It's Not a Debate When They Agree
- by Mark Yu
The presidential debate last Thursday night did not offer any new perspectives on the November election. Kerry criticized Bush for mishandling the invasion and occupation of Iraq while Bush continued the effort to portray Kerry as a flip-flopper. They repeated words and phrases that had been carefully selected by their professional public-relations teams and designed for maximum impact on the voting population. The whole setup seemed more like a fusion of two expensive campaign commercials than a dialogue fit for a truly democratic society.
Rather than emphasizing the differences between the two candidates, the debate highlighted how much they actually agree on international policy. Both Bush and Kerry pledged to continue the war on Iraq. Neither of them had a definite timeline for bringing US troops home safely. Both supported the training of US-backed forces in Iraq and the future involvement of European nations through NATO. Neither candidate entertained the notion that the Iraqi people should determine their own destiny free from military occupation.
Bush and Kerry are determined to stay on a course that has, so far, resulted in over 1,000 American military fatalities and several thousand more non-fatal casualties. Estimates of the Iraqi civilian death toll fall somewhere in the vast range between 10,000 and 27,000, according to the Brookings Institution based in Washington.1 The official US policy of not doing body counts is still in full effect.
Kerry clearly hopes to capitalize on the growing realization that the Iraq war is a total disaster. He plans to do so, however, based not on any viable exit strategy, but on a flimsy, retrospective opposition to how the war was started. His strategy for "winning the peace," translated into much plainer Bush-speak, means nothing more than "staying the course." Kerry offers, at best, "fresh leadership" for an endless occupation. Nevertheless, shackled by an undemocratic two-party system, many ordinary people who are genuinely against the war will decide to vote for him in November.
The agreement between Bush and Kerry on Iraq exposes the fact that millions of people opposed to the war are being effectively silenced and locked out of the political process. It also reflects a broader consensus within the US corporate oligarchy that the war must go on, regardless of the cost in human lives and crucial resources. Is it a mere coincidence, then, that a veteran oil analyst at the Wall Street firm Oppenheimer & Co. recently called Iraq "the most sought after real-estate on the face of the earth"?2 Of course it is. Return to your telescreens, people.
Mark Yu, 19, is a student in N.J.
1. "Counting the civilian cost in Iraq." BBC News. here
2. "Crude dudes: U.S. oil companies just happened to have billions of dollars they wanted to invest in undeveloped oil reserves." Toronto Star. here