Friday, February 26, 2016

Sanders's Foreign Policy Silence Hides Abysmal Record

Written on February 26th, 2016

Edited on February 28th, 2016

Thanks to Arthur Alves

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Iraq and Afghanistan
3. Elsewhere in the Middle East
4. Eastern Europe and Africa
5. National Defense and Other Issues
6. Monetary Policy
7. Conclusion


1. Introduction

            Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who describes himself as a democratic socialist, voted against invading Iraq in 1991 and 2003. Sanders calls the second war in Iraq a “disaster” which led to widespread “instability”, and says that he “strongly opposed” the 2003 invasion.
Sanders has criticized C.I.A.-backed coups of democratically elected governments, such as those in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. He has also called for shutting down the Guantánamo Bay prison facility on U.S. soil on the island of Cuba. Sanders also says that war and force should be the last resorts that the United States uses, rather than the first resorts.
However, the senator’s voting record on U.S. military interventions does not reflect that statement. But Sanders has been able to hide that fact thus far, as foreign policy is not as frequent a topic at his campaign events, as is his domestic policy.

2. Iraq and Afghanistan

Although Sanders voted against authorizing Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, later that year he supported a resolution expressing appreciation for George W. Bush’s actions in that war. Sanders has recently called for withdrawing troops from Iraq as soon as possible; however, in 2003, he opposed an immediate withdrawal, supporting a gradual withdrawal instead. Additionally, Sanders voted to fund U.S. operations in Iraq, although he voted against bills funding that war more often than he voted for them.
Not only that; Sanders supported the use of sanctions against Iraq during George H. W. Bush’s presidency, which led to the death of about half a million Iraqis. Sanders also supported the bombing of Baghdad in 1998 under Bill Clinton, supporting the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998; and twice in 1998 he supported resolutions expressing the sentiments that the regime of Saddam Hussein ought to be removed, and replaced with a democratically elected government.
Sanders supported the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and voted to fund U.S. operations there. In October 2015, Sanders said he supported Barack Obama’s decision to keep troops there past Obama’s exit from office.

3. Elsewhere in the Middle East

            In 1996, Sanders supported a bill calling for sanctions against Iran and Libya. In 2011, he voted for, and co-sponsored, a resolution that called for the Qadhafi regime in Libya to be ended, and called for the United Nations to intervene. Sanders also favors re-imposing sanctions upon Iran if it violates the 2015 nuclear deal that he supported.
            Sanders supported cooperation between the U.S. and the State of Israel on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which cost taxpayers about half a trillion dollars. In 2014, he told a Vermont audience to “shut up” when members interrupted him to argue that the Palestinians have a right to resist the Israeli occupation. In 2014, Sanders voted – along with Democratic senators Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren – to support the State of Israel after its attack on, and subsequent invasion of, the Gaza Strip.
            In the last several years, Sanders has opposed creating a no-fly zone in Syria, and voted against arming rebels in that country. However, he has also supported removing Bashar al-Assad, whom he calls a “dictator”, and supports Obama’s efforts to combat I.S.I.S. in Syria. Sanders has also called for the U.S. and the international community to support a coalition of Muslim nations to go after I.S.I.S., including Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, which he says needs to get more involved in the fight against I.S.I.S. and terrorists in Yemen.

4. Eastern Europe and Africa

            Between 1998 and 1999, Sanders called Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic a “war criminal”, and called for a humanitarian action to take place in Serbia. Although Sanders voted to oppose the invasion of Kosovo, he supported N.A.T.O. bombings of military targets there, which lasted 78 days. Sanders also supported interventions in Bosnia and Albania.
            Although Sanders has opposed sending weapons to the government which took control of the Ukraine in a coup, he says the U.S. must confront Vladimir Putin over Russia’s involvement there. Sanders supported sending $1 billion in aid to the Ukraine’s new government, and he supports using sanctions against Russia, and the freezing of Russian assets.
            In 1993, Sanders supported the U.S. intervention in Somalia. It has been reported that Sanders also supported interventions in Sudan, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaïre), although this information is difficult to find. Sanders also may have voted to support intervention in Haiti.

5. National Defense and Other Issues

            Sanders has stated that many of his votes supporting these military interventions were cast because the passage of the resolutions was unanimous and virtually inevitable, although that is not accurate in all cases.
            Also, Sanders said recently that he supports the use of drones in warfare, and would use them to fight terrorists. In 2006, he opposed impeaching George W. Bush, saying that to do such a thing would be “impractical”.
Although Sanders has opposed most of the National Defense Authorization Acts (N.D.A.A.s) since 1996, he supported the N.D.A.A.s for 2011 and 2013, which opponents criticized on Fourth Amendment grounds. Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, expressed such concerns, but voted for the 2013 N.D.A.A. after amending some of the language in the bill which he felt threatened civil liberties and inappropriately extended executive power.
Additionally – although he has denounced mass incarceration, and denounced the War on Drugs, as well as other policies which have disproportionately affected minorities – Sanders voted to support the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994. Sanders criticized the former, but voted for it.

6. Monetary Policy

Additionally, in 2015, Sanders introduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, which proposed an audit of the Federal Reserve System. Critics called it a watered-down version of the Audit the Fed bill which Texas Congressman Ron Paul had supported while serving in the House of Representatives.
Sanders’s bill would have reduced Paul’s plans for a full audit, to a one-time audit of the emergency actions taken by the Federal Reserve in 2008. The bill would have exempted the Fed’s agreements with other nations’ central banks from an audit by the General Accountability Office. The bill would have additionally exempted audits of decisions on monetary policy, and audits of discount window operations; operations which allow institutions to borrow money from central banks on short-term bases in order to meet temporary liquidity shortages caused by disruptions.
In 2016, Sanders voted to support Rand Paul’s Audit the Fed bill. Neither Sanders’s 2015 bill, nor the younger Paul’s 2016 bill, nor any of Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed bills, ultimately passed.

7. Conclusion

            Republican candidate Donald Trump’s bloviating xenophobia, belligerence, unpredictability, and braggadocious macho bravado, seem to provide American nationalists with everything they want in a candidate for commander-in-chief; namely, the ability to stare-down foreign world leaders. However, these traits – in addition to Trump’s calls for increasing the harshness of our military’s torturous interrogations – are not what is needed, if the U.S. is to engage in serious, level-headed diplomacy, giving the country a solid foundation of respect for human rights and civil liberties, from which to criticize and urge change of totalitarian regimes.
            Neither does the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency bode well for the level of respect and trust of the U.S. around the world. Clinton presided as Secretary of State over a scandal in which several of our strongest allies in Europe discovered that the U.S. was spying on their leaders. Nor does the prospect of peace under Clinton’s watch look good, given her flip-flop since supporting George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, her support for invading Afghanistan and bombing Libya, her support for backing rebels in Syria, her close friendship with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, her animosity towards Iran, and her steadfast alliance with political and business leaders in the State of Israel.

            Bernie Sanders has inspired a generation of young voters, and has reinvigorated the anti-war and anti-corporate left, by calling for a “political revolution”, as well as serious reform of Wall Street. Additionally – although critics question whether Sanders can deliver on financing his domestic policy – he has promised the American people plenty. Thus, he seems like the most honest candidate still in the race for the White House.
However, given 1) his agreement with Hillary Clinton on some of these issues; 2) his support for multiple interventions under Bill Clinton; and 3) his poor – and, arguably, calculating, and perhaps even duplicitous – record, supporting bombing, after intervention, after funding, of war after war, since taking office (and increasingly so, as his tenure continues); it appears that not only might Sanders’s domestic policy be fiscally unsound; but also that his foreign policy is only a few shades more pacifist than Clinton’s.
And as difficult and disappointing as it is to say, it just might be that the senator’s record opposing American intervention, aggression, and imperialism, is more bark than bite.

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