The First Casualty

by Joe Auciello

A good way to discover the truth is to compare the mis-truths and lies. Recently, the likely Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, let slip a prediction that the American military would remain in Iraq “for a hundred years.”

The Democratic candidates and their supporters gleefully pounced on this unusually candid remark to prove that the unabashedly pro-war McCain would continue the fighting, the destruction and death in Iraq, into the next century.

By contrast, the Democratic candidates spoke against the war and favored some form of withdrawal. The contrast was supposed to be simple and stark: war versus peace, Republican versus Democrat.

But… such is not the truth, much less the whole truth. The Democratic candidates want voters to forget what they have said and done, the better to portray themselves as the party of peace.

Senator Clinton would rather not remind the public not only of her early vote to give President Bush the authority to initiate an unprovoked war, but also her continued support for that war, and, as late as 2004, her calls for more troops to be sent into Iraq, more than Bush-Rumsfeld had on the ground.

Senator Obama, who likes to claim that he has opposed the war from the beginning, has, up until 2006, voted in favor of continued funding for the war.

Further, like McCain, Obama foresees a long-term American military deployment in Iraq. In his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama states the U.S. has “strategic goals” in Iraq which include creating a stable government friendly to U.S. interests and “preventing Iraq from becoming a base for terrorist activities.”

Obama’s goal of “prevention” guarantees that American soldiers will be fighting and dying in Iraq for a long time to come. The difference between the Republican versus the Democratic candidates on Iraq is not a difference of war versus peace. It’s merely a difference of words, shadings, and emphasis. It’s a difference between forthright rhetoric versus misleading rhetoric.

All the candidates choose the phrases that will play favorably with their constituents and bring them votes. All the candidates today tell people what they want to hear, so that tomorrow the newly-elected president can do as he or she wants.

Despite his “straight-talk” reputation, then, Sen. McCain is no font of truth, any more than his Democratic rivals. He, too, tells voters what they want to hear (“The surge is working. We’re winning the war!”). It’s only that McCain’s supporters do not object to or actually favor the continuation of the Iraq war. As a result, he can speak more frankly about the deployment of U.S. troops. But McCain has made some false statements, himself.

Trying to downplay potential damage from the “one hundred years” remark, McCain spoke a little hastily when he claimed, “No American argues against our military presence in Korea or Japan, or Germany or Kuwait or other places, or Turkey, because America is not receiving casualties.”

Not so! McCain might be forgiven for not knowing that revolutionary Marxists of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the predecessors of Socialist Action, objected to “our military presence in Korea” from the very beginning.

In “A Letter to the President and Members of the Congress (July 31, 1950),” James P. Cannon, a founder and principal leader of the SWP, wrote: “I disagree with your actions in Korea, and in my capacity as a private citizen I petition you to change your policy fundamentally, as follows:

“Withdraw the American troops and let the Korean people alone.

“I am setting forth the reasons for this demand in detail in the following paragraphs. But before opening the argument, I beg your permission, gentlemen, to tell you what I think of you. You are a pack of scoundrels. You are traitors to the human race. I hate your rudeness and your brutality. You make me ashamed of my country, which I have always loved, and ashamed of my race, which I used to think was as good as any.

“The American intervention in Korea is a brutal imperialist invasion, no different from the French war on Indo-China or the Dutch assault on Indonesia. American boys are being sent 10,000 miles away to kill and be killed, not in order to liberate the Korean people, but to conquer and subjugate them. It is outrageous. It is monstrous” (“Notebook of an Agitator,” pp. 185-186).

Revolutionary socialists in America consistently opposed “our military presence” throughout the world. For instance, the platform of the Socialist Workers Party in the 1972 elections, in the midst of the Vietnam War, did not call for “negotiations” or “setting a date” for withdrawal. Instead, socialists insisted on “the withdrawal of all U.S. troops and war material right now!”

Socialist candidates called for “a national referendum to give the people the right to vote on whether to continue the war or end it at once.”

Further, despite Sen. McCain’s comments about what no American favors, American revolutionary socialists said, “Dismantle all U.S. bases around the world. End all U.S. interference in the internal affairs of other countries.”

These are the political demands which Socialist Action favors today.

The candidates of the two main capitalist parties have to distort the positions of their opponents and misrepresent their own policies. The truth does not work for them; the truth does not favor them. They are forced to spend millions of dollars in advertising to create a false but wished-for image of their ideas and program.

Socialist Action, in happy contrast, has it far easier. Though lacking in millions of dollars, SA members and supporters can openly and honestly speak the truth about politics in America, about the American military presence throughout the world, and about the war in Iraq.

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