeks ago to allow into the country a group of right-wing Cuban exiles who had been implicated in a series of attacks against civilian targets-—including an attempt to set off a series of explosions in a crowded auditorium at a Panamanian university in 1998, and the blowing up of an airliner in Barbados in 1976-—as well as the active U.S. support for the Contra terrorists who attacked civilian targets in Nicaragua during the 1980s—-demonstrate that democracies do indeed allow “terrorists in their midst.”

“We’re determined to prevent proliferation, and to enforce the demands of the world [demanding that nations] fully comply with all Security Council resolutions.”

In reality, U.S. policy is not nearly as categorical as this statement implies. For example, since 1998, India and Pakistan have been in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1172, which calls upon these governments to cease their development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Since 1981, Israel has stood in violation of UN Security Council resolution 487, which calls upon that government to place its nuclear facilities under the trusteeship of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The United States has repeatedly blocked the United Nations from enforcing those resolutions, even as it insisted that Iraqi noncompliance with similar resolutions required that the UN authorize an invasion of that country and the overthrow of its government. It appears that the Bush administration, like preceding Republican and Democratic administrations, is only concerned with UN resolutions regarding nonproliferation if the target of the resolution is a government they don’t like. Such double standards make a mockery of law-based efforts toward non-proliferation, however, and will likely encourage, rather than discourage, regimes to develop weapons of mass destruction.

“The Russian children [in Beslan] did nothing to deserve such awful suffering, and fright, and death. The people of Madrid and Jerusalem and Istanbul and Baghdad have done nothing to deserve sudden and random murder. These acts violate the standards of justice in all cultures, and the principles of all religions. All civilized nations are in this struggle together, and all must fight the murderers.”

All true. Yet the numbers of innocent civilians killed in recent years by American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as by U.S.-armed Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and by U.S.-armed Turkish forces in Kurdistan have far surpassed those killed by all Middle Eastern terrorist groups combined. While a case can certainly be made that the killings of civilians by the United States and its allies was, in most cases, not as wanton as the killings in these terrorist attacks, the callous disregard for civilian lives in many of these military operations did constitute clear violations of international humanitarian law.

“The dictator [Saddam Hussein] agreed in 1991, as a condition of a cease-fire, to fully comply with all Security Council resolutions—-then ignored more than a decade of those resolutions. Finally, the Security Council promised serious consequences for his defiance. And the commitments we make must have meaning. When we say ‘serious consequences,’ for the sake of peace, there must be serious consequences. And so a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the world.”

First of all, the majority of member states that voted in favor of UN Security Council 1441-—which warned of “serious consequences” for continued Iraqi non-compliance-—explicitly stated that this was not an authorization for the use of force and that a subsequent resolution would be needed. The two times in its history that the UN Security Council has authorized the use of military force to enforce its resolution—-in response to the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950 and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990-—such authorization was quite explicit.

Secondly, if one were to accept President Bush’s interpretation of “serious consequences” as simply another term for a foreign invasion of a sovereign nation, it is downright Orwellian to claim that such “serious consequences” must be inflicted “for the sake of peace.”

Finally, at the time the United States launched its invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi government had allowed United Nations inspectors back in with unfettered access to wherever they wanted to go whenever they wanted to, and they were in the process of confirming the fact that Iraq had indeed dismantled, destroyed, or otherwise rendered inoperable its proscribed weapons, delivery systems, and WMD programs. Therefore, the U.S.-led invasion did not “enforce the just demands of the world” since the demands were already being enforced without the use of military force.

“More than 10 million Afghan citizens-—over 4 million of them women-—are now registered to vote in next month’s presidential election. To any who still would question whether Muslim societies can be democratic societies, the Afghan people are giving their answer.”

Currently in Afghanistan, vote-buying, intimidation, and the enormously disproportionate resources allocated to pro-government candidates raise serious questions as to how democratic these upcoming elections will be. Currently, there are more Afghan males registered to vote than there are eligible Afghan male voters; duplicate voting cards are commonplace and can be sold on the open market. The regime, which lacks solid control of much of the country outside the capital of Kabul, was largely hand-picked by the United States. The ongoing violence and chaos in the country, along with extremely high rates of illiteracy, raise serious questions as to whether the Western-style election the United States is trying to set up will have any credibility among the Afghans themselves.

No one should question whether Muslim societies can be democratic societies. However, Afghanistan under U.S. domination is no more a model of a democratic society than Afghanistan under Soviet domination 20 years ago was a model of a socialist society.

“A democratic Iraq has ruthless enemies, because terrorists know the stakes in that country. They know that a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a decisive blow against their ambitions for that region.”

This assumes that the armed resistance in Iraq is not because a Western power invaded and occupied their country, failed to provide basic services and security, sold off key sectors of their economy to foreigners, and installed a puppet regime, but simply because its members don’t want democracy. It also fails to explain why when other Middle Eastern states have taken even further steps toward democracy than Iraq, there has not been this kind of terror. Indeed, the opposite is true: For example, there was virtually no terrorism when Algeria democratized its political system in the late 1980s, but then saw an enormous rise in terrorism after a military coup short-circuited its democratic experiment at the end of 1991.

“Coalition forces now serving in Iraq are confronting the terrorists and foreign fighters, so peaceful nations around the world will never have to face them within our own borders.”

First of all, well over 90% of the fighting is by U.S. forces, hardly a “coalition.”

Secondly, there are indeed terrorists among the dozen or more opposition groups in Iraq, but the majority of the armed opposition has been targeting U.S. occupation forces, not civilians, and therefore should not be considered terrorists. Similarly, there are foreign fighters among them, but most credible sources put the percentage of foreigners in the various resistance groups—-terrorist and otherwise-—at well under 5%.

Thirdly, this idea that if the United States withdrew, these terrorists would suddenly leave Iraq and start attacking the United States and other countries is specious. This is simply a retread of the rationalization used during the Vietnam War that “if we don’t fight them over there, we’ll have to fight them here.” Despite the U.S. withdrawal and the Communist victory nearly 30 years ago, the Vietnamese have yet to attack the United States. The Vietnamese stopped killing Americans when American forces got out of Vietnam. One can similarly assume that the Iraqis will stop killing Americans when American forces get out of Iraq.

“For too long, many nations, including my own, tolerated, even excused, oppression in the Middle East in the name of stability. Oppression became common, but stability never arrived. We must take a different approach. We must help the reformers of the Middle East as they work for freedom, and strive to build a community of peaceful, democratic nations.”

These are noble words, but the reality of U.S. policy is very different: Under the Bush administration, U.S. military aid, police training, and financial assistance to Middle Eastern governments that engage in patterns of gross and systematic human rights violations has dramatically increased. Since the Bush administration came to office, thousands of reformers have been jailed, tortured, and murdered by governments supported by the United States.

“This commitment to democratic reform is essential to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, tolerate corruption, and maintain ties to terrorist groups. The long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true leaders capable of creating and governing a free and peaceful Palestinian state.”

This statement assumes that if Palestinian President Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian Authority cleaned up their act, Israel would allow the creation of a viable Palestinian state, which is the key requisite for peace. In reality, the right-wing Israeli government of Ariel Sharon, with the support of the United States, has embarked upon a plan to annex nearly half of the occupied territories and divide up the remainder into small, non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel, where the Israelis would control the borders, the airspace, the ports, and the water resources. This will clearly make the establishment of a viable Palestinian state impossible, whatever the nature of the Palestinian leadership. Israel—-again, with U.S. support-—has also rejected consideration of withdrawal from occupied Syrian territory, despite promises by the Damascus government of strict security guarantees.

It is important to remember that Kuwait’s rulers during the early 1990s also intimidated opposition, tolerated corruption, and maintained ties to terrorist groups. That did not stop the United States, along with the rest of the international community, from demanding that Iraq end its occupation of that country. There are no such U.S. demands, however, that Israel end its occupation.

Is Kerry Really More Open than Bush to Alternative Foreign Policy Perspectives?

Some progressive supporters of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry have argued that, despite his support for the invasion of Iraq and other neoconservative-driven foreign policies of the Bush Administration, at least a President Kerry – unlike the incumbent president – would be more willing to listen to the views of those with more moderate perspectives than himself.

A President Kerry, so goes this argument, while likely to take a number of foreign policy positions more hawkish than most Democrats could support, would at least be more open to hearing a number of competing assessments and policy options before choosing military solutions to foreign policy problems.

Unfortunately, while a President Kerry would almost certainly be less ideological and impulsive than President George W. Bush in formulating his foreign policy, there are a number of areas in which the Massachusetts senator appears to be just as unwilling to listen to alternative viewpoints regarding foreign affairs as the incumbent president.

Take Senator Kerry’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example:

Kerry shares the Bush administration’s support for the policies of the rightist Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. He has defended the Israeli re-occupation of much of the West Bank; Israel’s ongoing violation of a series of UN Security Council resolutions; Sharon’s refusal to even negotiate for a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinian leadership; Israel’s policy of assassinating suspected terrorists and other Palestinian leaders; Sharon’s proposed annexation of vast stretches of occupied Palestinian territory in order to incorporate illegal Jewish settlements into Israel; and, the Israeli government’s construction of an illegal separation wall deep inside occupied territory (in defiance of a recent near-unanimous ruling by the International Court of Justice, which led Kerry to strongly criticize the UN’s judicial body.)

As a result, the Kerry campaign has opened its door wide to right-wing Zionist groups that share his and Bush’s support for the illegal and repressive occupation policies of the current rightist Israeli government, with Kerry and his top foreign policy advisors meeting regularly with their representatives. By contrast, despite numerous efforts by moderate and liberal pro-Israel groups such as the Tikkun Community, Churches for Middle East Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, and others to meet with the candidate or his leading staffers, the Kerry campaign has completely shut them out.

The sad reality appears to be that Kerry is not interested in even hearing the perspectives of the large and growing numbers of Israel’s American supporters – both Jewish and non-Jewish – who recognize that not only are Sharon’s policies toward the Palestinians illegal and immoral, they threaten Israel’s long-term security interests as well.

Even leading progressive Zionists like Rabbi Michael Lerner – one of America’s foremost intellectuals – have been systematically denied any access to Kerry or the leadership of the campaign.

By contrast, even the hawkish Bill Clinton was appreciative enough of Lerner’s counsel to have invited him personally to the White House on a number of occasions. The Clintons’ respect for Lerner’s 1996 book The Politics of Meaning and other writings was significant enough to lead the press to refer to the rabbi as President Clinton’s “spiritual advisor.”

(For more than six months, I have personally attempted, through both established channels and back channels, to secure a meeting between a group of anti-Sharon but pro-Israel intellectuals – including myself, Rabbi Lerner, Cornell West (the noted African-American studies professor at Princeton University), and Susannah Herschel (director of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College), among others – with either Senator Kerry or any influential Kerry staffer knowledgeable of foreign affairs. As with similar efforts by progressive Zionists and others, however, my appeals have been consistently ignored.)

In other words, Kerry and his foreign policy team apparently have no desire to even listen to those who may have an alternative perspective to the Democratic nominee’s strident support for the right-wing pro-Likud agenda.

And taking such neoconservative views does not help Kerry’s election chances: Public opinion polls show that the views of the majority of American Jews are far closer to Lerner’s than they are to Sharon’s.

Kerry, unfortunately, appears to be just as unwilling to consider alternative perspectives on Iraq as he does Israel-Palestine.

The Democratic presidential nominee refused to challenge, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Bush Administration’s claims in 2002 and early 2003 that Iraq was such a serious and growing threat to American national security that it required a pre-emptive U.S. invasion to overthrow the Iraqi government and replace it with one more to our liking.

In the lead-up to the October 2002 Congressional vote authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Kerry steadfastly refused to listen to numerous appeals by independent strategic analysts, former UN inspectors, independent arms control experts, former State Department officials, retired military officers, and others who insisted that Iraq was not a threat to the United States and that it was a bad idea to grant President Bush the authority to invade Iraq at whatever time and under whatever conditions he chose.

Kerry was also given documentation from the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as articles from well-respected arms control journals and other sources, demonstrating that Iraq’s nuclear program had been totally eliminated some years earlier and that – as a result of the strict sanctions regime then in place for the previous twelve years – it would have been virtually impossible for Iraq to reconstitute its program any time in the foreseeable future.

(I understand that a number of my analyses on Iraq published by the Foreign Policy in Focus Project in the spring and summer of 2002 were passed on to the senator and his foreign policy staff. In these non-technical briefs, I raised serious questions as to whether Iraq actually still had any remaining functional weapons of mass destruction, ongoing WMD programs, or workable delivery systems that could threaten its neighbors, let alone the United States.)

Despite this, Kerry stood on the floor of the U.S. Senate that October to defend President Bush’s wild assertions of an imminent Iraqi threat, not only claiming categorically that “Iraq has chemical and biological weapons” and that most of their programs were “larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War,” but that “all U.S. intelligence experts agree” that Iraq was “attempting to develop nuclear weapons.”

During that summer, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on Iraq’s alleged military threat for which only witnesses who would claim that Iraq was somehow a danger to U.S. national security were invited. Kerry – one of the senior Democrats on the committee – ignored thousands of phone calls and emails encouraging him to use his influence to invite experts who would challenge the neocons’ claims that Iraq had a dangerous and growing stockpile of weapons of mass destruction and sophisticated delivery systems.

It appears, then, that Senator Kerry, no less than President Bush, simply did not want dissenting views to be heard.

Similarly, scores of copies of my September 30 cover story in The Nation magazine “The Case against War with Iraq” were sent to Kerry’s office. A number of copies were personally placed in the hands of his foreign policy staff and even the senator himself. In that article, I predicted that “a US invasion could leave American forces effectively alone attempting to enforce a peace amid the chaos of a post-Saddam Iraq,” and that the United States could find itself stuck in a “bloody counterinsurgency war” against “ongoing guerrilla action by Saddam Hussein’s supporters” as well as by various Sunni and Shiite factions.

Still, just two weeks later, Kerry voted in favor of a resolution granting unprecedented war-making authority to a fraudulently-elected, right-wing, semi-literate, religious fundamentalist president in order for him to lead a U.S. takeover of that oil-rich country.

Despite the denials of his supporters, Kerry either knew or refused ample opportunity to learn that Iraq no longer had any weapons of mass destruction, ongoing WMD programs, or delivery systems that seriously threatened other countries.

Similarly, Kerry either knew or refused ample opportunity to learn that a U.S. invasion of Iraq – particularly under the leadership of the Bush Administration – would likely lead U.S. forces into the heart of just the kind of violent chaotic mess they are now in.

Kerry appears to have not learned from his mistakes. One would think that after people like me, former chief UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter, and so many others tried to warn the senator and his staff that the Bush Administration’s case for war was incredibly misleading and the results of a U.S. invasion of Iraq would be disastrous we might now be welcomed by Kerry’s team to advise them on how to avoid making such tragic mistakes in the future.

We continue to be completely shut out, however.

Similarly, one would think that Senator Kerry – after noting the total absence of the WMDs, WMD programs and delivery systems that he and the White House insisted Iraq possessed in the months leading up to the U.S. invasion – might be more skeptical of claims by these same neoconservatives within the Bush Administration of alleged strategic threats by Middle Eastern adversaries.

Such an assumption would, unfortunately, be wrong as well:

For example, this past fall, Kerry was one of the Senate co-sponsors of the neoconservative-backed Syria Accountability Act. Among the formal findings in Kerry’s bill justifying its imposition of sanctions and implicit military threats against Syria were alarmist and grossly exaggerated estimates of Syria’s alleged military prowess made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton. These two leading Bush Administration officials made similarly alarmist and inaccurate estimates about Iraq’s alleged military threat in the lead-up to the war, which had been shown to have been inaccurate well before the final version of Kerry’s anti-Syria bill was introduced. Yet, by deciding to leave these claims in the text of the legislation, Kerry appears to continue to trust the analyses of these neo-conservative ideologues more than he does those of independent non-partisan strategic analysts.

As a result, his pledge during his nomination acceptance speech in Boston this July that he would “ask hard questions and demand hard evidence” on alleged security threats should probably not be trusted.

Similarly, as these examples illustrate, one must be skeptical of claims that Kerry will be more likely to listen to those with more moderate to progressive foreign policy views or even those who just raise skeptical questions about alleged outside threats.

In short, not only does the Democratic presidential nominee share President Bush’s penchant for unilateralism, the undermining of international legal institutions, the support of occupation armies, and the imposition of military solutions to complex political problems, Kerry appears to be decidedly reluctant to even consider reasoned and credible analyses that might challenge militaristic ideological assumptions that the way to defend America’s security interests is through the support of invasion, occupation and repression.

The way to respond to this rather pessimistic analysis, however, is rather straightforward:

We must force John Kerry to listen to other perspectives.

One way to do this would be for millions of Democrats who oppose Kerry’s refusal to hear challenges to right-wing wing foreign policy views to threaten to vote for independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, Libertarian Party nominee Michael Badnarik, or the nominee of some small leftist party. The risks of losing enough such voters to give Bush a plurality and therefore all the electors in some key states might force Kerry to widen the base of foreign policy advisors and soften his hardline views.

The dangers of such a strategy, however, are obvious.

A second and perhaps more appropriate way would be to support Kerry’s election, but should he be elected in November immediately demand that he appoint to his foreign policy transition team, as well as to key positions in the State Department and the National Security Council, a more diverse group than just those who share his militaristic views regarding the Middle East, human rights, international law, and America’s role in the world. He must also know that any failure to do so will not only result in protests at least as large as those which have challenged the current administration, but an awareness that people of conscience throughout the county will not support his re-election in 2008 unless and until he changes these policies.

Those of us who support human rights and international law and who oppose reckless unilateral military intervention overseas cannot reasonably expect that Kerry will always take positions with which we agree. However, we do have a right to demand that he at least provide people like us the opportunity to share our perspectives and take them into consideration.

How Kerry’s Foreign Policies Leave Him Vulnerable to Republican Attacks

The only people who could possibly be swayed by the unfair and misleading attacks on Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry put forward by speakers at the Republican National Convention (particularly Vice-President Dick Cheney and Georgia Senator Zell Miller) would be those with little understanding of contemporary strategic issues and modern diplomatic history.

Unfortunately, that probably includes the majority of eligible American voters.

Whether or not such disingenuous criticism will ultimately cost John Kerry and his running mate John Edwards the election remains to be seen. More immediately, however, it is indicative of the flawed assumption of the Democratic Party that nominating two hawks (whose support for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq put them at odds with 95% of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention) would somehow make them immune from Republican charges of weakness on defense.

Instead, by nominating two supporters of the Bush Doctrine and the neo-conservative agenda, the Democrats have ended up alienating their base without sparing themselves one iota from Republican attacks.

Let’s begin by a critical examination of charges that Senator Kerry is not adequately concerned about the national security of the United States or capable of defending the nation.

The Republican Accusations

Cheney: “Senator Kerry began his political career by saying he would like to see our troops deployed ‘only at the directive of the United Nations.'”

Miller: “Senator Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations.”

During Kerry’s unsuccessful bid for a seat in the House of Representatives in 1972, he made the quite reasonable proposal that (since the UN Charter provides for collective security and allows for unilateral actions only in the event of self-defense against armed attack) any foreign military intervention should be authorized by the UN Security Council. Contrary to the vice-president’s allegations, he did not object to the forward deployment of American forces as a deterrent, such as U.S. forces in Western Europe as part of NATO, nor of the use of military force for legitimate defense.

Kerry has since swung well to the right, however, effectively renouncing the UN Charter through his support of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and for Israel’s colonization and creeping annexation of the occupied West Bank. Indeed, Kerry voted to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq without approval by the UN Security Council.

Miller: “As a war protestor, Kerry blamed our military.”

In his days as an anti-war veteran during the Vietnam War, Kerry never blamed the military for that tragedy, but focused his opposition on the civilian politicians who sent American troops to fight there.

Unfortunately, during his presidential campaign, Kerry has emphasized his participation in that unnecessary, criminal and misguided counter-insurgency war rather than his subsequent moral and pragmatic opposition. More saliently, he is an outspoken supporter of the current unnecessary, criminal and misguided counter-insurgency war and, as president, is likely to continue prosecuting that war years to come.

Cheney: “He talks about leading a ‘more sensitive war on terror,’ as though Al Qaeda will be impressed with our softer side.

What Kerry actually said was that the United States needs to be more sensitive regarding the concerns of our Middle Eastern allies and the international community. President Bush had made a similar statement just a few months earlier.

Unfortunately, Kerry’s support for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and Israel’s occupation policies in the West Bank has placed him in opposition to virtually every U.S. ally in the region, not to mention in Europe and the rest of the world as well.

Cheney: “During the 1980s, Senator Kerry opposed Ronald Reagan’s major defense initiatives that brought victory in the Cold War.”

Kerry, along with dozens of other senators from both parties, opposed some expensive weapons systems which most objective strategic analysts saw as unnecessary for America’s defense needs. The U.S. military buildup had nothing to do with the end of the Cold War, which resulted from the collapse of the unsustainable Communist systems of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies goaded on by nonviolent grassroots pro-democracy movements within these countries.

Kerry has since moved well to the right on this issue as well, becoming an outspoken supporter (despite record deficits and pressing domestic needs) of increased military spending, backing expensive and redundant weapons systems that have nothing to do with the struggle against Al-Qaeda.

Cheney: “In 1991, when Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait and stood poised to dominate the Persian Gulf, Senator Kerry voted against Operation Desert Storm.”

This statement assumes that the only choices were either acquiescing to Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait or launching a devastating war, which was hardly the case. Kerry joined scores of senators from both parties in voting against the authorization of force, recognizing correctly that then-President George Bush was not serious about pursuing a non-military resolution to the crisis.

The Gulf War and ongoing U.S. military presence in the region that resulted was the major factor in the formation of Al-Qaeda, turning Osama bin Laden from a U.S. ally to its most notorious adversary. Had there not been a Gulf War, there would not have been a 9/11.

Unfortunately, rather than trumpet his wisdom in recognizing the importance of voting against an avoidable war which resulted in such disastrous consequences, Kerry now says he regrets his vote against the war and that President Bush was right all along.

Cheney: “Senator Kerry denounces American action when other countries don’t approve as if the whole object of our foreign policy were to please a few persistent critics. In fact, in the global war on terror, . . . President Bush has brought many allies to our side. But as the President has made very clear, there is a difference between leading a coalition of many, and submitting to the objections of a few. George W. Bush will never seek a permission slip to defend the American people.”

Miller: “Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending.”

Kerry has never claimed nor given any indication that he believes that “the whole object of our foreign policy were to please a few persistent critics.” The invasion of Iraq was a direct violation of the United Nations Charter, which (as a ratified treaty, according to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution) is to be treated as supreme U.S. law. This act of aggression was opposed by the vast majority of the world’s nations, not just “a few persistent critics.”

Secondly, the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with “the global war on terror.” Iraq had no operational links with Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group that had targeted the United States.

Thirdly, the government of France has never demonstrated any desire to prevent the United States from defending itself. France did threaten to veto a UN Security Council resolution which would have authorized a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but so did Russia and China, also permanent members of the Security Council. Non-permanent members Chile, Mexico, Guinea, Angola, Syria, Colombia, Pakistan, and Germany did not support the resolution either, thereby denying the United States a majority even without the vetoes.

Fourthly, the Democratic Party platform explicitly states, “With John Kerry as commander-in-chief, we will never wait for a green light from abroad when our safety is at stake.”

In any case, the fact that Kerry voted to authorize this illegal and unnecessary war and defends his vote to this day shows that he and the Democrats have as much contempt for international law and international opinion as does the Bush Administration and the Republicans.

Cheney: “Although he voted to authorize force against Saddam Hussein, he then decided he was opposed to the war, and voted against funding for our men and women in the field. He voted against body armor, ammunition, fuel, spare parts, armored vehicles, extra pay for hardship duty, and support for military families.”

Miller: “As a Senator, he voted to weaken our military. And nothing shows that more sadly and more clearly than his vote this year to deny protective armor for our troops in harms way, far-away.”

Unfortunately, not only did Kerry support the invasion of Iraq, he has continued to defend the war and occupation, he has supported using billions of our tax dollars to fund it, and he has repeatedly stated he will not withdraw U.S. forces if elected. Kerry did, on procedural grounds, vote against the administration’s bill allocating $87 billion to U.S. occupation forces. Kerry instead backed an amendment which would have sent just as much money to support the U.S. occupation and bloody counter-insurgency efforts (including protective armor), only the funds would be drawn from a reduction in tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans rather than by simply increasing the federal budget deficit, as did the administration’s version.

Accepting Republican Assumptions Leaves Kerry Vulnerable

Kerry has become vulnerable to Republican attacks because he agrees with the Republicans on their basic foreign policy assumptions. This is particularly evident regarding his opposition to certain Pentagon boondoggles and other excessive military spending.

Senator Miller, in his speech at the Republican convention, attacked Kerry for opposing funding for the B-1 and B-2 bombers because of their key role in the U.S. assault on Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. This would be a valid criticism only if you believe that massive high-altitude bombing of an impoverished central Asian nation is the most effective means of dealing with a decentralized Saudi-led international network of underground terrorist cells. Kerry, unfortunately, has refused to challenge this assumption.

Miller’s criticism of Kerry’s opposition to the F-14A Tomcat program because of the jet fighter’s role in attacking Libyan planes in the Gulf of Sidra during the 1980s assumes that the Reagan Administration’s reckless military engagements with that North African country were necessary and unavoidable. Kerry has also refused to question that assumption.

Miller’s criticism of Kerry’s opposition to the Patriot Missile “that shot down Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles over Israel” not only ignores the fact that subsequent investigations revealed the Patriot worked less than 10% of the time, but the Iraqi strikes against Israel took place only because the United States had launched a war against Iraq. Again, if Kerry had maintained his opposition to the Gulf War or bothered to point out the technical failures of the Patriot system, such criticisms could not be taken seriously.

Miller’s criticism of Kerry’s opposition of the Apache helicopter, “that . . . took out those Republican Guard tanks in Kuwait in the Gulf War” not only fails to note that Saddam Hussein withdraw virtually all of his Republican Guard units from Kuwait prior to Operation Desert Storm, it assumes that the Gulf War was necessary, something that Kerry now refuses to question.

In short, the most successful way for the Democrats to defend attacks questioning their nominees’ commitment to the national security of the United States is to challenge the Republicans’ distorted notions of what national security entails. Kerry and Edwards, however, have failed to do so.


Indeed, Kerry is arguably the Democrats’ most right-wing militaristic presidential nominee since James K. Polk. Kerry’s vote authorizing the illegal, unnecessary and disastrous invasion of Iraq (which he defends to this day), his calls for increased military spending (despite the end of the Cold War), his denunciation of the International Court of Justice (for its July decision reiterating the obligation of UN member states to enforce international humanitarian law), and his strident support for the rightist Israeli government’s illegal colonization and creeping annexation of the occupied West Bank (despite the opposition of such policies by most Israelis and American Jews) has alienated millions of liberal, progressive and moderate voters who, as a result, may vote for independent candidate Ralph Nader or stay at home on Election Day.

In other words, despite nominating a decorated combat veteran who takes positions on human rights, international law, and presidential war-making authority far to the right of the vast majority of Democrats and independents, the Republicans will still question the Democratic nominee’s willingness to defend the country.

There is an important lesson here: those who argue that the Democrats cannot take more moderate positions on foreign and military policy without being subjected to Republican attacks are simply wrong. For despite Kerry’s enthusiastic embrace of the Bush Doctrine and his militaristic world view, he is being attacked anyway.

If the Democrats are going to win, they will have to redefine national security by boldly challenging the assumptions (currently embraced by Kerry and Edwards) that effectively renouncing the United Nations Charter, authorizing the invasion and occupation of foreign countries, backing international outlaws like Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, supporting dictatorships from Egypt to Uzbekistan, and spending more on the military than the entire rest of the world combined somehow makes us more secure.

For if the Democrats’ surrender these key assumptions, it would appear that the Republicans are right and Bush and Cheney should indeed be re-elected. However, if the Democrats are willing to publicly recognize how dangerous these assumptions are, then the importance of preventing a Republican victory in November would become obvious to the vast majority of Americans who care about our nation’s defense.