Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sanders-Clinton Brooklyn Debate: Moderate Insanity?

The Democratic Party's debate in Brooklyn last Friday in preparation for New York's April 19 primary showed that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are not too far behind the lunatic ideological standards of the GOP. Here's how:

1.  Bernie Sanders continued to call the 2003 Iraq invasion a mere "blunder."

When the U.S. forced Iraq to disarm and then invaded and massacred hundreds of thousands of civilians, this after a decade of imposing economic sanctions that former UN Humanitarian Coordinator Dennis Halliday called "genocidal," it was a crime against the Iraqi people. The threat or use of force is illegal under international law. Washington did not care.  Bernie Sanders voted against the invasion; Hillary Clinton voted for it. Sanders should stop trivializing the crime by calling it a mistake. It's not just the right thing to do, it's also a good way to erode support for what Louis Farrakhan calls "that wicked woman" (Hillary Clinton).

2.  Said Hillary, with no trace of shame:  "I remain one of the poorer members of the United States Senate."

Whatever her relative standing in that plutocratic body, she and her family are fabulously wealthy. Daughter Chelsea recently moved into her new digs in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods of New York City, which take up an entire city block. Of course she earned her wealth doing "charity" for the Clinton foundation. Right. And Hillary left the White House "dead broke," as she once absurdly claimed.

3.  Sanders referred to the U.S. criminal justice system as "broken."

Politicians love mechanical metaphors because when faced with mechanical break-down nobody cares about how the break-down occurred, only that it promptly be fixed. But politics is not like mechanical break-down. Politics is policy, and when policy leads to ruinous outcomes for millions of people over a long period of time, it's never in a fit of absent-mindedness, as the "broken" metaphor would have us believe. It's because of the vested interest of powerful groups who benefit from exploitation and abuse. So the U.S. criminal justice system is not, in fact, broken, but rather humming along nicely railroading the poor into prison, gunning innocent black people down in the streets, and generating impressive revenues for the prison-industrial complex. That's what it's supposed to do. 

4.  Sanders, in referring to what our nation's energy mix should be, said that "you certainly don't phase nuclear (power) out tomorrow."

This is intended to be a "reasonable" statement, implying that only crazy people would insist that nuclear power be banned right away. But didn't Japan essentially phase out nuclear power "right away" in the wake of its multiple-meltdown at Fukushima? [There are currently three operating nuclear plants in Japan; there used to be over fifty.] What are we waiting for, our own Fukushima? The fact is that nuclear power is not just carcinogenic, but mutagenic, which threatens the genetic fabric of life itself with uncontrolled mutation. Is that the future we want? Right now, Fukushima is contaminating sea life all over the world, with predictably horrendous consequences for marine life and for the human race, which stands at the top of the food chain. This is an energy form that was developed and protected by the government because no insurance company could pay for damages in a Fukushima-like accident without going bankrupt.  In short, it was never a viable industry and it's long overdue that we got rid of it.

5. Hillary said, "The Libyan people deserve a chance at democracy and self-government. And I, as president, will keep trying to give that to them."

This is a truly terrifying promise. The destruction of Libya, was for Hillary, as Diana Johnstone called it,"a war of her own." (See Johnstone's terrific book, "Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton," published by Counterpunch last year.) The daily terror bombings destroyed the country with the highest standard of living in Africa, handing it over to terrorist gangs. That is what her quest for "democracy" wrought. Before the war Libyans enjoyed free healthcare, education, electricity, water, training, rehabilitation, housing assistance, disability and old-age benefits, interest-free state loans, subsidies to study abroad, buy a new car, help when they married, almost free gasoline, and more. Now all that is gone, replaced by terror and chaos.

6.  Sanders called Qaddafi a "horrific dictator."

Except the U.N. Human Rights council praised Qaddafi in its January, 2011 "Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Libya Arab Jamahiriya," saying his government "protected not only political rights, but also economic, educational, social and cultural rights." It also lauded his treatment of religious minorities, along with the "human rights training" of its security forces. And Qaddafi enjoyed overwhelming popular support. After NATO attacked Libya, hundreds of thousands of people openly rallied for him. On July 1, 2011, 95% of Tripoli's population, over a million people, expressed their support in Green Square. Before the war, he felt safe enough to drive unprotected through Tripoli's streets, not something a "horrific dictator" would likely do.

7.  Sanders ritually genuflected at the reference to evil dictators that supposedly justify Washington's blood-soaked foreign policy, to wit:  "Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein are brutal, brutal murdering thugs. No debate about that."

There's no debate about that in the U.S. corporate media because of the ideological controls placed over debate in those forums. But elsewhere there would be plenty of debate at Sanders' assertion. In any event, Hussein's Iraq was a much favored U.S. client state for years, including when he killed dozens of U.S. sailors aboard the USS Stark in 1987, so why didn't Washington ever do anything to stop its "brutal murdering thug?" As for Qaddafi, aside from his domestic popularity and positive human rights record, already mentioned, he supported the Palestinian struggle for liberation, opposed Israel's occupation and the siege of Gaza, backed anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa, as well as liberation movements elsewhere such as in Ireland and Spain. Maybe the world needs more "brutal murdering thugs" and fewer "free market democracies" that kill millions with bombs, bullets and economic blockades?

8.  Sanders said, "our fight is to destroy ISIS first, and to get rid of Assad second."

Wrong. Our fight is to reign in U.S. imperial forces everywhere and develop a real national defense policy for the first time ever. Using state violence to "destroy" enemies created by prior campaigns of state violence just generates more and deadlier enemies. Sanders appears to be no closer to realizing this than Donald Trump.

9.  Clinton said: " . .  . we know they (Russia) want to rewrite the map of Europe."

Since NATO has violated agreements made in the Gorbachev era not to expand to the east, this is an understandable desire. NATO is far more the aggressor in Europe than Russia, and Putin has shown considerable restraint. When Cuba put nuclear missile emplacements 90 miles from the U.S., the Kennedy administration nearly launched a nuclear war, but somehow NATO is justified in moving nuclear bombs right up to the Russian border long after the demise of the "aggressive" Soviet Union terminated the ostensible justification for NATO to even exist. NATO should be disbanded, the sooner the better.

10.  Sanders described himself as "100% pro-Israel" while stating contradictorily that the U.S. should play an "even-handed role" in the Israel-Palestine conflict. He boldly stated that Prime Minister Netanyahu is "not right all of the time," which is like saying that Donald Trump isn't subtle and sophisticated all the time. He said that Israel "has every right in the world to destroy terrorism," but that "we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity," as though the effort "to destroy terrorism" weren't precisely the reason that Palestinians don't enjoy respect, dignity, or even safety. Finally, he said that Israel's 2014 Gaza massacre was "disporportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life," as opposed to the necessary loss of innocent life. Say what? Why is killing innocent people ever necessary?

11. Sanders said:  " . . . it (Palestine) is a complicated issue and God knows for decades presidents, including President Carter and others have tried to do the right thing."

This is a sensible statement only if "the right thing" is taken to mean provide cover for Israel to rob, swindle, torture, and murder Palestinian Arabs, which has gone on from 1948 to the present. Sticking to just Carter, since Sanders made favorable mention of him, he implemented a diplomatic catastrophe with the Camp David accords, which were negotiated without representation for the PLO, recognized around the world as the Palestinians' "sole legitimate representative." The accords gave less than one-third of Palestinians municipal authority in Palestine, but not national self-determination and statehood, in one-fifth of the area that was robbed from them by the creation of Israel, with the vast majority of Palestinians consigned to permanent exile and statelessness in a life devoid of national hope or meaning. They also secured Israel's southern border by removing Egypt from the Arab military alliance, thus encouraging the Jewish state to launch a long planned invasion of Lebanon to the north, which it promptly did, with disastrous consequences, among them planting the seed of revenge in Osama bin Laden. Sanders has a lot to learn about Palestine.


CNN debate transcript available at:

"The Illegal War on Libya," edited by Cynthia McKinney (Clarity Press, 2012)

"Queen of Chaos:  The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton," by Diana Johnstone (Counterpunch, 2015)

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