Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Debating Nader with J-Friend Becky

J-Friend Becky posted comments on the post about Nader's presidential bid and Tim Noah of Slate being "nice" about it. Despite the absolute need I have to be doing work, we're going to go through this a bit.

I agree that the two-party system does not serve US citizens’ (or the world’s) best interest. But, I still feel strongly that the two parties are NOT the same. If you want to be stuck in the ‘20s through ‘60s, that’s fine, but since Nixon, the Democratic presidents have led to more peace (think Carter - Israel and Egypt, Clinton – Israel and Jordan (and nearly Palestine)) and considerably less warfare (must I point out Bush – Iraq and Afghanistan??) than the Republican ones.

Who with the what now? Let's review: The Continuum has frequently linked to evidence that Democrats have caused more death than Republicans in the White House, and have not necessarily been better on "peace". To start with a less-than-war transgression, FDR was, perhaps, equivocal on allowing Jewish refugees to enter the US pre-WWII, for a variety of sensible political reasons, including threats of Congress to decrease quotas rather than increase. Understandable, yes, but also not necessarily admirable -- the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum notes that he basically continued the policies of his Republican predecessor Herbert Hoover. The even-handed-seeming judgment of the USHMM:

A balanced assessment of Roosevelt's policies with regard to Jewish refugees and the Holocaust must also take into account the overall historical context. Roosevelt was preoccupied by severe economic depression and war, and aware of isolationist, antisemitic, and xenophobic sentiments in Congress and among the American public. His own government bureaucracy was, on balance, an impediment to immigration on any large scale; this opposition reflected general popular sentiment. Though Roosevelt had real sympathies for the Jews and for others subject to Axis-sponsored murder and terror, his involvement in refugee issues and rescue efforts remained low. This reluctance to take political risks in refugee policy contrasts sharply with his boldness as a politician and leader in other spheres.

Building on this of course is the debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a notorious argument I won't fully engage here other than to say that the military necessity argument is still open to debate, the necessity of bombing Nagasaki questionable as well even accepting the necessity argument, the choice of civilian targets questionable as well, and of course, lastly, even assuming casualties from a ground operation, one must admit that this assumes it's better to kill their civilians (~220,000 deaths from the bombings within the following three months) than engage our military. All reasonable assumptions from the point of view of American Empire and jingoism and the rationale of the times (though it's not as if there weren't voices of opposition at the time including Gen. Eisenhower ("I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives"), General MacArthur (the highest-ranking officer in the Pacific Theater), Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy (the Chief of Staff to the President), General Carl Spaatz (commander of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific), Brigadier General Carter Clarke (the military intelligence officer who prepared intercepted Japanese cables for U.S. officials), Admiral Ernest King, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, Undersecretary of the Navy Ralph A. Bard, and Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet) (from Wikipedia, see also this site). Eisenhower, the next president after Truman, was Republican (and coiner of the phrase and warnings against the military-industrial complex), while Truman & FDR were Democrats. (There's also the debate on whether fire bombing was a valid tactic or war crime; one can easily say that the Germans did horrible things, which they did, but typically we don't accept horrific actions by those we hold in low moral regard as the high ground to start from.)

Going from this, there's Truman and the Korean War including the proposed use of nuclear weapons, and Truman bypassing a Declaration of War by Congress -- a precedent used to poor effect by our current president, though Truman was not the first to set it.

I could continue on, tiresomely, but, also tiresomely, B offers little evidence to back up her assertion.

Briefly: FDR & Carter: Carter had the foresight to let Iran's Shah seek medical treatment in the US, against the advice of the staff of his own Embassy in Iran -- helping to precipitate and the hostage crisis that most hurt his own career; support for the brutal dictator/crime family, the Somozas, in Nicaragua (this latter is an analysis of Carter's true colors from one of the most prominent US academic researchers of Latin American politics, James Petras); the Somozas were almost literally the Hitlers of Nicaragua, backed by US presidents, Democratic & Republican, and rose to power with FDR's practical blessing after assassinating his opponent Sandino; numerous Latin American interventions on this page, including also the School of the Americas, i.e. school for Latin American dictators to make friends with military strong-arm tactics backed by the US and to go back to become dictators of their countries supported by the US, founded under Truman; a number of horrible things done under Kennedy and Johnson, not just in Latin America but also in the happy funtime place known as the Vietnam War (continued by Nixon & Ford, but started by Kennedy & Johnson), also the Bay of Pigs, Papa Doc's Haiti, and almost WWWIII under Kennedy & Johnson; El Salvadorean Death Squads forming, undercutting UN conferences on racism and technology transfer, helping restore the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia after the Vietnamese had kicked them out, sponsoring genocide in Indonesia by selling them weapons while they wiped native peoples out, and loads of other fun times under Carter, the Sanctions of Iraq under Clinton that a) didn't weaken Saddam and b) led to the deaths of thousands of children -- not his fault, one says? But the policy was obviously not weakening him by the time Clinton left office, and many had died, yet he continued to support it -- he bears responsibility for not stopping a failed policy that also hurt people; and more.

That's a lot of babbling for one day. We'll take on some more points some other time. Suffice it to say, I think the Dems are responsible for a massive amount of war, death, imperialism, and destruction and that simply has not been rebutted with evidence. The fact that the Republicans were also bad isn't enough, and the death tolls under Dems are, I think, higher (though of course it all depends on how -- and who -- you count). I rather think it's naive to think any given Dem is going to change this horrifying trend of imperialism and massive disregard for the residents of other countries, and to me, to suborn or support anyone who is wrapped up in this endeavor -- especially those most deeply wrapped in it (which doesn't yet include Obama but would include both Clintons) is a moral compromise to be made only with the most extreme caution and reluctance. Support for the Democrats is support for death abroad, just as surely as it is for the Republicans. And never forget -- Democratic Congresses have repeatedly failed to stop preventable wars and conflicts, or even give token resistance -- cf. the IRAQ WAR. The resolution giving Bush the questionable power to do what he's doing now probably could've been stopped by Dems if they hadn't nearly-all voted for it; same with the PATRIOT ACT, and Jesus Christ, elected in 2006 on a wave of "we want change; we want out," what the FUCK-ALL are they waiting for and what have they done? They've back down on pretty much every fight. Picking your fights is one thing; throwing them is another.

1 comment:

Becky T said...

I concede that every US president, Democrat or Republican, has continued the imperialist trend. I do not disagree that all have done a lot to cause harm across the world. I certainly agree that the Dems in Congress often seem to be spineless creeps who can't vote against anything, but I also must recognize that even if they had all moved to stop the Prez at any stage, they did/do not have the votes to override a veto. I do hold it against them that they voted for the Iraq war and the PATRIOT Act, but at least some of them didn't and some of them are now trying to do damage control on these issues and others.

I'd like to note that there are few issues that the Democrats so shiningly do differ from Republicans on. Most obvious first: One is equal rights for all Americans, including homosexuals. Another is abortion rights (which may matter more to me, as a female, than you). A third is actually doing something about GCC. A fourth is health care and a fifth is cutting taxes for the wealthy vs. giving services to the poor (you're likely to throw Welfare Reform in my face, right now, but if I remember correctly, most Dems were against it and the bill that passed came out of a Republican-majority Congress).

I guess on the subject of stuff like sanctions, I have to say that while sanctions are stupid, because they never work and they hurt the citizens, not the governments, of countries we 'don't like', I think sanctions must be preferable to bombing the s*&t out of a country (or two) and then occupying it.

I agree that it would be nice to have a leader who is not involved in any of the deplorable actions that our nation has undertaken in the last 100 years and one who is actually interested in solving some of the real problems in America today. However, I don't think Nadar is the guy to do it. Katha Pollit, my current favorite writer, recently summed up my feelings about Ralph much better than I can:
I'm not arguing that the Dems are great, I'm just saying Nadar's popping up every 4 years doesn't do what he claims to be trying to do.