portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting united states

corporate dominance | imperialism & war | labor a13 bush/kerry visits

Bush, Kerry and the occupation of Iraq

The workers are the real force that can fight imperialism and war. But for workers to be an effective anti-war force, we must not only fight Bush's unilateral imperialism, but Kerry's multilateral imperialism as well.
WORKERS ARE FED UP WITH THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ, BUSH AND KERRY SUPPORT IT

Workers in the US are increasingly fed up with the occupation of Iraq. They are seeing past the flag-waving rhetoric and lies of the Bush administration. They are looking into the real motive behind the Iraqi war, protecting US domination in that oil-rich region, the Persian Gulf. They have seen the torture at Abu Ghraib and the suffering of the Iraqi masses under the occupation. American workers have seen over ten thousand of their own sons and daughters killed or wounded. And there is no end in sight for this nightmare.

While there aren't many anti-war demonstrations at the moment, there are clear signs of anti-war sentiment. Networks of worker-activists in the trade unions and workplaces have been carrying out anti-war organizing. Anti-war resolutions have been passed by many local unions. And this June, delegates to the conventions of two large national unions, AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) and SEIU (Service Employees International Union) passed resolutions critical of the occupation. The AFSCME resolution called for immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

Worker disgust with the occupation is also reflected in the fact that a few unions are pushing for a "million worker march" in October despite opposition from the president of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney. This march has gotten support from several other unions including the NEA (National Education Association).

But the anti-war resolutions at the union conventions bring to the fore a glaring contradiction. Despite the anti-war resolutions, the leaders of these unions are mobilizing the workers to become foot soldiers for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Yet Kerry favors continuing the bloody occupation.

Kerry quibbles with Bush only over how to carry the war out better. But the Democrats, like the Republicans, are a party of the rich. As a party of the capitalists and the multinational corporations, they are obligated to defend the imperialist empire in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. In contrast, the workers' interests lie in an immediate end to the occupation. Our interest lies in fighting that class force, the capitalists, which backs imperialism and which finances the Democratic Party.

Kerry and the occupation

What would a Kerry administration actually do about Iraq? Both Kerry and Edwards voted for Bush's Iraq war. They merely whine that Bush botched things up. They claim that they, unlike Bush, could get support from other imperialist powers like France, Germany and Russia so the US would not have to go it alone. These countries would then share the burden of casualties in occupying Iraq. In other words, the working class youth of these countries would also be killed and maimed alongside US troops.

Indeed, Kerry would enlist the other big powers so that the US occupation could last indefinitely. True, he chides Bush for not having "a realistic plan to win the peace and bring our troops home. " But what's his plan? In the July 4 Washington Post Kerry argues that "Our goal should be an alliance commitment to deploy a major portion of the peacekeeping force that will be needed in Iraq for a long time to come. " As Kerry puts it, what's needed is "an expanded international security force, preferably with NATO, but clearly under US command. " (April 30 speech in Fulton, MO) In the same speech, Kerry declares we should be ready to send more US troops to Iraq.

Kerry's speech also warned European imperialism that "Iraq's failure could endanger the security of their oil supplies. " So according to Kerry, control of oil resources is what's at stake.

Given Kerry's stand on the occupation, it's little wonder his campaign has decided to de-emphasize it as an issue. If anything, he now presents himself as a tougher militarist than Bush. This is Kerry's appeal to the section of the imperialist bourgeoisie that's upset with Bush's bumbling.

"Anti-war" Kucinich caves in to Kerry's pro-war platform

Some people have hopes in such liberal Democrats as Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Among the Democrats, Kucinich has been one of the most strident critics of the Iraq war. He has emphasized the need to bring US troops home quickly. Thus, there was a question of whether there would be a fight at the Democratic convention over the what the party platform would say about the war.

But the pro-Kerry forces insisted that no questioning of Kerry's views would be allowed. And Kucinich instructed his delegates to capitulate. So there was no debate. This was a shameless capitulation. It showed Kucinich wasn't serious about his anti-war views.

So the Democratic platform has no opposition to a continuing occupation, not even a timetable for withdrawal. Likewise, the platform takes no position on whether launching the war was just or not, merely saying that "people of good will disagree about whether America should have gone to war in Iraq. " In other words, the Democratic Party welcomes both pro and anti-war forces, provided the anti-war forces now shut up and support the occupation.

How could this happen? Well, for all his peace rhetoric, even Kucinich's own stand was never what it seemed. Even though he emphasized a timetable for US withdrawal, he too wanted a multinational occupation to replace US occupation. So when push came to shove, it had a lot in common with Kerry's militarism. No wonder he capitulated to Kerry at the convention.

There was no protest from other liberal Democrats either. And no wonder. Congressional Black Caucus members like Charles Rangel of New York and John Conyers of Michigan are spearheading efforts to restore the draft. This is floated as a peace measure under the bogus notion that if children of the wealthy may be drafted, the capitalists will be hesitant to launch wars. But in reality, the draft would supply the additional troops that would be needed for a continuing occupation or other military efforts.

Union leaders' hypocrisy:
anti-war resolutions while supporting Kerry

The top AFL-CIO union leaders have long been tied to the Democratic Party. This leads them to clash with the growing anti-war sentiment of rank-and-file union members. This happened at AFSCME's national convention in June. One of the resolutions introduced from the floor called for the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The national union leadership tried to add wording calling on Bush to "bring our troops home as soon as possible. " This addition would accommodate Kerry's stand of an indefinite US occupation of Iraq. But this change was challenged by several local union officials and activists, and was defeated. The final resolution called for bringing the troops home "now", and it was approved by a large majority of the delegates.

This victory showed the anti-war sentiment among the workers. But AFSCME bureaucrats continued their all-out support for Kerry anyway. True, AFSCME president Gerald McEntee said the war in Iraq is one of the reasons Bush had to go. But he mobilized AFSCME into an all-out campaign for pro-war Kerry. Indeed Kerry was a featured speaker at the union's convention.

Something similar happened at the SEIU national convention, which was also in June. The SEIU national convention also passed an anti-war resolution. But the SEIU bureaucrats enthusiastically backed Kerry, who was a featured speaker here too.

So these anti-war resolutions do not mark a break with the multilateral imperialism of the Democrats. The union leaderships still back the Democrats. And even the resolutions themselves do not mention that the Democrats have supported the war. Instead they blame all the ills of the occupation on the mistaken policy of Bush. They pretend that if only Bush weren't there, the US would have a wonderful foreign policy. They denounce Bush's unilateral imperialism but either support or are silent about a multilateral occupation of Iraq.

Thus the AFSCME resolution denounces Bush's "unprovoked pre-emptive war", but ignores that Kerry promised pre-emptive military actions in his speech to the AFSCME convention. The SEIU resolution talks about "bringing our troops home safely", but it doesn't say if this means immediately. It thus leaves the door open for a long occupation. It calls for a foreign policy that will "give high priority to improving the lives of people around the world". But it gives the impression that this would happen if only Bush wasn't running things. It ignores that so long as the government is run by the capitalists, foreign policy will always be aimed at empire-building and enriching the multinational corporations.

US Labor Against the War (USLAW)

There is a network of left-wing union activists, called US Labor Against the War (USLAW), that is pushing for anti-war resolutions. Certain local unions and a few national unions are among its members. National and local SEIU leaders are among USLAW's supporters, and the recent SEIU resolution says that the union supports the principles of USLAW. It also appears that local AFSCME union officials in USLAW were instrumental in getting the AFSCME convention to pass its anti-war resolution. It's good that USLAW has taken the initiative to push the anti-war issue. But USLAW's work suffers from the limitations of the SEIU and AFSCME resolutions. It's quiet about the multilateral imperialism of the Democrats. And it doesn't expose the hypocrisy of the top union leaders, because its policy is to recruit those union leaders.

For example, a recent USLAW statement, "The Occupation of Iraq Must End", says it will oppose anyone who doesn't support peace and justice. But it is silent about the track record of the Democrats in voting for war and repression. It denounces Bush's policies but is silent about Kerry's.

This doesn't mean that USLAW is simply a bunch of Kerry supporters. But its resolutions don't conflict with the all-out pro-Kerry campaigns of the pro-imperialist union leaders. At the same time, the more radical activists in USLAW are supposed to take comfort in resolutions including phrases like the "labor movement" will fight not just Bush, but "anyone who follows his [Bush's] policies". USLAW thus seeks to paper over the differences in the labor movement.

But the labor movement is not a united whole. The big-wig leaders of the AFL-CIO are supporters of one capitalist party or another. They seek compromise with the capitalists, not struggle. So there can be no real progress in the labor movement until the workers are organized independently of the class-collaborationist leaders. Rank-and-file work in the unions should aim at building up an independent movement that exposes the hypocrisy of the top union leaders, not at joining with these leaders. And real left-wing work should aim at building up a trend that stands up for class struggle and against class collaboration. Both in the unions and in the left, there must be a struggle to build up a stand truly capable of struggling against the capitalists.

Build a class movement against bipartisan imperialism

The workers are the real force that can fight imperialism and war. And anti-war sentiment is rising among the working masses. But for workers to be an effective anti-war force, we must not only fight Bush's unilateral imperialism, but Kerry's multilateral imperialism as well. A foreign occupation by any other name is still an occupation.

Workers need to develop our own independent class politics, not the Bush-lite politics of Kerry and Edwards. The AFL-CIO hierarchy isn't going to orient the workers in this direction. This is a task for rank-and-file workers and militant activists.

(From Detroit Workers' Voice #42, August 5, 2004. For more go to  http://www.communistvoive.org)
Kerry on Vietnam, a man of conscience 24.Aug.2004 20:56

jest thinkin'

I've just finished reading Kerry's statement to Congress, in 1971, about the atrocity and uselessness of the Vietnam war. He speaks with sincerity and passion about the horrors of that war, which he experienced first-hand. I'll paste a bit of it below, and link to the full text. It's worth a read, whatever you conclude from it.

For my money, though, this seals my vote for Kerry this time around. A genuine conscience, a very real understanding of the suffering of war, and a powerful compassion for its victims, comes through these words. My vote will be a vote of hope that Kerry can find his conscience again, and apply these very words, his own words, to the current situation in Iraq. I already know that Bush has no conscience, no caring, and no compassion for the victims of his war-mongering. I know what four more years of Bush will bring us: more death, more wars, more of what we've seen for the last four.

But this text shows me that Kerry has something else in him, something besides the greed and powerlust that Bush radiates like bad body odor. Kerry risked a lot to reject the military he had served, and to state his opposition to the war so boldly. It's a long time ago, but I'll give him the chance to show me that he can be that person again. I know, at least, that he once had that in him, and I know for sure that Bush never did.

from John Kerry address to Congress, April 1971.

"...In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.


We found that not only was it a civil war, an effort by a people who had for years been seeking their liberation from any colonial influence whatsoever, but, also, we found that the Vietnamese, whom we had enthusiastically molded after our own image, were hard-put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposedly saving them from.


We found most people didn't even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart. They wanted everything to do with the war, particularly with this foreign presence of the United States of America, to leave them alone in peace, and they practiced the art of survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time, be it Viet Cong, North Vietnamese or American.


We found also that, all too often, American men were dying in those rice paddies for want of support from their allies. We saw first hand how monies from American taxes were used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by the flag, and blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties. We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs and search-and-destroy missions as well as by Viet Cong terrorism, - and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Viet Cong.


We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai, and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum.


We learned the meaning of free-fire zones--shooting anything that moves--and we watched while America placed a cheapness on the lives of orientals.


We watched the United States falsification of body counts, in fact the glorification of body counts. We listened while, month after month, we were told the back of the enemy was about to break. We fought using weapons against "oriental human beings" with quotation marks around that. We fought using weapons against those people which I do not believe this country would dream of using, were we fighting in the European theater. We watched while men charged up hills because a general said that hill has to be taken, and, after losing one platoon, or two platoons, they marched away to leave the hill for reoccupation by the North Vietnamese. We watched pride allow the most unimportant battles to be blown into extravaganzas, because we couldn't lose, and we couldn't retreat, and because it didn't matter how many American bodies were lost to prove that point, and so there were Hamburger Hills and Khe Sanhs and Hill 81s and Fire Base 6s, and so many others.


Now we are told that the men who fought there must watch quietly while American lives are lost so that we can exercise the incredible arrogance of "Vietnamizing" the Vietnamese...."


gimme a break eh 24.Aug.2004 20:58

donna

"Kucinich's own stand was never what it seemed. Even though he emphasized a timetable for US withdrawal, he too wanted a multinational occupation to replace US occupation. So when push came to shove, it had a lot in common with Kerry's militarism."

The big difference being that Dennis Kucinich was planning on returning the oil revenue to the Iraqis and even paying reparations. The idea has been going around for an Iraqi permanent fund dividend from the oil revenues much like they have in Alaska. Do you think the Iraqis might go for that? It is the least we can do. I think they would very much appreciate if we got the hell out now, they are perfectly capable of rebuilding their own country, and they need the jobs.

If we treat the Iraqis with respect, stop stealing their resources and really give them freedom we promised we will need very few troops to keep the peace. Sadr has already said that he would accept UN troops from countries that did not paticipate in the invasion. Iraq is united like never before, thanks to Bush. Civil war is just an excuse they use to stay there.

Dennis never has, nor ever will have anything in common with Kerry's militarism.

I agree 25.Aug.2004 00:47

Tim in SW

I agree with your comments. I find it funny how so many liberals have no understanding of what a free world really is. Dictatorship and Tyranny bring about poverty and dispair, which results in volatile regions of the world. Freedom and Democracy bring about peace and justice.......

None are so blind as those who refuse to see 25.Aug.2004 20:42

Wilhelmina

Donna says that "Dennis never has, nor ever will have anything in common with Kerry's militarism". Really? I thought "Dennis" was a loyal member of the imperialist and militarist Democratic Party. I thought he counseled his supporters NOT to wage a fight on the issue of the occupation at the Democratic Party national convention just a few weeks ago. And I thought that he now supports his militarist colleague Kerry for president! Aren't these things all true Donna?

Actually, Kerry's role was to capture youthful or na´ve people who were/are rightfully angry at the war against Iraq, and the occupation, and deliver them to the other party of imperialism. He has now fulfilled that role, a role that "progressive" candidates of the left wing of the Democratic Party consistently play. In this role he or his supporters could float various nice-sounding ideas, i.e., "the idea has been going around for an Iraqi permanent fund dividend from the oil revenues much like they have in Alaska" so as to gather support in the anti-war movement, but we should be skeptical of anything a capitalist politician floats during his campaign. Take this example. Yes, the native peoples of Alaska were given a little bit by the U.S. government, but they gave up a lot more. Further, they're still under the thumb of Washington, not free to determine their own fates. In exchange for imperialist domination of the Iraqi oil reserves some sections of the American ruling class might toy with the idea of trickling a little money down to the Iraqi people (after the oil companies grab their fat and guaranteed profits at gun-point), but ALL of the oil revenues from Iraq rightfully belong to the Iraqi people.

More, Kucinich's campaign rhetoric was not so peace-loving and just either, i.e., "U.S. out! U.N. in!. The first obvious point about this is that with the U.N. in the U.S. would remain in as well because it's the dominant power in the U.N. The second is that the U.N. is not some benevolent "do-gooder" institution. It's dominated by imperialist wolves (the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, etc.), all of whom want a piece of the Iraqi oil action, and juicy contracts for their big capitalists. And it presided over a decade-long regime of sanctions against Iraq punctuated by U.S./British bombings that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people. (In terms of human deaths and suffering, Bush still has a ways to go before he catches up with Clinton!) A U.N. (multilateral) occupation would be an imperialist occupation, with the U.S. imperialists having to share some of the spoils of war, but also benefiting in the sense that troops from other countries would kill Iraqis and die too---thereby weakening the broad anti-war movement that exists in this country.


You write "I think they would very much appreciate if we got the hell out now." Since I'm not a member of the U.S. ruling class that has invaded Iraq for its imperial aims I can't write "we" should get the hell out now. So, no, U.S. imperialism should get the hell out, and this is only going to happen if the Iraqi resistance and anti-war movement in this country further develop. Further, you write "If we treat the Iraqis with respect, stop stealing their resources and really give them freedom we promised we will need very few troops to keep the peace." Here your "non-class" political approach (i.e., "we") leads you to an outright imperialist position: "we will need very few troops to keep the peace".

Typo 27.Aug.2004 20:58

W.

The beginning of the second paragraph of the comment above should read: "Actually, Kucinich's role was to capture youthful or na´ve people who were/are rightfully angry at the war against Iraq, and the occupation, and deliver them to the other party of imperialism."--W.