On the closing night of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, John Kerry took to the podium, raised his hand in a military salute and declared, "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty."
There couldn't have been a more fitting end to the convention and the official launching of Kerry's bid for the White House. Since September 11 and the start of George W. Bush's "war on terror," Kerry has consistently reported for duty. In fact, Kerry has served as one of Bush's top legislative foot soldiers.
During the DNC in Boston, former President Bill Clinton extolled Kerry's virtues, firing up the house with a rhetorical riff about how John Kerry has always said "Send me!" when asked by Uncle Sam to do his duty, from his service in Vietnam to the his career in the Senate. Kerry, the crowd was told, has always said... dramatic pause... (everyone in unison now) "Seeeend Meee!"
Let's pick up where Clinton left off. When President Bush asked Senators to vote for the USA Patriot Act, John Kerry said, "Send Me!" When he asked for a blank check to attack Afghanistan, John Kerry said, "Send Me!" When Bush looked for senators to make fraudulent claims about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction, Kerry said, "Send Me!" When the president looked for Senate approval to invade Iraq, Kerry said, "Send Me!" When Bush sought more support for Israel's apartheid wall, Kerry said, "Send Me!"
With all of the bashing of Ralph Nader for having the audacity to run for president and the Democrats continuing to blame him for Bush taking power, it is important to note that Kerry did not say, "Send Me!" when the Congressional Black Caucus needed one senatorial signature to reopen the question of the illegitimate 2000 elections.
The Boston convention was a meticulously orchestrated show. Speeches were vetted, the slightest anti-war message relegated to a non-primetime slot and party dissidents kept off the platform. But under the tons of confetti, balloons and printed signs cheering on Kerry, there was tremendous frustration and disillusionment among the 4,300 delegates inside.
Several polls indicated that 9 out of 10 delegates were anti-war. Yet, the vast majority of the speeches, particularly those given in primetime, did not reflect those sentiments. In their major addresses in Boston, both Kerry and John Edwards called for more U.S. troops and a doubling of Special Forces. Bush was not criticized for invading and occupying Iraq he was bashed for how he did it. The message was, "Dems do war better."
So marginalized was the peace camp at the DNC that some Kucinich delegates had their signs confiscated or were told to remove their pink scarves that read, "Peace Delegate." Medea Benjamin from Code Pink was dragged off the floor of the convention by police for holding up a pink banner reading: "End the Occupation of Iraq."
That apparently was not one of DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe's approved messages for the day.
Not one speaker at the podium inside the convention said anything about the razor-wired "protest pen" outside the convention that one federal judge called an "internment camp." There was no mention either of the camouflaged U.S. Army reserve soldiers around the convention's perimeter, patrolling bridges and train overpasses. So much for posse comitatus.
What is clear is that disgust and outrage at the Bush administration is so severe that the Democrats could field Mr. Potato Head and he'd get about as much support as Kerry.
This year could have marked a watershed moment in U.S. history. The Democratic Party could have run on a real anti-war platform with a real anti-war candidate who would stand a good chance of winning in November. The message to the world would have been significant. Instead, the hawkish Democratic leadership successfully pushed through a candidate out of step with the vast majority of his supporters who just want to end one of the most violent and repressive administrations in U.S. history. Such is the state of our democracy.
With John Kerry on the ticket, the Democrats have ensured a victory in November for the small but powerful pro-war special interest. Kerry is their sleeper, their private Manchurian candidate. They face a win-win scenario. Even if Kerry wins, the initial euphoria sparked by a Bush-free White House will eventually be replaced by this reality: no matter what Kerry and Edwards may have said from the podium in Boston, for most of the world neither help nor hope is really on the way.
Still, Kerry has won significant backing from many genuine progressives who are part of the "Anybody But Bush" movement. They argue that the work begins Nov. 3, once Bush is out of office and Kerry, who is characterized as someone who will at least listen, is in power.
It's not that a Kerry administration wouldn't implement some significantly different policies from Bush's. But a Kerry victory will not bring significant change to the system.
After the defeat of Bush's father in 1992, Bill Clinton's policies paved the way for many of the international and domestic horror stories we now see unfolding. His devastating welfare-reform policy and his Omnibus Crime Bill were practically pulled from Newt Gingrich's playbook. Clinton's telecommunications policy, like George W. Bush's, supported further media consolidation. His 1996 anti-terror legislation paved the way for the Patriot Act. He presided enthusiastically over the most deadly regime of economic sanctions in history and began the longest sustained bombing campaign since Vietnam in the so-called "No-fly Zones" in Iraq. He scorned the United Nations and bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days.
Clinton attacked Afghanistan and bombed a pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan. He tightened the blockade against Cuba and pushed through NAFTA, which sacrificed worker and environmental rights in favor of corporate profits.
During the demonstrations outside of the Fleet Center in Boston, protesters from the Bl(a)ck Tea Society set fire to a two-faced effigy of Bush and Kerry. Perhaps that message is not ready for most living rooms in the U.S. But in a few years, it could be prophetic.
Jeremy Scahill is a reporter and producer for the national radio and TV show Democracy Now! His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article appears in the special RNC edition of The Indypendent, the newspaper of the NY Independent Media Center.