Ralph Nader & the Abstention of the Left (was Galeano indictsNorth America)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Thu Oct 12 13:53:30 MDT 2000

>"Upside Down" by Eduardo Galeano
>The author of "Memory of Fire" delivers a scathing, mischievous indictment
>of North America's hypocrisy and consumer culture.
>- - - - - - - - - - - -
>By Greg Villepique
>Oct. 12, 2000 | Thinking of voting for Ralph Nader but wondering what the
>point is beyond keeping your conscience clean?

*****   Ralph Nader on Kosovo

Should have anticipated Yugoslav breakup by "waging peace"

Q: Your views on the Balkans and the bombing of Serbia?
A: Our foreign policy is often too little too late, and then too
brutal.  Everyone could foresee Yugoslavia deteriorating after Tito.
We need a policy of "waging peace" to anticipate problems. And we
need a multilateral "peace force" ready to go.
Q: UN or NATO-US or what?
A: With heavy regional content depending on which continent.
Source: National Public Radio, "The Connection" Jul 11, 2000

Bosnia: Force acceptable to help against mass slaughter

Q: Foreign policy, the Middle East, Bosnia: your general view in that area?
A: Well I think when there's mass slaughter going on or about to go
on, as in some countries, there should be a multinational
expeditionary force to help those people.  Burundi is an example. And
second, I think we should be very careful about getting into foreign
difficulties, because we're protecting big business, investments like
oil in the Persian Gulf, which led us into that whole morass to begin
Source: Interview on "Larry King Live" Oct 6, 1996

<http://www.issues2000.org/Ralph_Nader_Kosovo.htm>   *****


By Justin Raimondo:

When Ralph Nader entered the presidential sweepstakes as the
candidate of the Green Party, I thought: At last, we will hear from
the American Left on the vital questions of war and intervention. A
well-known and much respected public scold, Nader, I knew, would get
major attention, and in spite of my own political views, which are
quite conservative, I have always given him a kind of grudging
respect: here is one socialist who realizes that he is living in
America, for godssake, not 18th-century Russia, and looks to William
Jennings Bryan instead of Vladimir Illyich Lenin as a model to be
emulated. As the heir of the old "progressive" movement that took
root in the American West and Midwest, Nader, I thought, would
represent all aspects of that tradition, which not only wanted to
"bust the trusts" but also railed against the war profiteers who
dragged us into two world wars. I anticipated rhetoric in the spirit
of, say, Senator George W. Norris, Republican of Nebraska, whose
speech against US entry into World War I underscored the distinctly
anti-oligarchical flavor of the antiwar Left in those days. The
warmongers were the men of the trusts, he declared,

"Concealed in their palatial offices on Wall Street, sitting behind
mahogany desks, covered up with clipped coupons Š coupons stained
with mothers' tears, coupons dyed in the lifeblood of their fellow


With the entry of Nader, I imagined, we will hear once again the
question posed by Senator Robert LaFollette, that icon of
progressivism, on the eve of World War I:

"Shall we hind up our future with foreign powers and hazard the peace
of this nation for all time by linking the destiny of American
democracy with the ever-menacing antagonisms of foreign monarchies?
[Europe is] cursed with a contagious, deadly plague, whose spread
threatens to devastate the civilized world."


Instead of apologias for "humanitarian" imperialism, a la Todd
Gitlin, and the embarrassed silence of our congressional
left-liberals, most of whom supported Clinton's conquest of Kosovo, I
felt certain that the voice of the Green Party would be raised
against our bipartisan foreign policy of global hegemony. With
Patrick J. Buchanan attacking the globalists from the right, and
Nader assaulting their left flank, I was hoping that foreign policy
would be an important issue in this presidential election: contrary
to the predictions of the pundits, who claim that Americans could
care less about the crimes of the US in Kosovo and Iraq - and would
much rather keep it that way. Go Ralph go! The voice of a new
LaFollette - I thought - is about to be raised, and the prospect was
heartening. But, alas, it was not to be . . .


In a linguistic display of almost Clintonian evasiveness, the
supposedly principled "progressive" cops out bigtime. In a February
23 interview with something called "Alternative Radio," Nader serves
notice that he has decided not to take any specific foreign policy
positions aside from general blathering about "democratic processes,"
and I quote:

Q: "People will want to know your views on sanctions on Iraq, the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Chechnya and Kosovo. You've got to be
prepared to answer those questions."

A: "They'll be answered in terms of frameworks. Once you get into
more and more detail, the focus is completely defused. The press will
focus on the questions that are in the news. If Chechnya is in the
news, they'll want to focus on that. We should ask ourselves, What
kind of popular participation is there in foreign and military policy
in this country? Very little indeed. We want to develop the
frameworks. For example, do we want to pursue a vigorous policy of
waging peace and put the resources into it from our national budget
as we pursue the policy of building up ever-new weapons systems?"


Say what? Everybody knows Nader's a policy wonk, but isn't this
taking it a bit too far? If US troops get into a firefight with Serbs
on the Yugoslav-Kosovo border, does he really plan on answering the
question of where he stands "in terms of frameworks"? And this
business of how getting into detail "defuses" the focus is nothing
but a crock - and shows a contempt for the language, as well as
elementary logic, that one would expect of Bush or Gore: being in
focus means getting down to the details. And what, exactly, is a mere
"detail" in Nader's considered opinion - the decimation of
Yugoslavia, the murder of an entire generation of Iraqis, the
prospect of a war for Caspian oil?


These are not "details," but major issues that cannot be evaded by
appeals to "popular participation" and exhortations to "wage peace."
By reducing a moral question that transcends politics - what
constitutes a just war? - to a question of pure process, democratic
or otherwise, Nader thinks he can get away with in effect taking no
position at all. This has certain political advantages, in
solidifying his base of support in the Green Party and in the
(generally pro-war) media. While the Green Party platform clearly
states its opposition to all overseas interventions, the Kosovo war
(and before that, the Bosnian intervention) was not a clear-cut issue
with the dreadlocks-and-nosering crowd that makes up the party's
constituency and much of its activist base. Anything he says on the
Kosovo issue is bound to get him into trouble, and so - like any
politician of a more traditional stripe - it is best to say nothing.


Indeed, the whole question of Nader's stance on the Green Party
platform has come up before in the context of foreign policy and
defense-related issues: In a May 7 [2000] interview on "Meet the
Press," Tim Russert asked him:

Q: "The Green Party platform says about defense spending: "We strive
to cut the defense budget by 50% by the year 2000, from approximately
$300 billion - aggregate spending - in 1996." Is this your position?"

A: "Not that much. But [even former Reagan officials say the] defense
budget can be cut by $100 billion. Look, our traditional adversaries
are no more. Soviet Union is gone. Historically, we demobilized after
our enemies have disappeared or have been conquered. We're not doing
that now. We have F-22s, tens of billions of dollars. Analysts in the
Pentagon are opposed to it. B-2 bombers forced down the Pentagon's
throat while the global infectious disease efforts of the Pentagon, a
great story, is starved for its budget."


Not that much? Well then how seriously should we take the Green Party
platform on the question of foreign intervention? The platform calls
for a "pro-Democracy foreign policy," and offers up a laundry list of
Green policy prescriptions in slogan form::

"Support International, Multilateral Peacekeeping to Stop Aggression
and Genocide ."

"No Unilateral US Intervention in the Internal Affairs of Other Countries."

"Close All Overseas US Military Bases."

"Disband NATO and All Aggressive Military Alliances."

"Ban US Arms Exports."

"Abolish the CIA, NSA, and All US Agencies of Covert Warfare."

"End the Economic Blockades of Cuba, Iraq, and Yugoslavia."

"Cut Off US Military Aid to Counter-Insurgency Wars in Columbia and Mexico."

"Require a National Referendum of the Whole People to Declare War."


Which, if any, of these positions does Nader agree with? We've
already noted his dissent from the Green platform on cutting the
military budget - Nader would cut it only by a third or so - but what
else doesn't he agree with? You'll notice, by the way, that the
Greens say they oppose only unilateral US military intervention, and
- more ominously - start their list of demands by declaring their
support for multilateral "peacekeeping to stop aggression and
genocide" - precisely the language used by the Clintonistas to
justify the subjugation of Kosovo. The Green Party leadership, for
all its emphasis on grassroots organizing, stayed away completely
from the antiwar protests during the Kosovo conflict, no doubt
because a good portion of the Greenies were for what was, after all,
an allegedly "humanitarian" war. The strain of international
do-gooderism is very strong among the Greens, as can be seen in the
following astonishing passage from their platform, which promises a
"global Green Deal," the first step of which is that

"The US should finance universal access to primary education,
adequate food, clean water and sanitation, preventive health care,
and family planning services for every human being on Earth."...


Kosovo was a turning point not only for the Right, but also for the
formerly antiwar Left - which for the most part jumped on the
bandwagon of Clinton's "humanitarian" war, and, if anything,
criticized him for his tardiness. The transformation of the Green
Party of Germany - which entered the Social Democratic government of
Herr Schroeder and captured the Foreign Ministry - from a party of
peaceniks to the vanguard of the War Party (European branch) was
dramatized at their national convention held during the Kosovo war.
The so-called "radicals" - who insisted on adhering to the original
antiwar principles of the Greens - succeeded in splattering Joschka
Fischer, the Green Foreign Minister, with red paint during the debate
on Kosovo - but the "realos," the pro-war "realist" wing of the
party, carried the day and voted to support the government. Will the
American Greens go the same route? Time will tell....


Now, in all fairness, Nader's 1996 "no foreign policy, please"
position may change, this time around - we'll just have to wait and
see. In any case, a stubborn refusal to comment on a sudden foreign
policy crisis - say, if Kosovo blows before Election Day 2000 - could
cost him his credibility. It could also get people (including his
supporters) to ask a very pertinent question: Instead of running for
President, why doesn't Nader lower his sights and run for something
like California insurance commissioner? Now there is a job made for
Nader, our number one Public Citizen - and, what's more, he would
probably win. The incumbent, Republican Chuck Quackenbush, is in deep
trouble because of alleged financial collusion with the very industry
he was charged with regulating. It would be a feather in the cap of
the California Greens, who have put most of their emphasis on local
organizing and campaigns for city and county office - and there's
still time for Nader to drop out....
<http://www.antiwar.com/justin/j052600.html>   *****

I used to think that liberals & leftists, on average, are smarter
than conservatives.


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