Bernie, War & the Empire’s Pie


Chris Ernesto

(RINF) – As candidates prepare for Saturday’s Democratic presidential debate in Iowa, it will be interesting to see how Bernie Sanders continues the ruse of promoting himself as a peace candidate.

It will be even more interesting to see if Sanders supporters continue to give him a free pass on foreign policy issues simply because they align with his social and economic agenda.

Yeah, Bernie is pro-war
Based on his responses during the first debate and statements posted on his website, Sanders is clearly not the anti-war candidate he claims to be.

“I supported the war in Afghanistan. I supported President Clinton’s effort to deal with ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. I support air strikes in Syria and what the president is trying to do,” stated Sanders during the first debate.

“Yes, I happen to believe from the bottom of my heart that war should be the last resort, that we have got to exercise diplomacy. But yes, I am prepared to take this country into war if that is necessary,” said Sanders, jumping at the chance to make sure everyone knows that he is not opposed to war.

Fortunately for Sanders – who is hoping to court anti-war Democrats and Independents – he wasn’t asked if he supports the Saudi Arabian dictatorship’s invasion of Yemen (he does).

Nor was he asked if he supports the coup government in Ukraine (he does).

And he wasn’t asked about his position on Israel/Palestine (he typically votes for funding to Israel and supported their 2014 war on Gaza).

Maybe in Saturday’s second debate Sanders will be asked about his belligerent and misguided position on Russia. Just like other presidential candidates, Sanders demonizes Russia and says that although he’d prefer to deal with them diplomatically, “force should be the last option we use.” In other words, war with Russia is on the table for Bernie.

Champion of working class Americans (not working class Russians or Iranians)
Sanders supports economic sanctions on Russia as a means of dealing with Russian “aggression.” The irony of Sanders supporting economic sanctions that harm the working class of Russia is obviously lost on Sanders-backers in the U.S. who put him on a pedestal for being a champion of the American working class.

Sanders also said that economic sanctions should be levied again on Iran if it doesn’t follow the rules of the recently agreed upon nuclear pact. Sanders must not care about the working class in Iran, given that poverty there rose from 22% to more than 40% during the first year and half of U.S. sanctions.

And although he doesn’t appear to be quite as hawkish on Iran as other candidates, Sanders still repeats the party line that “it is imperative that Iran not get a nuclear weapon,” without saying that the U.S. will first give up all of its nuclear weapons before telling another country what it can or can’t do.

‘Give me a piece of the Empire’s pie’
From an anti-war perspective, Sanders is bad on Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, Palestine, Russia and Iran. But since he’s not quite as bad as the other presidential candidates, many liberals are lining up to support him because of his positions on social and economic issues, and because he is one of the few people speaking out against Citizens United.

And, of course, people are really excited about Sanders because he has a track record of trying to redistribute wealth in America.

And that’s the bottom line for many liberals. As long as Bernie gives them a bigger piece of the American Empire’s pie they are fine with him being pro-war.

It would be easier to swallow the fact that so many liberals are cheering for a pro-war candidate if they would just be honest and say, “I know Sanders is a pro-war candidate, but he said he’s going to give me a piece of the Empire’s pie, so I’m going to vote for him.”

It would be even better if those same people stated that they would accept responsibility for supporting a pro-war candidate, namely that they would do everything in their power to stop a Sanders presidency from engaging in any war.

But those people won’t be honest – many of them won’t even admit that Sanders is a supporter of so many U.S. military ventures, even when faced with the facts – nor will they accept responsibility, simply because they are not truly opposed to war. If they were, there would be absolutely no circumstance in which they would support a presidential candidate who believes in dropping bombs on another country.

Imagine if Sanders said he believes that every now and then it was necessary to molest a child, or there were certain instances in which it was acceptable to racially discriminate.

Would the people who support Sanders today still support him? Of course not, and they shouldn’t. So does that mean child molestation and racial discrimination are worse than war to Sanders supporters?

(In fairness, there are liberals who support Sanders simply because he aligns with their social values, not because of what he could do for their pocketbook, which is relatively refreshing. But those people are giving domestic social issues more weight than Sanders’ pro-war positions. The rationalization being that all candidates are pro-war, and at least Sanders is better than the others on social issues.)

Use a different gold standard
It’s true that Bernie is probably better than George W. Bush, Barack Obama or any current presidential candidate on issues of foreign policy, but that’s not saying much. Will liberals ever demand a new gold standard from their candidates?

Many Sanders supporters point out that Hillary Clinton is more rah-rah military than Sanders, primarily because Sanders didn’t support the Iraq war. But Donald Trump didn’t support the Iraq war either, and Trump’s position on U.S. military action in Syria is better than Sanders’ position.

And it should be noted that even though Sanders opposed the Iraq war, he repeatedly voted to fund it. And even though he voted against the Gulf War, he instead called for sanctions on Iraq – the death toll attributed to those sanctions has been estimated at about 500,000 children under the age of five between 1990-2000. (Sanders’ website labels such sanctions as “diplomatic means”.)

Does Sanders have supporters in Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan?
Do you think people in Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan are comfortable with Sanders’ positions? Could a Sanders supporter look a 14 year-old from Afghanistan (who has lived under U.S. bombs every day of his or her life) in the eye and explain why they support Sanders – a man who voted to use force in Afghanistan?

Isn’t it time to look beyond our personal needs and wants and focus on others who are suffering and dying in the name of the American Empire?

‘We have to choose one, and Bernie is the best choice’
This way of thinking is one reason we have such narrow choices in each election. If voters in 2004 would have demanded more from John Kerry (who was, and still is, pro-war) when he was running against George W. Bush, the Democratic Party might have realized that unless they put an anti-war candidate on the ballot, their party couldn’t win an election. But the party doesn’t need to do that because so-called anti-war voters continue to vote for the “lesser of two evils.” And where has that gotten us?

Numerous people did the same thing in 2008 for the first Barack Obama election. Even though it was clear Obama was not an anti-war candidate (“I’m not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars,” Obama said in 2002), people believed he was better than John McCain. And even though Obama was a warmonger during his first term, many liberals voted for him again in 2012 because they were so afraid of what a Mitt Romney presidency would look live.

As it turns out, Obama has bombed more countries (7) than Bush bombed (4), so from a purely anti-war perspective, it might be better if a Republican becomes president again. And maybe with a Republican president many liberals would become “anti-war” again.

(It should be noted that there are some people who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 who are still active in the anti-war community. These people understand the importance of everyday actions relative to voting, and have accepted responsibility for their vote.)

What am I supposed to do?
Instead of unconditionally giving Sanders their support, people who claim to be opposed to U.S. foreign interventions should make it clear that they will not support Sanders unless he changes his foreign policy positions.

It may not work this election cycle, but liberals should have thought about that in 2004, 2008 and 2012 when they voted for a pro-war candidate.

And what are Sanders supporters going to do if he doesn’t win the nomination? Would they vote for Clinton in the general election simply because, in their mind, she is better than the Republican nominee on social and economic issues?

That’s fine if the answer is yes, but will those people then take responsibility for voting for a warmonger for president? Will those people be the ones leading anti-war demonstrations?

Maybe people should support and vote for someone that they believe in, regardless of whether or not they think that candidate has a chance to win. Writing in the name of Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill or Edward Snowden would send a message to the Democratic Party that acting like the Republican Party on foreign policy matters will no longer work.

A former Sanders staffer, Jeremy Brecher, resigned in 1999 due to Sanders supporting the U.S. war in Kosovo. In his resignation letter, Brecher wrote, “Is there a moral limit to the military violence you are willing to participate in or support? Where does that limit lie? And when that limit has been reached, what action will you take?”

That’s a good question for today’s Sanders supporters. How much military violence are you willing to vote for? What is your limit? And once that limit is reached, what will you do about it?

  • Jeremie

    So you want no war and no economic sanctions. What exactly is your alternative. You have to convince me that there is some other way to deal with nations that either attack us (as in Afganistan) or would love to (as in Russia and Iran). It would be lovely if we could ignore the rest of the world but what would have happened if we had just stayed out of World War II? Hitler wanted to take over the U. S. Eventually. And your argument about sanctions is akin to arguing we shouldn’t divest in oil stocks because it will heart middle class workers 401K there is almost always a negative side to action but sometimes it is less negative than inaction

    • JohnT

      Afghanistan attacked us? Russia would love to?

      You are woefully misinformed.

      • Jeremie

        I don’t know what you call 9/11 but I call it an attack. 911 was sanctioned by the people in control of the government, so that amounts to an attack by Afghanistan. Vladimir Putin has proven his distaste of America by running a proxy war against us in Syria and his actions in the Ukraine. If you believe that with a military capable of defeating the U.S. military that Russia would not attack, you are the one who is woefully misinformed.

        I am not a war hawk as you probably think, what I am saying is if you take EVERY means of dealing with countries off the table (such as sanctions and military action) then what exactly do you have? What are we going to do take these countries to international court? How effective has that been.

    • greencat9

      I think pulling out that old Nazi WWII card is getting quite overused. That’s like excusing banks from the 2008 economic crash because they have lent us money. Learn to separate. Endless war has resulted in endless war. I once announced at work that: ” I would give $100.00 to anyone who could name a country that has been involved in more wars in the last hundred years than the USA!”

      They were all interested until I finished the sentence – then they shrugged and admitted – well yeah of COURSE the USA has been in the most wars. This is a wake up to those of us under the propaganda of the USA being the “world bastion of peace”. How many wars has Venezuela started? Or Cuba? Russia was asked by Ukrainians to help them – but name some other wars since USSR dissolved? There are area disputes in Africa and the middle east, but looking at history OBJECTIVELY we have to ask what country stirred up trouble in Central and South America countries over the last 6 decades?

    • greencat9

      What country overthrew Iran’s democratically elected leader in 1953 and installed a USA friendly Shah ? We are not getting involved in these things out of necessity or for defense. Actual defense is different from what the USA has been doing. It’s more like corporate welfare than citizen welfare.

  • Passer By

    Jeremie, the other way to deal with nations is = fairly. People like you manage to ignore the rest of the world’s feelings just fine, and only remember them to view them as a threat. You should be sent to Iran and Russia, to enjoy their hospitality for a few months, and come back as a person and not a chickenhawk. Also, open your eyes – Hitler’s ideas have taken over the US. Good and evil are not about nationality/race. The place evil finds most fertile is arrogance, and the belief that your particular “group identity” is the best. Then evil can run riot with such blindness. One day the veil will be lifted and you will realize how foolish you were.

  • Sophia Jones

    Bernie’s followers, especially liberals, love him because he makes himself out to be the dove in a flock of hawks. This article brings out the truth – Bernie is no peace candidate and everyone who votes for him needs to know that. The author makes a good point – if you vote for him to get your piece of America Empire’s pie, even though he’s as hawkish as all the rest of the candidates, just admit it. And then do something about it!

  • Lulu

    Loved the article! Democrats got pulled to the right and started
    accepting war candidates because they allowed all their candidates to be
    pro-war – no one ever questioned or challenged them on why they needed
    to follow the republican line on the topic of foreign policy. Just
    think if we stopped Kerry from his preemptive statements. We would be a
    country led by an anti-war democrat.

  • Bello J

    I’d take Trump over Sanders. At least Trump is honest and not a chickenhawk like Sanders.

  • greencat9

    Don’t forget that there IS a candidate that will be on enough ballots to win the electoral votes to be president Jill Stein of the Green Party She HAS domestic platform that is even BETTER than the good one that Sanders has and she is also an anti-war candidates. Why not have Greens as your “gold standard” since it is NOT

    throwing away your vote if a more peaceful foreign policy matters to you! see