Bernie Talks Militarism But Says Nothing New

Yes, I think the election season is a disastrously overlong distraction. If people’s interest in it can be used to get them to ask their heroes to lead on important matters — such as asking Bernie Sanders to rally the Senate for the Iran agreement or against the TPP — then that’s a nice silver lining. If people want to get drunk watching Republicans debate rather than some other poorly conceived tragicomedy on TV, what do I care?

But there’s usually little of moving the beloved leader forward on anything, because supporters take on the role of servants, not masters. Criticism equals endorsement of some other leader. Advice equals endorsement of some other leader. And facts are seen through glasses tinted the shade of one’s preferred public commander.

RootsAction’s petition asking Sanders to talk about the military has nearly 14,000 signatures. It’s produced a number of claims that Bernie in fact does talk about the military, and has a great record on it, etc. Following up on each of these claims thus far has led to virtually nothing new. If you go to Bernie’s website and click on ISSUES and search for foreign policy or war or peace or overall budget priorities (militarism now actually gets 54% now), you’ll be searching forever — unless he adds something. His “issues” page acts as if 199 nations and 54% of the budget just don’t exist.

If Senator Sanders were to add anything about war to his website, judging by his standard response when asked, it would be this:

The military wastes money and its contractors routinely engage in fraud. The Department of Defense should be audited. Some weapons that I won’t name should be eliminated. Some cuts that I won’t even vaguely estimate should be made. All the wars in the Middle East should continue, but Saudi Arabia should lead the way with the U.S. assisting, because Saudi Arabia has plenty of weapons — and if Saudi Arabia has murdered lots of its own citizens and countless little babies in Yemen and has the goal of overthrowing a number of governments and slaughtering people of the wrong sect and dominating the area for the ideology of its fanatical dictatorial regime, who cares, better that than the U.S. funding all the wars, and the idea of actually ending any wars should be effectively brushed aside by changing the subject to how unfair it is for Saudi Arabia not to carry more of the militarized man’s burden. Oh, and veterans, U.S. veterans, are owed the deepest gratitude imaginable for the generous and beneficial service they have performed by killing so many people in the wars I’ve voted against and the ones I’ve voted for alike.

A brilliant and talented friend of mine named Jonathan Tasini is about to publish a book on Sanders’ platform on numerous issues. I asked to read an early copy because I had a huge hope that perhaps Sanders had addressed what he’s silent on in an interview with Tasini. He’s silent on how much he’d cut the military, even within a range of $100 billion. He’s silent on alternatives to war. He’s usually silent on U.S. subservience to Israel. He’s silent on drone murders. He’s silent on militarism and military spending driving the wars, the civil liberties losses, the militarization of local police, the militarization of the borders, the nasty attitudes toward immigrants and minorities, etc. He’s silent on the public support for two, not one, great sources of revenue: taxing the rich (which he’s all over) and cutting the military (which he avoids). I admit that I also had a secret fear that Tasini’s book would not mention foreign policy at all.

Well, the book turns out not to include new interviews but just to collect past speeches and remarks and interviews and legislative records, carefully selected to paint the most progressive picture. So, wars Sanders opposed are mentioned. Wars he supported are not. Critiques of wasteful spending are included. Support for wasteful spending when it’s in Vermont is not. Etc. I do recommend getting the book as soon as it comes out. No similar book could be produced about any other candidate in the two mega parties. But take it all with a grain of salt. You’ll still have no grasp of Sander’s basic budgetary platform or approach to diplomacy or foreign aid or international law or demilitarization or transition to peaceful industries — assuming he develops any approach to some of those things.

And to those who are already telling me that Sanders has to censor his actually wonderful secret desires to move the world from war to peace (and presumably a 12-dimensional chess move by which Saudi Arabia check mates all the warmongers and fossil fuel consumers) — that he has to keep quiet or he’ll have powerful forces against him or he’ll be assassinated or he’ll lose the election — I’m going to say what I said when people told me this about Obama: IT’S NEVER WORKED THAT WAY IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD! WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING? We’re lucky if candidates keep half the promises they make. Getting them to keep promises they never made but we fantasized has never been done.

I also had hopes for the wonderful and admirable Nicole Sandler’s radio show on Thursday. She’d said that Sanders had no reluctance at all to discuss militarism. But of course I didn’t expect him to refuse to talk. I expected him to just muddle through the same old same old. And so he did. He talked about cost overruns and waste, fraud, a DoD audit. He said he’d eliminate some weapons (but didn’t name a single one). He said he’d make cuts but “I can’t tell you exactly how many.” Can you tell us roughly how many? He said he wanted “Muslim countries” to help with fighting the wars. Sandler prompted him with his Saudi Arabia thing, and he went off on that, and the host agreed with him.

So the Socialist wants to turn foreign affairs over to a royal theocratic dictatorship, won’t say what he’d do to the largest item in the budget even though it’s WAR, and he’s bravely come out against fraud and waste without naming any instances of it.

And now I have a choice of being satisfied or an ungrateful perfectionist secretly supporting Hillary, even though her record on militarism is worse than that of almost any human alive and her website lists Iran, ISIS, Russia, and China as enemies to be stood up strong against. Oh, forget it. What time do the Republicans come on? Pass the whiskey.

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  • diogenes

    Thank you for turning the light on, David Swanson. Now, let’s take it a step further and consider Sanders’ actions (non-actions) and statements (evasions and poses) from a systemic perspective and realize that he is enacting a specific, standard role in a specific, standard charade — the “Two Party” System’s pretense of democratic debate and democratic choice.

    All of us who are reasonably awake adults over the age of 40 have seen this situation tragedy played out through many seasons — brought to us by the Good Folks of the 0.01%. This is what we really need to start looking at, thinking about, and talking about — and less about the latest details of the latest bullshitter’s bullshit. The stink is always the same and it always comes from the same barn.

  • Mike “mud” Meyer

    Senator Bernard was able to join the club with less than 800,000 votes !
    Swanson could initiate an electoral combat mass migration to Wyo. and
    strut into the club with a few hundred Thousand votes.

  • jadan

    Do you have any idea what a genuine audit would do to the DoD? This is a very difficult but can-do proposal that would do more to curtail militarism than all your anti-war propaganda and phoney confrontationalism. This is a militaristic society embedded in a totalitarian national security state that allows dissidents like you plenty of wiggle room…up to a point. Everybody praises the troops even if they are skewering babies on their bayonets. You’re a hot-dogger, Swanson, using your idealism to bludgeon others. You and others, such as Carl Herman, get off dissing Sanders, like nasty bitches at a prom when the queen comes in. It’s really tiresome and it shows what the left is composed of: pompous narcissists who get off tearing real leaders down. Sanders is the only candidate on the scene who actually represents what you stand for to a large extent and what Herman stands for. A Sanders presidency would be very good for your anti-war business. Of course, there are some political non-entities who are closer to your stance. You’re politically irrelevant now. You think you’re going to become more relevant by attacking the only candidate sympathetic to your world-view? You people are self-destructive. You love your vainglorious idealism more than reality itself!

    • diogenes

      My question for you, jadan, is, what purposes do you think you serve — what purposes do you intend to serve — by calling names and throwing dust in the air? What is it that keeps you from seeing that Sanders is one more in a long line of hoaxes? If you are too young to have realized this from personal observation you can still learn it from intelligent reading and adult reflection on history. If you are old enough to have seen how the game is played, then why do you persist in not seeing it? Or are you pretending?

      • jadan

        I serve the purpose of supporting an extraordinary phenomenon in the Democratic Party, at the heart of American politics, the emergence of a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist”, who is drawing the largest crowds of any candidate. You haven’t seen this before and you won’t see it again. You sleep walkers can’t believe it, so Bernie’s a hoax. You have to tear him down because you have lost your capacity to exercise your own independent judgment under the weight of your own malodorous cynicism. The hoax is Barack Obama. The Democratic Party bought it and the change you can believe in. Sanders is an old white guy with no race card to play, without youth or sex appeal. What he’s got is a life story consistent and unerring in its direction, unlike the real hoaxer, Obama, whose life story is largely unknown because it is not a typical life story, but a legend in the sense of a CIA legend. Bernie is the real McCoy, but you can’t believe it. All I can say to you and to the others who play around in this blog: believe it! This is something very special. You won’t see the like again. If you fools help defeat Sanders, kiss what little freedom you have left good-bye. You had your chance and you blew it. If can throw a few stones and kick some butts and wake somebody up, then I’ve served my purpose. I’m not bloated with my own importance saving the world like Swanson or Herman. I’m Just saying: get out of the way! Let the real leader lead!

        • diogenes

          If we keep ignoring history, we will keep repeating it. The Two Party system has been proving itself a hoax throughout the life of everyone alive and for a generation before that. Whether Bernie is “the real McCoy” or a Mossad agent is entirely beside the point. The “two-party” system and both its parties — both wholly controlled and operated by the oligarchs — places limits on him and everyone else that precludes the kind of changes we need and perpetuates and worsens the status quo. Cheerleading for another hoax, childish reiteration of stale fairytales will get us more of the same and worse. Grow up. Be real. It’s time.