by Geoff Berne (6-30-00)
The biggest question facing voters in November is not who for the next four years will be President, but who will be our imperial Commander-in-Chief.
When looked on in that light is there any candidate who when pictured in that role of responsibility doesn't terrify?
Bush or Gore: can one picture either of these men astride the Emperor's horse, waving the sword that sends us all into global battle? Bush and Gore: can one picture either of these men making a stand against pressures from the military to reinstate the draft?
In this year's election, there is not even a lesser of two evils for the voters to choose from, rather the evil of two lessers, two major candidates of equally lesser worth posing an equal risk of keeping America in a state of permanent war.
Nullification of the difference between the two parties has been the name of the game since the Republican Eisenhower was fitted in Roosevelt's New Deal shoes. The Clinton era has been the coup de grace of this political homogenization process: "Mr. Clinton," as historian Walter A. McDougall describes it, "served to consolidate the Reagan revolution by balancing the budget, reforming welfare, and unleashing the private sector." McDougall could have added that Mr. Reagan-Clinton also unleashed the military behemoth that Reagan had created on the rest of the world on an unprecedented epic scale, using Republican Cohen as Secretary of Defense and holdovers from the Bush era military such as NATO commander Wesley Clark and drug "czar" Barry McCaffrey to do so.
Gore promises to press forward with the program of American world domination that was charted so uninhibitedly by Mr. Clinton, including carrying on the war to subdue Yugoslavia to its bitter end, however long it takes. The reason this war was supposedly fought was to roust President Milosevic. Yet Milosevic will leave office on his own volition anyway, when his term expires a year from now, so why we ever got so excited about Milosevic in the first place (would a "Hitler" be observing term limits?) has become buried in permanent mystery. Not to be deterred by this enemy's compliance with the terms of his constitutionally mandated retirement, Gore has put on record his commitment to preserve the peace process (i.e. keep the war going) in Yugoslavia, presumably regardless of who the man in charge turns out to be. Gore has lined himself up behind the idea that America should pursue a policy of managing the affairs of other countries like Yugoslavia under the guise of making them more "prosperous." He has a slick new phrase for this: "forward engagement." With such a policy we can look forward to having American troops in Kosovo for another fifty years, just like Korea. (And how many other countries soon to be named).
In short, if you feel that you want to vote for peace, not war, cross off Gore.
And if the news of oil price rises starts your mind going quiveringly in a direction of deja vu with memories of words like "Kuwait" and "Gulf War," watch out for young George Bush. With the hue and cry being raised about soaring gas and oil prices by members of Bush's party such as U.S. Congressman John Boehner and two candidates for Commissioner in my own home county in Ohio, you can see signs that the Republicans are gearing up to coast to victory, nationally, on that issue. Why not? It worked for them in 1980 and 1988 and almost worked for them in 1992. Is it just a coincidence that in 1978, 1986, and 1991, oil prices took a drastic hike and soon afterwards a candidate named George Bush was running for President either in the primaries or in the general election? Bush Sr. was a wealthy oilman with many friends in the Middle East. Likewise, the wealth of the latest Bush to run for President originates in a Texas oil company with Middle East stakes, and his '00 Presidential campaign is reliant on 1.5 million in donations from 670 oil-related companies. Let's put it this way: when it comes to the setting of international oil prices, the Bush family can, at the very least, not be above suspicion as the culprit.
It's a matter of record that in 1991 the Bush administration – at that time on good terms with Saddam Hussein, one of America's top arms customers – prodded Saddam to raise his oil prices, only to use outrage at those prices to rally support for a war against this former ally who who was holding American drivers by the throat.
Bush miscalculated that the war would make him a hero who'd be a sure bet for re-election in 1992. Even so, according to journalist Tom Flocco, Bush Sr. may
be pursuing a similar strategy again, this time on behalf of his son. Writing on the website WorldNet Daily on March 24, '00, Flocco reports that on January 15 of this year, with momentum growing for his son's Presidential candidacy, George Bush Sr. visited Kuwait, where he is revered as the country's savior on the basis of his defense of them in the 1991 Gulf War. Bush met with "senior Kuwaiti officials." According to Flocco the purpose was to improve his son's election chances by "causing the electorate to become uneasy and distressed about oil-caused economic problems." All the Kuwaiti sheikhs needed to do, says Flocco, was convince OPEC to "hang tough with oil production cuts until summer, or at least limit the production increases . . . if just until Junior was safely elected."
One would like to fantasize that the elder Bush will somehow find himself confronted with public questioning of this trip, with its implication of a Bush role in an oil price fix. In the meantime I'm simply wondering if voters will be gullible enough to buy the idea that the way to register a protest against higher oil prices is to elect as President – a millionaire oilman!
A vote for George W. is a vote for deja vu all over again, with ghosts of past foreign wars and covert actions such as Nicaragua, El Savador, Panama, Grenada, and Kuwait coming back to haunt us in the incarnations of such names as Brent Scowcroft, Richard Perle, and Colin Powell – foreign policy counsellors left over from the Bush heir's popularly rejected daddy's security team.
So, abandon hope, ye who thought an election would bring a candidate who'd tear up the Clinton-Bush script of military barnstorming around the world and plundering of the world's militarily and economically weaker peoples. Rather than call it an election, which the American mind instinctively thinks of as a contest between two philosophically distinct parties, let's call it what it is, an audition for a part in a video treatment of the story of David and Goliath, with two distinctly second-rate hams vieing for the part of Goliath.
The rivalry of the two auditioners has already heated up and advanced to the stage of breast-beating and sword-brandishing on the subject of Iraq. The script chosen for their audition in this last week of June was a modern version of the bombastic roarings of the "miles gloriosus" (the preposterously macho soldier] of ancient Roman comedy, each trying to outdo the other in avowals of determination to crush George Bush Sr.'s old nemesis, Saddam Hussein. First it was Gore, swearing that his commitment to remove Saddam takes a backseat to nobody. Then Bush Jr. put forth his snarling lieutenant Perle to impress Senators with the superiority of his patron's bloodthirsty intentions toward Baghdad's beast.
Faced with this choice of war-primed imperial dauphins, I have decided that, at least as of this date, June 28, 2000, a stance of rejecting both of them and not voting at all is the way for an American who's at all concerned about this country's recent drift towards World War III to make a statement.
That being said, however, the question will arise: how about a third party alternative?
Unfortunately the third and fourth parties, like the two principal ones, offer voters wanting to register opposition to wars of the Bush-Clinton era no real alternative.
Surely, for example, a vote for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader gives every indication of being a futile way to protest the trend to war. For in spite of launching a seemingly brave and aggressive assault on the culture of corporate greed that has corrupted our democracy and despoiled the planet, Nader has not indicated that he even has a foreign policy! A survey of Nader's weekly columns (entitled "In the Public Interest") from the first day of NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999 right up to today shows that he has not seen fit to devote a single column to the subject! Nor did his acceptance speech for the Presidential nomination of the Green Party on June 25th devote one word to this savage 78 day military onslaught, and the establishment of an American occupation presence in the Balkans that's projected to last into eternity, that have made a mockery of the causes and themes to which Mr. Nader has devoted his life. For example:
Where were the admonitory words of Ralph Nader while these crimes were happening under his nose? What credibility could he have as a candidate for President if fifteen months after the war started, and thirteen months after it ended, he finally decided to take a position on it?
And, for that matter, what credibility can be assigned to the anti-war utterances of the Reform Party's Pat Buchanan, who has condemned American action in Kosovo but whose idea of a continent-based foreign policy is sending troops to El Paso to defend against illegal entry of Mexicans? Buchanan disdains America's post-Cold War interventions in Iraq and Kosovo but boasts of victories over communism in such Cold War military missions as Nicaragua, the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Cuba, and Korea that set in motion the military and intelligence establishments that deform our economy and society today.
If one seeks to derail the two would-be emperors, George II and Al(exander) the Not so Great, a vote for today's two third party standard-bearers, barring some miraculous renunciation of their past acquiescence in America's imperialistic ascendancy, shows all the signs of being a wasted protest vote.
No, faced with such a spectrum of standard-bearers, those of us who seek to resist the institutionalization of foreign war-making that has so accelerated under President Clinton must conclude that not voting at all is the ultimate protest, signifying not apathy but the highest activism. If the vote total can dip below twenty, or even fifteen, per cent, history will record the election of '00 as a washout, thus depriving the "world's last great superpower" of the right to call itself a democracy or use democratic performance as the criterion by which to judge which countries of the world will pass the test versus which will be clubbed into submission.
So in November, if you care about the world you live in, I say sit down and be counted, exercise your sacred right to not vote!
Geoff Berne is a southwestern Ohio newspaper and internet contributor and political consultant.