[Marxism] Naomi Klein: "Kerry campaign was morally bankrupt"

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Mar 2 22:55:25 MST 2005


INTERVIEW: 'Kerry's campaign was utterly morally bankrupt' (Naomi Klein)

Personally, I think a lot of what Naomi Klein says is inappropriate as
current demands for the antiwar movement, but worthy of consideration
from the point of view of the core ideas about Iraq that socialist
activists bring into the antiwar movement. From my own experience, I
know that socialist activists during the Vietnam war movement talked
about a lot more in relation to Vietnam than just 'out now'. At the same
time, I am concerned that her views could lead to some adaptations to
the occupation or to imperialist stand on dictatorial Syria, for
instance.  But I suspect this will not happen.  Maybe I'm being wishful,
but I keep sensing something revolutionary at the core of Klein's
thinking. We should not ignore people like her in thinking out our
responses.
Fred Feldman


INTERVIEW: 'Kerry's campaign was utterly morally bankrupt' (Naomi Klein)

[And Naomi Klein has criticisms of the antiwar movement, too:  "What I
keep 
coming across in the U.S. anti-war movement is the acceptance of this
idea 
that Americans are incapable of caring about anyone but themselves," she
says.  "We completely internalize the values and the principles of the
right -- 
ideas such as Americans can only care about selfish demands. . . . We
buy far 
too easily the belief that these are too far outside the mainstream, too
far 
outside the box, and Americans will never go for it.  So we're too
cowardly to 
put forward real policy alternatives and we only allow ourselves to
critique, 
and therefore, become not credible."  --Mark]

http://www.ufppc.org/content/view/2275/

WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR?
By Lakshmi Chaudhry

** In a provocative interview, Naomi Klein talks about Bush, the Iraq
war and 
the need for progressives to "answer the language of faith with the
language 
of morality." **

AlterNet
January 27, 2005

http://www.alternet.org/story/21099/

Best known for her brilliant analysis of corporate marketing in *No
Logo: 
Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies* -- a book once described as "the *Das 
Kapital* of the anti-corporate movement" -- Naomi Klein has long been a
voice 
for moral accountability in the media.

Since 2003, the 34-year old Canadian has found a new calling:  speaking
out 
against the war in Iraq.  She offers a unique perspective on the U.S. 
occupation as an unholy marriage of free market theology and imperial 
ambition.  In her internationally syndicated column -- which appears in
the 
*Globe and Mail* in Canada and the *Guardian in Britain -- Klein exposes
the 
sadly under-covered economic colonization of Iraq in the name of 
"reconstruction," which is no less brutal or devastating than the
Pentagon-led 
destruction of the countryside.  Be it Paul Bremer's illegal "reforms"
or 
spurious debt-adjustment programs, the United States is busy
transforming Iraq 
into an outpost of the neoconservative empire, ensuring its continued 
enslavement to U.S. interests long after the troops have returned home.

In her writings, Klein has been equally outspoken when taking the
anti-war 
movement to task for errors of omission -- especially its relative
silence on 
Bush's economic agenda in Iraq.  In her interview with AlterNet, she
speaks 
eloquently and with passion for the need to refocus the movement on
demands 
for both genuine democracy and economic revival coming out of Iraq.

She spoke to AlterNet from her home in Canada.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  What is your take on why the Democrats lost in 2004?

Naomi Klein:  The Democrats didn't fully understand that the success of
Karl 
Rove's party is really a success in branding.  Identity branding is
something 
that the corporate world has understood for some time now.  They're not 
selling a product; they're selling a desired identity, an aspirational 
identity of the people who consume their product.  Nike understands
that, 
Apple understands that, and so do all the successful brands.  Karl Rove 
understands that too.

So what the Republican Party has done is that it has co-branded with
other 
powerful brands -- like country music, and NASCAR, and church going, and
this 
larger proud-to-be-a-redneck identity.  Policy is pretty low on the
agenda, in 
terms of why people identify as Republicans.  They identify with these
packets 
of attributes.

This means a couple of things.  One, it means people are not swayed by
policy 
debates.  But more importantly, when George Bush's policies are
attacked, 
rather than being dissuaded from being Republicans, Republicans feel
attacked 
personally -- because it's *your* politics.  Republicanism has merged
with 
their identity.  That has happened because of the successful application
of 
the principles of identity branding.

The difference is that Bush fully inhabits his character, his character
being 
the most powerful enduring character created by Hollywood:  John Wayne,
who in 
turn actually modeled himself after McCarthy.  There are no more
powerful 
icons in American culture.  And it's not something Bush does for
campaign 
commercials, or just something he does when he plays dress up.  It's a 
24-hours-a-day performance.  Kerry tried to counter that by playing
dress-up a 
couple of times, wearing costumes and things like that.  A real honest 
populism could answer that fake marketing.  Instead, the Kerry campaign
just 
did bad marketing.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  So the answer is not to beat the Republicans at their
game 
but counter it with something real.

Naomi Klein:  When you have genuine conviction standing next to
extremely 
expert and successful marketing, it exposes the latter as marketing.
Whereas 
when you have bad marketing next to expert marketing, it actually makes
the 
other person look good.  The more Kerry tried to be a third-rate John
Wayne, 
the more believable Bush looked as John Wayne.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  You've also taken on the Kerry campaign for their
failure 
to tackle Iraq.  How did that play to the GOP's advantage?

Naomi Klein:  Karl Rove understood that if he wanted to galvanize his
base, he 
should make sure they could vote for the things that stirred the
strongest 
passions -- which in his analysis were abortion and gay marriage.  The
Kerry 
campaign took the exact opposite approach.  They felt that the best
strategy 
was to muzzle their base on the issue that they cared most passionately:
the 
war in Iraq.  And the campaign so took for granted their loyalty that
they ran 
a pro-war campaign.

Another part of the failure has to do with the way you answer the
language of 
faith.  You don't answer the language of faith with the language of more

effective bureaucracy, which is the image that John Kerry's campaign 
presented:  more effective administrators, more effective bureaucrats of
war.  
You have to answer the language of faith with the language of morality.
You 
can speak in powerful moral terms about the violence of war and the
violence 
of an economic system that's excluding ever more people.

That didn't happen because there were no policies in the Kerry campaign
that 
coincided with that language of morality.  These were policies such as a

withdrawal from Iraq, an end to the violence, and serious economic 
alternatives at home, which weren't on the table either.  The campaign,
in 
essence, tinkered with the Bush agenda, along with a message that they
were 
more credible than Bush.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  When you talk about moral language, it's remarkable
that 
Kerry didn't once mention Abu Ghraib.

Naomi Klein:  I think there was a lot of disdain in the Kerry campaign.
The 
disdain that bothered me more was the disdain that they showed for the
Iraqi 
people in their total unwillingness to condemn the basic violations of
human 
rights and international law.  He didn't mention Abu Ghraib.  He didn't
ever 
mention civilian deaths as one of the problems in Iraq.  He was too busy

showing how tough he was.  They clearly made a decision that speaking
about 
Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo would seem to be critical of the troops.  And
to 
speak about Iraqi civilians and international law would be to appear
soft on 
the war on terror.

Once you accept these premises -- which are premises that were laid out
by the 
Bush administration -- you're playing on their turf.  You don't win on
their 
turf; you win by redefining it.  I believe that Kerry's campaign was
utterly 
morally bankrupt and I blame the Kerry campaign for the total impunity
that 
the Bush administration is now enjoying.

First of all, I believe that an anti-war campaign could have won the
election.  But even if you think I'm crazy, I believe that an anti-war
campaign would 
have done a better job at losing the election (laughs).  Elections are
also 
moments where issues get put on the national agenda.  If there had been
(an 
anti-war) candidate with courage, for instance, it would have been
impossible 
for Bush to name Alberto Gonzales as his candidate for attorney general.
It 
was Kerry's silence more than Bush's win that allowed Bush to make such
a 
scandalous appointment.

When the siege in Fallujah happened (days after the election), and the 
violations of the Geneva Convention were at a completely new level,
there were 
no questions raised in the mainstream press.  The *New York Times*
reported 
these incidents without even an editorial or interview of experts on 
international law about whether it was legitimate to attack all the
medical 
care facilities and so on.  This to me is Kerry's legacy.  I blame Kerry
for 
this more than Bush because we expect this from them.  We expect them to
do 
whatever they can get away with.  And Kerry let them get away with it.
An 
election campaign was the one time there was a real opportunity to put
the war 
on trial.  And even if a principled anti-war campaign had lost, these
issues 
would still be on the agenda.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  In a way, Kerry actually confirmed the
marginalization of 
anti-war ideas as being outside the purview of a national debate.

Naomi Klein:  Right, they bought the idea that these were marginal
concerns.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  ... And therefore confirmed it.

Naomi Klein:  Exactly.  They also confirmed the idea that there is no 
political price for violations of international law of this kind.  Bush
paid 
no price in the election.  And by paid no price, I don't simply mean
paying 
the price at the polls.  I mean paying a price during the debates and
paying a 
price in terms of being called on these issues.  He paid no price and
that is 
a license to continue with new impunity.  It was a shameful, morally
bankrupt 
campaign.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  So where does the anti-war movement go from here?
What 
kind of rethinking is necessary now?

Naomi Klein:  The great error made during the electoral campaign was
that the 
anti-war movement allowed itself to turn into an anti-Bush movement.  So
as 
the logic of anyone-but-Bush set in -- and there wasn't a candidate
speaking 
on these issues -- the war itself disappeared.  What I mean by that is
that 
the reality of war itself disappeared.  The truth is that we were
talking 
about Iraq in the past tense -- not about what was happening on the
ground 
during the campaign.  And indeed, I believe that continues to be true to
a 
scandalous degree, especially what we've just seen in recent months in
Iraq.  
I'm worried that we haven't learned from that mistake yet.

We also need to more clearly focus on policy demands.  I have been
arguing for 
a long time that the anti-war movement should turn itself into a
pro-democracy 
movement, i.e., support the demands for democracy in Iraq.

As an aside, I want to make a clear distinction between democracy in
Iraq and 
the elections being held right now because they're not the same.  The 
elections are, in fact, being used as a weapon in Iraq at the moment.

One of our great failures was in January of 2004, when there were a
hundred 
thousand people in the streets in Baghdad demanding direct elections and

rejecting the idea of an interim government.  We didn't mirror those
protests, 
unlike the time when we had protests around the world opposing the war.

This is just an example to make the point that it's not a question of
*us* 
deciding what the demands are from here.  There are clear demands that
are 
coming out of Iraq.  And if we care to listen, we can mirror them and
bring 
them home to where the decisions are being made in Washington, in
London, and 
so on.  We haven't done much of that.

What we've really done a lot of is proving ourselves right to have even 
opposed the war in the first place.  And I even sometimes get the sense
-- in 
some anti-war circles -- that we who oppose the war don't have any 
responsibility to talk about how to improve the situation in Iraq beyond
just 
advocating pulling out the troops.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  We need to be talking about our moral responsibility
toward 
Iraqis.  I'm glad someone is finally saying that.

Naomi Klein:  There's almost a sense that to do so would be to weaken
our 
position.  I was talking to a journalist a few weeks ago and I was
saying that 
I believe our responsibility is to hold Bush to his lie.  They promised 
democracy, sovereignty and liberation.  They haven't delivered, but our
job 
should be to demand that these become realities.  His response was, "So
what 
you're saying is that something good could come from the war, right?"
He was 
trying to trap me.  I realized when he did this that this was a big
reason why 
anti-war forces have refused to have positive demands -- precisely
because it 
will be used against us.  It will seem as if something good could come
from 
this war.  My response to this is:  Who the hell cares?  Who cares about
our 
anti-war egos?  Which is really what this is about.

Because this war was never about bringing democracy to Iraq -- at every
turn 
democracy has been suppressed -- we have a very clear role to play here.
Our 
role is to support the demands for democracy that are coming from Iraq,
where 
Iraqis are being violently repressed for making those demands.

So we need to move beyond our desire to prove ourselves right because I
think 
that it really has come, honestly, at the expense of the people we are 
supposedly working in solidarity with.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  Do you think it also weakens our moral credibility
when 
some anti-war advocates say immediate withdrawal is the only way out, 
irrespective of the consequences for the Iraqi people?  Some argue that
it 
doesn't matter how much bloodshed ensues, it's still better than having
the 
U.S. in there.

Naomi Klein:  I agree that there's a profound responsibility not to
abandon 
Iraq.  But the presence of troops is not the solution, which is why we
need to 
talk about reparations.  What we need to talk about is the fact that so
little 
of the reconstruction money has actually made it to the ground.  That
money is 
still owed.  The reason why this money was approved was because
Americans 
accepted that as part of the invasion they did owe something to Iraq in
terms 
of the reconstruction.  But that money hasn't gone to Iraq's
reconstruction, 
and is an ongoing debt.  There are programs that could be developed that
could 
bring real hope to Iraq -- that can be a real bulwark against civil war.

One of the ways in which the Kerry campaign was morally bankrupt was
that it 
refused to speak about this issue.  Bush and Cheney talked about what
was owed 
to Iraq and talked about the responsibility of not to cut and run.

I have heard people on the left in the U.S. say that we don't owe Iraq 
anything, that they have oil revenue, that our only responsibility is to
just 
pull out.  That is wrong.  Our responsibility goes far beyond that.
Anybody 
who says that has really not taken a hard look at the level of
devastation of 
that country.

I also just heard recently from some people who said that they don't
want 
another U.S. taxpayer dollar going to Iraq.  Barely any U.S. taxpayer
dollars 
have gone to Iraq.  In fact, Iraqi money has gone to U.S. companies
because 
it's the Iraqi oil money that's bankrolled their reconstruction
contracts.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  What's a specific policy or issue that the anti-war 
movement could rally around?

Naomi Klein:  For me the easiest issue is debt.  The Iraqis should not
have to 
inherit Saddam's debt.  This is a very simple issue.  Now this is
something 
Bush has said and James Baker has said.  And that's why we feel we don't
have 
the right to say it.  The truth is that when Bush and Baker say it,
they're 
lying.  What they've actually done to Iraq instead is reduce the debt
just 
enough to make sure that Iraqis can repay it.  It was at a completely 
unsustainable level and was never going to be repaid previously so it
was 
restructured -- so that they could demand that it be repaid.  Then it
was 
attached to an IMF structural adjustment program that makes debt
forgiveness 
contingent on adherence to incredibly damaging and dangerous new
economic 
(free market) policies.

We said nothing about this in the anti-war movement when we should have
been 
demanding total debt erasure.  We had a window when Bush was using our 
language, but instead we responded as if we didn't have any
responsibility to 
do so *because* he was using that language.

Of course, there are some exceptions.  There's this great group called
Jubilee 
Iraq that has been working on these issues.  I think that these
campaigns -- 
which are working on issues that are real practical solidarity -- need
to be 
funded better and get more support.

There's another campaign that's evolving around plans to eliminate the
food 
ration program in Iraq -- which is just another brilliant idea.  Right
now, 
the whole country receives a food basket, and 60 percent of Iraqis
depend on 
them for basic nutrition.  But this program is seen as a relic of state 
socialism by the neocons in charge.  So in the middle of this brutal
economic 
recession in Iraq where 70 percent of the country is unemployed, they're

proposing eliminating the main source of nutrition for the country and
giving 
people cash instead so they participate in a market economy.

We need to develop an agenda based on the demands coming from Iraq for 
reparations, for total debt erasure, for complete control over the oil 
revenues, for a cancellation of the contracts signed under the
occupation, and 
so on.  This is what real sovereignty would look like, real
self-determination 
-- we know this.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  You've been to Iraq -- how do Iraqis view this demand
for 
immediate withdrawal?

Naomi Klein:  The country is so wrecked.  In the absence of any other
source 
of hope, there are people in Iraq who worry that the troop withdrawal
would 
just signify a complete abandonment of country.

Quite frankly, there's a lot of skepticism in Iraq -- from what I saw --
about 
the international anti-war movement.  In part, it's because anti-war
forces 
were not critical enough of Saddam.  But it's also because we haven't
proposed 
this kind of practical solidarity that has to do with improving people's

lives, and not just absolving our conscience.  Or saying "Not in our
name," 
and then going home.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  I know progressives who think that somehow the world
will 
cheer if the U.S. just gets the hell out.  I know at least a lot of
Indians 
would see it as just another example of American irresponsibility:  they
first 
invade a country and destroy it and then just leave without repairing
the 
damage -- and all in the name of morality.

Naomi Klein:  The people who really would be cheering are the people who
see a 
political opportunity.  There are people in Iraq who understand that the

wreckage of the country creates an opportunity for them to build their
own 
powerbase.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  Right.  The Moqtada al Sadrs of this world, who may
not 
have the well-being of the Iraqi people in mind.  One of the criticisms 
against the anti-war movement is also that we haven't put forward policy

alternatives.  Do you agree?

Naomi Klein:  It's very, very frustrating.  What I keep coming across in
the 
U.S. anti-war movement is the acceptance of this idea that Americans are

incapable of caring about anyone but themselves.  The progressives in
the U.S. 
are fairly self-loathing, in that, basically we allow ourselves to
oppose a 
specific policy, but we completely internalize the values and the
principles 
of the right -- ideas such as Americans can only care about selfish
demands; 
they can't really care about people in another country; to talk about 
international law in the United States is to be seen as giving up U.S.
power 
to foreigners.

We basically accept all of this instead of making passionate arguments
in 
favor of international law that would actually convince people.  In a
lot of 
cases, the policies are there but we don't have the strength of our 
convictions to make them.  We buy far too easily the belief that these
are too 
far outside the mainstream, too far outside the box, and Americans will
never 
go for it.  So we're too cowardly to put forward real policy
alternatives and 
we only allow ourselves to critique, and therefore, become not credible.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  So what are the immediate tasks facing the anti-war 
movement right now?

Naomi Klein:  The first task is to develop a positive agenda with
progressive 
forces in Iraq -- to support deep democracy and genuine sovereignty in
that 
country, which would make the demand for troop withdrawal credible.

The second goal is to have an international strategy to increase the
pressure 
on the U.S. military so that continued U.S. presence becomes
increasingly 
untenable.  That means trying to further break the coalition and
identifying 
points of vulnerability.  The coalition is very vulnerable --
particularly in 
countries like Italy, Japan and even the U.K., where a majority of the 
population is clearly against the war.  Increasing the pressure there
for 
withdrawal then increases the burden on U.S. troops and makes the demand
for 
troop withdrawal stronger.   In Canada I think we have a role to play by

supporting the war deserters who have come here, particularly the push
for a 
legal precedent to be set for American soldiers claiming refugee status
in 
Canada.  If we win a couple of these legal cases, there will be many
more 
American soldiers who will want to come.  The goal should be to get the
Bush 
administration to the point where they have to choose between staying in
Iraq 
and bringing in the draft.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  Isn't that a little hazardous from a political point
of 
view -- in the sense that you could be seen as advocating against the
soldiers 
or pushing for a draft?

Naomi Klein:  Everything I'm saying is slightly politically hazardous.
But 
I'm talking about the global anti-war movement now.  There are certain
demands 
more important to be made in the U.S. and then there has to be a
strategy for 
the rest of the world.  And the strategy for the rest of the world
should be 
to send a clear message to the Bush administration:  If you truly want
to be 
the unilateral administration then you must bear the burden of your 
unilateralism.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  In the U.S., part of advocating for the soldiers is
not 
just to bring them home but also raise awareness to the problems they
are 
facing on the ground.  For example, many progressives have spoken out on

behalf of National Guardsmen who are poorly equipped.  How do you feel
about 
that?

Naomi Klein:  That one is a little hard for me, to be honest.  It's
really 
important that we make the connections between the domestic policies
that are 
forcing many of these soldiers to feel they have to choose the army --
where 
this is their only way to get an education, to get a job, to support
their 
families. These connections should be at the heart of any progressive 
movement in the States.  So that's a way to support the troops.  I also
think 
that we need to support veterans when they come home.

But in terms on the whole emphasis on body armor and so on, I really
don't 
know if I'm the best person to ask about that.  I feel that everyone in
Iraq 
needs body armor.  The truth is that when you're there, what you see is 
American soldiers in heavy armor, who never walk the streets, but patrol
the 
streets in Bradley Fighting Vehicles.  Yes, it's true that it's mostly 
minority soldiers who get the job of sitting on top of the tanks, where 
they're most vulnerable.  Every foreigner's house is surrounded by blast
walls 
and checkpoints to protect them from Iraqis.  The same Iraqis who have
no 
protection, who don't have blast walls.

There is something really powerful about the idea that these kids who
are 
risking their lives are scavenging for scrap metal to align their
vehicles.  
But the truth is that they're doing community policing with F-16's in
Iraq.  I 
can't bring myself to ask for them to have more armor.

--This interview is excerpted from the forthcoming book by AlterNet,
"Start 
Making Sense: Turning the Lessons of Election 2004 into Winning
Progressive 
Politics."  It will be available in March, published by Chelsea Green 
Publishing.  Lakshmi Chaudhry is senior editor of AlterNet.

(Fis, support to the idea of the Iraqi masses utilizing what might be
called a "transitional program" of opposition to an occupation that is
not going to end overnight but has fundamental political weaknesses and
vulnerabilities. And standing on their side in the struggle, which is a
basic necessity for the antiwar movement (regardless of "slogans") in
its stance toward the people of Iraq. At the same time, I have concerns
that her stance could foster forms of adaptation to the occupation. But
at the same time I suspect this is not the case, that there is something
revolutionary at the core of her thinking.  Watch this space for further
developments.
The comments that follow in brackets are by Mark Jensen, of the
Snow-News list, another good observer if I do say so myself.
Fred Feldman

[And Naomi Klein has criticisms of the antiwar movement, too:  "What I
keep 
coming across in the U.S. anti-war movement is the acceptance of this
idea 
that Americans are incapable of caring about anyone but themselves," she
says.  "We completely internalize the values and the principles of the
right -- 
ideas such as Americans can only care about selfish demands. . . . We
buy far 
too easily the belief that these are too far outside the mainstream, too
far 
outside the box, and Americans will never go for it.  So we're too
cowardly to 
put forward real policy alternatives and we only allow ourselves to
critique, 
and therefore, become not credible."  --Mark Jensen]

http://www.ufppc.org/content/view/2275/

WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR?
By Lakshmi Chaudhry

** In a provocative interview, Naomi Klein talks about Bush, the Iraq
war and 
the need for progressives to "answer the language of faith with the
language 
of morality." **

AlterNet
January 27, 2005

http://www.alternet.org/story/21099/

Best known for her brilliant analysis of corporate marketing in *No
Logo: 
Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies* -- a book once described as "the *Das 
Kapital* of the anti-corporate movement" -- Naomi Klein has long been a
voice 
for moral accountability in the media.

Since 2003, the 34-year old Canadian has found a new calling:  speaking
out 
against the war in Iraq.  She offers a unique perspective on the U.S. 
occupation as an unholy marriage of free market theology and imperial 
ambition.  In her internationally syndicated column -- which appears in
the 
*Globe and Mail* in Canada and the *Guardian in Britain -- Klein exposes
the 
sadly under-covered economic colonization of Iraq in the name of 
"reconstruction," which is no less brutal or devastating than the
Pentagon-led 
destruction of the countryside.  Be it Paul Bremer's illegal "reforms"
or 
spurious debt-adjustment programs, the United States is busy
transforming Iraq 
into an outpost of the neoconservative empire, ensuring its continued 
enslavement to U.S. interests long after the troops have returned home.

In her writings, Klein has been equally outspoken when taking the
anti-war 
movement to task for errors of omission -- especially its relative
silence on 
Bush's economic agenda in Iraq.  In her interview with AlterNet, she
speaks 
eloquently and with passion for the need to refocus the movement on
demands 
for both genuine democracy and economic revival coming out of Iraq.

She spoke to AlterNet from her home in Canada.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  What is your take on why the Democrats lost in 2004?

Naomi Klein:  The Democrats didn't fully understand that the success of
Karl 
Rove's party is really a success in branding.  Identity branding is
something 
that the corporate world has understood for some time now.  They're not 
selling a product; they're selling a desired identity, an aspirational 
identity of the people who consume their product.  Nike understands
that, 
Apple understands that, and so do all the successful brands.  Karl Rove 
understands that too.

So what the Republican Party has done is that it has co-branded with
other 
powerful brands -- like country music, and NASCAR, and church going, and
this 
larger proud-to-be-a-redneck identity.  Policy is pretty low on the
agenda, in 
terms of why people identify as Republicans.  They identify with these
packets 
of attributes.

This means a couple of things.  One, it means people are not swayed by
policy 
debates.  But more importantly, when George Bush's policies are
attacked, 
rather than being dissuaded from being Republicans, Republicans feel
attacked 
personally -- because it's *your* politics.  Republicanism has merged
with 
their identity.  That has happened because of the successful application
of 
the principles of identity branding.

The difference is that Bush fully inhabits his character, his character
being 
the most powerful enduring character created by Hollywood:  John Wayne,
who in 
turn actually modeled himself after McCarthy.  There are no more
powerful 
icons in American culture.  And it's not something Bush does for
campaign 
commercials, or just something he does when he plays dress up.  It's a 
24-hours-a-day performance.  Kerry tried to counter that by playing
dress-up a 
couple of times, wearing costumes and things like that.  A real honest 
populism could answer that fake marketing.  Instead, the Kerry campaign
just 
did bad marketing.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  So the answer is not to beat the Republicans at their
game 
but counter it with something real.

Naomi Klein:  When you have genuine conviction standing next to
extremely 
expert and successful marketing, it exposes the latter as marketing.
Whereas 
when you have bad marketing next to expert marketing, it actually makes
the 
other person look good.  The more Kerry tried to be a third-rate John
Wayne, 
the more believable Bush looked as John Wayne.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  You've also taken on the Kerry campaign for their
failure 
to tackle Iraq.  How did that play to the GOP's advantage?

Naomi Klein:  Karl Rove understood that if he wanted to galvanize his
base, he 
should make sure they could vote for the things that stirred the
strongest 
passions -- which in his analysis were abortion and gay marriage.  The
Kerry 
campaign took the exact opposite approach.  They felt that the best
strategy 
was to muzzle their base on the issue that they cared most passionately:
the 
war in Iraq.  And the campaign so took for granted their loyalty that
they ran 
a pro-war campaign.

Another part of the failure has to do with the way you answer the
language of 
faith.  You don't answer the language of faith with the language of more

effective bureaucracy, which is the image that John Kerry's campaign 
presented:  more effective administrators, more effective bureaucrats of
war.  
You have to answer the language of faith with the language of morality.
You 
can speak in powerful moral terms about the violence of war and the
violence 
of an economic system that's excluding ever more people.

That didn't happen because there were no policies in the Kerry campaign
that 
coincided with that language of morality.  These were policies such as a

withdrawal from Iraq, an end to the violence, and serious economic 
alternatives at home, which weren't on the table either.  The campaign,
in 
essence, tinkered with the Bush agenda, along with a message that they
were 
more credible than Bush.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  When you talk about moral language, it's remarkable
that 
Kerry didn't once mention Abu Ghraib.

Naomi Klein:  I think there was a lot of disdain in the Kerry campaign.
The 
disdain that bothered me more was the disdain that they showed for the
Iraqi 
people in their total unwillingness to condemn the basic violations of
human 
rights and international law.  He didn't mention Abu Ghraib.  He didn't
ever 
mention civilian deaths as one of the problems in Iraq.  He was too busy

showing how tough he was.  They clearly made a decision that speaking
about 
Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo would seem to be critical of the troops.  And
to 
speak about Iraqi civilians and international law would be to appear
soft on 
the war on terror.

Once you accept these premises -- which are premises that were laid out
by the 
Bush administration -- you're playing on their turf.  You don't win on
their 
turf; you win by redefining it.  I believe that Kerry's campaign was
utterly 
morally bankrupt and I blame the Kerry campaign for the total impunity
that 
the Bush administration is now enjoying.

First of all, I believe that an anti-war campaign could have won the
election.  But even if you think I'm crazy, I believe that an anti-war
campaign would 
have done a better job at losing the election (laughs).  Elections are
also 
moments where issues get put on the national agenda.  If there had been
(an 
anti-war) candidate with courage, for instance, it would have been
impossible 
for Bush to name Alberto Gonzales as his candidate for attorney general.
It 
was Kerry's silence more than Bush's win that allowed Bush to make such
a 
scandalous appointment.

When the siege in Fallujah happened (days after the election), and the 
violations of the Geneva Convention were at a completely new level,
there were 
no questions raised in the mainstream press.  The *New York Times*
reported 
these incidents without even an editorial or interview of experts on 
international law about whether it was legitimate to attack all the
medical 
care facilities and so on.  This to me is Kerry's legacy.  I blame Kerry
for 
this more than Bush because we expect this from them.  We expect them to
do 
whatever they can get away with.  And Kerry let them get away with it.
An 
election campaign was the one time there was a real opportunity to put
the war 
on trial.  And even if a principled anti-war campaign had lost, these
issues 
would still be on the agenda.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  In a way, Kerry actually confirmed the
marginalization of 
anti-war ideas as being outside the purview of a national debate.

Naomi Klein:  Right, they bought the idea that these were marginal
concerns.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  ... And therefore confirmed it.

Naomi Klein:  Exactly.  They also confirmed the idea that there is no 
political price for violations of international law of this kind.  Bush
paid 
no price in the election.  And by paid no price, I don't simply mean
paying 
the price at the polls.  I mean paying a price during the debates and
paying a 
price in terms of being called on these issues.  He paid no price and
that is 
a license to continue with new impunity.  It was a shameful, morally
bankrupt 
campaign.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  So where does the anti-war movement go from here?
What 
kind of rethinking is necessary now?

Naomi Klein:  The great error made during the electoral campaign was
that the 
anti-war movement allowed itself to turn into an anti-Bush movement.  So
as 
the logic of anyone-but-Bush set in -- and there wasn't a candidate
speaking 
on these issues -- the war itself disappeared.  What I mean by that is
that 
the reality of war itself disappeared.  The truth is that we were
talking 
about Iraq in the past tense -- not about what was happening on the
ground 
during the campaign.  And indeed, I believe that continues to be true to
a 
scandalous degree, especially what we've just seen in recent months in
Iraq.  
I'm worried that we haven't learned from that mistake yet.

We also need to more clearly focus on policy demands.  I have been
arguing for 
a long time that the anti-war movement should turn itself into a
pro-democracy 
movement, i.e., support the demands for democracy in Iraq.

As an aside, I want to make a clear distinction between democracy in
Iraq and 
the elections being held right now because they're not the same.  The 
elections are, in fact, being used as a weapon in Iraq at the moment.

One of our great failures was in January of 2004, when there were a
hundred 
thousand people in the streets in Baghdad demanding direct elections and

rejecting the idea of an interim government.  We didn't mirror those
protests, 
unlike the time when we had protests around the world opposing the war.

This is just an example to make the point that it's not a question of
*us* 
deciding what the demands are from here.  There are clear demands that
are 
coming out of Iraq.  And if we care to listen, we can mirror them and
bring 
them home to where the decisions are being made in Washington, in
London, and 
so on.  We haven't done much of that.

What we've really done a lot of is proving ourselves right to have even 
opposed the war in the first place.  And I even sometimes get the sense
-- in 
some anti-war circles -- that we who oppose the war don't have any 
responsibility to talk about how to improve the situation in Iraq beyond
just 
advocating pulling out the troops.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  We need to be talking about our moral responsibility
toward 
Iraqis.  I'm glad someone is finally saying that.

Naomi Klein:  There's almost a sense that to do so would be to weaken
our 
position.  I was talking to a journalist a few weeks ago and I was
saying that 
I believe our responsibility is to hold Bush to his lie.  They promised 
democracy, sovereignty and liberation.  They haven't delivered, but our
job 
should be to demand that these become realities.  His response was, "So
what 
you're saying is that something good could come from the war, right?"
He was 
trying to trap me.  I realized when he did this that this was a big
reason why 
anti-war forces have refused to have positive demands -- precisely
because it 
will be used against us.  It will seem as if something good could come
from 
this war.  My response to this is:  Who the hell cares?  Who cares about
our 
anti-war egos?  Which is really what this is about.

Because this war was never about bringing democracy to Iraq -- at every
turn 
democracy has been suppressed -- we have a very clear role to play here.
Our 
role is to support the demands for democracy that are coming from Iraq,
where 
Iraqis are being violently repressed for making those demands.

So we need to move beyond our desire to prove ourselves right because I
think 
that it really has come, honestly, at the expense of the people we are 
supposedly working in solidarity with.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  Do you think it also weakens our moral credibility
when 
some anti-war advocates say immediate withdrawal is the only way out, 
irrespective of the consequences for the Iraqi people?  Some argue that
it 
doesn't matter how much bloodshed ensues, it's still better than having
the 
U.S. in there.

Naomi Klein:  I agree that there's a profound responsibility not to
abandon 
Iraq.  But the presence of troops is not the solution, which is why we
need to 
talk about reparations.  What we need to talk about is the fact that so
little 
of the reconstruction money has actually made it to the ground.  That
money is 
still owed.  The reason why this money was approved was because
Americans 
accepted that as part of the invasion they did owe something to Iraq in
terms 
of the reconstruction.  But that money hasn't gone to Iraq's
reconstruction, 
and is an ongoing debt.  There are programs that could be developed that
could 
bring real hope to Iraq -- that can be a real bulwark against civil war.

One of the ways in which the Kerry campaign was morally bankrupt was
that it 
refused to speak about this issue.  Bush and Cheney talked about what
was owed 
to Iraq and talked about the responsibility of not to cut and run.

I have heard people on the left in the U.S. say that we don't owe Iraq 
anything, that they have oil revenue, that our only responsibility is to
just 
pull out.  That is wrong.  Our responsibility goes far beyond that.
Anybody 
who says that has really not taken a hard look at the level of
devastation of 
that country.

I also just heard recently from some people who said that they don't
want 
another U.S. taxpayer dollar going to Iraq.  Barely any U.S. taxpayer
dollars 
have gone to Iraq.  In fact, Iraqi money has gone to U.S. companies
because 
it's the Iraqi oil money that's bankrolled their reconstruction
contracts.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  What's a specific policy or issue that the anti-war 
movement could rally around?

Naomi Klein:  For me the easiest issue is debt.  The Iraqis should not
have to 
inherit Saddam's debt.  This is a very simple issue.  Now this is
something 
Bush has said and James Baker has said.  And that's why we feel we don't
have 
the right to say it.  The truth is that when Bush and Baker say it,
they're 
lying.  What they've actually done to Iraq instead is reduce the debt
just 
enough to make sure that Iraqis can repay it.  It was at a completely 
unsustainable level and was never going to be repaid previously so it
was 
restructured -- so that they could demand that it be repaid.  Then it
was 
attached to an IMF structural adjustment program that makes debt
forgiveness 
contingent on adherence to incredibly damaging and dangerous new
economic 
(free market) policies.

We said nothing about this in the anti-war movement when we should have
been 
demanding total debt erasure.  We had a window when Bush was using our 
language, but instead we responded as if we didn't have any
responsibility to 
do so *because* he was using that language.

Of course, there are some exceptions.  There's this great group called
Jubilee 
Iraq that has been working on these issues.  I think that these
campaigns -- 
which are working on issues that are real practical solidarity -- need
to be 
funded better and get more support.

There's another campaign that's evolving around plans to eliminate the
food 
ration program in Iraq -- which is just another brilliant idea.  Right
now, 
the whole country receives a food basket, and 60 percent of Iraqis
depend on 
them for basic nutrition.  But this program is seen as a relic of state 
socialism by the neocons in charge.  So in the middle of this brutal
economic 
recession in Iraq where 70 percent of the country is unemployed, they're

proposing eliminating the main source of nutrition for the country and
giving 
people cash instead so they participate in a market economy.

We need to develop an agenda based on the demands coming from Iraq for 
reparations, for total debt erasure, for complete control over the oil 
revenues, for a cancellation of the contracts signed under the
occupation, and 
so on.  This is what real sovereignty would look like, real
self-determination 
-- we know this.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  You've been to Iraq -- how do Iraqis view this demand
for 
immediate withdrawal?

Naomi Klein:  The country is so wrecked.  In the absence of any other
source 
of hope, there are people in Iraq who worry that the troop withdrawal
would 
just signify a complete abandonment of country.

Quite frankly, there's a lot of skepticism in Iraq -- from what I saw --
about 
the international anti-war movement.  In part, it's because anti-war
forces 
were not critical enough of Saddam.  But it's also because we haven't
proposed 
this kind of practical solidarity that has to do with improving people's

lives, and not just absolving our conscience.  Or saying "Not in our
name," 
and then going home.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  I know progressives who think that somehow the world
will 
cheer if the U.S. just gets the hell out.  I know at least a lot of
Indians 
would see it as just another example of American irresponsibility:  they
first 
invade a country and destroy it and then just leave without repairing
the 
damage -- and all in the name of morality.

Naomi Klein:  The people who really would be cheering are the people who
see a 
political opportunity.  There are people in Iraq who understand that the

wreckage of the country creates an opportunity for them to build their
own 
powerbase.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  Right.  The Moqtada al Sadrs of this world, who may
not 
have the well-being of the Iraqi people in mind.  One of the criticisms 
against the anti-war movement is also that we haven't put forward policy

alternatives.  Do you agree?

Naomi Klein:  It's very, very frustrating.  What I keep coming across in
the 
U.S. anti-war movement is the acceptance of this idea that Americans are

incapable of caring about anyone but themselves.  The progressives in
the U.S. 
are fairly self-loathing, in that, basically we allow ourselves to
oppose a 
specific policy, but we completely internalize the values and the
principles 
of the right -- ideas such as Americans can only care about selfish
demands; 
they can't really care about people in another country; to talk about 
international law in the United States is to be seen as giving up U.S.
power 
to foreigners.

We basically accept all of this instead of making passionate arguments
in 
favor of international law that would actually convince people.  In a
lot of 
cases, the policies are there but we don't have the strength of our 
convictions to make them.  We buy far too easily the belief that these
are too 
far outside the mainstream, too far outside the box, and Americans will
never 
go for it.  So we're too cowardly to put forward real policy
alternatives and 
we only allow ourselves to critique, and therefore, become not credible.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  So what are the immediate tasks facing the anti-war 
movement right now?

Naomi Klein:  The first task is to develop a positive agenda with
progressive 
forces in Iraq -- to support deep democracy and genuine sovereignty in
that 
country, which would make the demand for troop withdrawal credible.

The second goal is to have an international strategy to increase the
pressure 
on the U.S. military so that continued U.S. presence becomes
increasingly 
untenable.  That means trying to further break the coalition and
identifying 
points of vulnerability.  The coalition is very vulnerable --
particularly in 
countries like Italy, Japan and even the U.K., where a majority of the 
population is clearly against the war.  Increasing the pressure there
for 
withdrawal then increases the burden on U.S. troops and makes the demand
for 
troop withdrawal stronger.   In Canada I think we have a role to play by

supporting the war deserters who have come here, particularly the push
for a 
legal precedent to be set for American soldiers claiming refugee status
in 
Canada.  If we win a couple of these legal cases, there will be many
more 
American soldiers who will want to come.  The goal should be to get the
Bush 
administration to the point where they have to choose between staying in
Iraq 
and bringing in the draft.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  Isn't that a little hazardous from a political point
of 
view -- in the sense that you could be seen as advocating against the
soldiers 
or pushing for a draft?

Naomi Klein:  Everything I'm saying is slightly politically hazardous.
But 
I'm talking about the global anti-war movement now.  There are certain
demands 
more important to be made in the U.S. and then there has to be a
strategy for 
the rest of the world.  And the strategy for the rest of the world
should be 
to send a clear message to the Bush administration:  If you truly want
to be 
the unilateral administration then you must bear the burden of your 
unilateralism.

Lakshmi Chaudhry:  In the U.S., part of advocating for the soldiers is
not 
just to bring them home but also raise awareness to the problems they
are 
facing on the ground.  For example, many progressives have spoken out on

behalf of National Guardsmen who are poorly equipped.  How do you feel
about 
that?

Naomi Klein:  That one is a little hard for me, to be honest.  It's
really 
important that we make the connections between the domestic policies
that are 
forcing many of these soldiers to feel they have to choose the army --
where 
this is their only way to get an education, to get a job, to support
their 
families.  Those connections should be at the heart of any progressive 
movement in the States.  So that's a way to support the troops.  I also
think 
that we need to support veterans when they come home.

But in terms on the whole emphasis on body armor and so on, I really
don't 
know if I'm the best person to ask about that.  I feel that everyone in
Iraq 
needs body armor.  The truth is that when you're there, what you see is 
American soldiers in heavy armor, who never walk the streets, but patrol
the 
streets in Bradley Fighting Vehicles.  Yes, it's true that it's mostly 
minority soldiers who get the job of sitting on top of the tanks, where 
they're most vulnerable.  Every foreigner's house is surrounded by blast
walls 
and checkpoints to protect them from Iraqis.  The same Iraqis who have
no 
protection, who don't have blast walls.

There is something really powerful about the idea that these kids who
are 
risking their lives are scavenging for scrap metal to align their
vehicles.  
But the truth is that they're doing community policing with F-16's in
Iraq.  I 
can't bring myself to ask for them to have more armor.

--This interview is excerpted from the forthcoming book by AlterNet,
"Start 
Making Sense: Turning the Lessons of Election 2004 into Winning
Progressive 
Politics."  It will be available in March, published by Chelsea Green 
Publishing.  Lakshmi Chaudhry is senior editor of AlterNet.






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