by William Skink
7 days ago it was the New York Times reporting on Bernie Sanders gaining on Hillary Clinton in Iowa. 5 days ago it was Slate talking about how big crowds seem indicative of Sanders’ polling trend, closing the gap to 19 points in Iowa. Yesterday, a new poll showed Bernie gaining ground in Florida.
It’s easy to get caught up in this populist insurgency against the Democrat’s corporate darling, Hillary Clinton. Those of us without blinders on can extrapolate from her past record what a Hillary Clinton presidency will look like, and it’s frightening. So it’s not surprising that the rhetoric from the Sanders campaign is like a narcotic when contrasted with the hollow proclamations from Clinton.
While Bernie seems to be saying all the right things about domestic issues, some have noted a conspicuous absence of rhetoric about foreign policy. Since over half of every tax dollar goes to maintaining the largest killing machine on earth, it seems like probably an important thing to talk about. Unless of course you think your positions won’t necessarily align with a certain populist branding bumping you up in the polls, right Bernie?
Here’s Bruce Gagnon, writing for Counterpunch:
The candidate was getting huge applause as he took on Wall St, the Koch brothers, income inequality and the like. He touched on all the traditional progressive buttons just like I’d heard Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, and Dennis Kucinich do in the past. Women’s issues, single-payer health care, student loans hitting young people, and more were addressed. Sanders called for free college tuition for all. He wants to create millions of new jobs. He talked about fixing our neglected and broken infrastructure. He hit hard on climate change calling for a sustainable society.
It was when he mentioned climate change that I figured he had to talk about the military industrial complex, because after all that is the pot of gold that has to be tapped in order to pay for building the new vision of America that Bernie so eloquently laid out. But nothing was said about the metastasizing Pentagon budget nor a mumbling word was spoken about foreign policy. Nothing about Russia (Sanders does support sanctions on Moscow), nothing about NATO expansion, nothing about Israel’s brutal attacks on Gaza (Sanders has publicly supported Tel Aviv’s attacks on Palestinians), nothing about negotiations with Iran, nothing about waste, fraud, abuse at the Pentagon, nothing about our endless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, etc, and nothing about conversion of the military industrial complex to peaceful production.
After making many social program promises the only thing Bernie mentioned as a way to pay for all of this was a tax on “Wall Street speculation” which of course got a big cheer.
Maybe there are other reasons Bernie is avoiding foreign policy. Criticizing Israel is of course akin to political suicide, so Bernie definitely has to stay mum on pointing out how that murderous apartheid state continues to enact incremental genocide. And why talk about NATO encircling Russia when the propaganda in the states is so effective most people actually think it’s Russia acting as the aggressor?
No, talking about foreign policy isn’t a winning strategy if you’re wanting to win a political popularity contest. It certainly didn’t work in my favor at the old blog space, that’s for sure. People just don’t want to hear how insane America has become as it tries desperately to dominate global affairs, creating chaos where control can’t be achieved.
So enjoy Bernie’s pretty talk about inequality and sticking it to Wall Street and forget that actually addressing America’s big problems means accounting for the cost of maintaining empire.