Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Candidates and Iraq

The day after the GOP primary in South Carolina put the nail in the already closed coffin of Jeb Bush’s presidential ambitions, the New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz, king of the satirists, wrote a piece titled “Iraqis Celebrate as Threat of Third Bush Presidency Ends.”  George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 dismantled the country’s institutions, destroyed its physical infrastructure, and killed massive numbers of people while utterly failing to plan for the aftermath.  The spectre of a third Bush administration must have truly seemed incredible to Iraqis.
But I would caution any Iraqis who might have been following Bush’s fortunes, and any American who might appreciate Borowitz’ satire and the home truths therein, to exercise caution and avoid premature celebration.
After all, the leading Republican candidate who now seems to be in a strong position to secure the nomination has expressed his admiration for a policy of shooting Muslims with bullets dipped in pigs blood.  Trump’s competitor from Texas, Ted Cruz, has voiced a desire to carpet bomb cities occupied by ISIS in the Middle East, in clear violation of international laws and even of the tolerance of the U.S. government for state terror.  And the third leading competitor, Marco Rubio, is the most fanatic neoconservative among the three who shamelessly prattles about “American exceptionalism, code for violent empire-building.  
In his embrace of that toxic ideology, Rubio is joined by Hillary Clinton, who to my dismay is probably in a strong position to secure the nomination of an ostensibly progressive party.  Clinton backed Bush’s war in Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of U.S. citizens, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the strengthening of Al Qaeda, and the creation of ISIS.  
Lest Democrats take Clinton at her word that her vote for a murderous illegal war was but an aberration, she subsequently endorsed the surge in Afghanistan, sabre-rattled for regime change in Libya (which materialized) and in Syria (which did not).  She took the side of autocrats during the Arab Spring, and backs two colonial regimes (Israel and Morocco).  She has attacked whistleblowers and defended an inexcusably predatory and evasive security state.  She has been belligerent over the ongoing civil war in Syria, and shows an utter disregard for the precept that should govern all international interventions: first, do no harm.  
The remaining candidate, Bernie Sanders, is far from perfect and needs to do more in terms of articulating his worldview and approach to international policy.  But broadly speaking he seems to possess good instincts.  When the Israeli military pummelled schools and even UN observers in its punitive assault on Gaza, Hillary Clinton defended this act of colonial violence against all critics.  Sanders has been less critical of Israeli militarism than many would like, but he at least had the decency to criticize this assault.  He voted against going to war in Iraq and has expressed strong reservations about subsequent interventions.
His campaign should reach out to experts on the Middle East and foreign policy thinkers who offer views that run against the grain of U.S. policy.  Because we desperately need a robust alternative to the fanatic savagery of much of the GOP, and the murderous neoconservatism Clinton shares with Rubio and others from the Republican Party’s ranks.  

And I would ask supporters of Republican candidates and of Hillary Clinton whether they feel they can condone the violence their records and day-to-day utterances suggest they would perpetrate.  I know that international policy often takes a backseat to matters of “bread and butter,” but I would remind fellow citizens that what to us is the marginalia of the campaign is literally a matter of life and death for those on the receiving end of U.S. foreign policy.  

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