It may seem inconceivable to some, but John Kerry is indeed out-hawking George W. Bush this election season. No doubt we should have seen it coming as the Democratic National Convention was nothing more than a glorified war parade, where Kerry floated on by and reprehensibly announced that he was "reporting for duty."
Since this obscure proclamation in Boston last summer, Kerry has been trouncing around the country defending his call for the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq. In the first presidential debate held in Florida two weeks ago, Kerry boasted of his numerous military backers, "I am proud that important military figures are supporting me in this race: former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili; just yesterday, General Eisenhower's son, General John Eisenhower, endorsed me; General Admiral William Crowe; General Tony McBeak, who ran the Air Force war so effectively for his father -- all believe I would make a stronger commander in chief."
William Safire, the conservative columnist for the New York Times on October 4 opined that Kerry is the "newest neo-conservative" and went as far as to say that Kerry is even "more hawkish than President Bush."
Kerry wants to show voters that he will be tough on terror, I assume, and he is doing so by defending Bush's pre-emptive doctrine. "The president always has the right, and always has had the right, for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the Cold War. And it was always one of the things we argued about with respect to arms control."
So much for differentiating himself from the Bush agenda. If anything, Kerry is simply saying he could run this whole "war on terror" thing better, and in fact has said as much. "[I] will hunt and kill the terrorists wherever they are ... I can do better." Kerry also says he will accomplish his goal by not backing off "of Fallujah and other places," which he says sends "the wrong message to terrorists."
So much for options. Now lefty voters are being told by the Nobody but Kerry crowd that we have to vote for their pro-war candidate. There is no other choice. Period. That makes me wonder: What ever happened to the anti-war movement anyway? You'd think they would be out raising some hell over Kerry's hawkish pose on Iraq. Maybe these seasoned activists took a much needed vacation after the Republican National Convention (why weren't they in Boston railing the Democrats again?). Or, more likely they are skipping door to door trumping the John-John ticket. Talk about hypocrisy.
Meanwhile, as the masses across the U.S. are obsessing over the upcoming elections, violence is escalating in Iraq. "The situation on the ground in Iraq is far worse than what is portrayed by the media," journalist Patrick Cockburn wrote on October 6 in CounterPunch. "I have spent most of the past year-and-a-half traveling in Iraq, and I have never known it so bad. The roads all around Baghdad are cut by insurgents. At Mahmoudiyah, just south of the capital, rebels in black masks felt confident enough last week to establish a checkpoint on the main road to Najaf. In Baghdad, U.S. planes regularly bomb Sadr City, home to 2 million out of the capital’s 5 million people. Haifa Street, a resistance bastion 400 yards from the Green Zone where American generals give relentlessly upbeat briefings, can only be entered by U.S. heavy armour supported by helicopters."
Nevertheless, here we have John Kerry "reporting for duty." You shouldn’t be surprised, though. He said the same thing decades ago when he volunteered to go fight in that other awful war over in Vietnam. Save his short burst of anti-war heroism upon his return -- the guy has always been a hawk.
Joshua Frank is a contributor to CounterPunch's new election book, A Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils, and is author of the forthcoming book, Left Out! How Liberals Did Bush's Work for Him, to be published by Common Courage Press. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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