Ricardo Sanchez: Forces Change

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OR, how to force change
by Jack Random
I will not be jumping aboard the Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez bandwagon but the tenor of his criticism is informative.  Clearly, the former commander is speaking for a growing number of military officials.  

Is there a candidate for president outside of Ron Paul, Dick Gravel or Dennis Kucinich that has spoken more passionately against the policies and practices of the Bush administration?  It might appear that General Sanchez was auditioning for a run at elected office in the party of opposition.  


  “The key that we must not lose sight of is that we must win this battle here in Iraq. Otherwise America will find itself taking on these terrorists at home.”  
 - Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, Commander Occupation Forces, July 27, 2003.  
(CNN with Wolf Blitzer)

“Continued manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve victory.  The best we can do…is stave off defeat.”  

 - Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, Retired Commander, October 12, 2007.
(A Military Press Address in Arlington, Virginia)
A more careful examination of his remarks, however, reveals a disdain for politicians on both sides of the aisle.  He decries all of America’s political leaders as “incompetent”, “inept” and “derelict in the performance of their duty.”  

While I find much to agree with in his contemporary criticisms, I remember well his defense of the occupation on the basis of the weakest argument in the Bush arsenal of lies, deceptions and evasions:  We have to fight them there so that we don’t have to fight them here.

Lt. General Sanchez is neither a hero nor a man of particular integrity.  Like the party Democrat, he presents his argument as a means of deflecting attention from his proposed course of action.

“America has no choice but to continue our efforts in Iraq.  A precipitous withdrawal will…lead to chaos that would endanger the stability of the greater Middle East.”  

If Sanchez is running for office, he is positioned to sign on with John McCain, Hillary Clinton or any other mainstream candidate.  

That anyone is even paying attention to the old war horse is disturbing.  What is the point of repeating the obvious?  Were we waiting for an official declaration from the military?  Does it count now?  

The disturbing part is the disconnect between acknowledging the immoral and aggressive nature of the war, including the deceptions used to prosecute it, and accepting the immoral nature of the occupation.  

The disturbing part is the disconnect between diagnosing the disease (aggressive warfare) and prescribing the obvious cure:  Orderly but direct withdrawal of our military forces.  We have had more than four years to thoughtfully consider all options.  In this context, there is no such thing as “precipitous” withdrawal.  

If we have come no further than this then we have accomplished absolutely nothing in over five years of opposition and protest.  

The media and the candidates are seriously discussing war with Iran.  Democratic contenders for the presidency decline to promise complete withdrawal by the year 2013.  Republican contenders are allowed to pretend that the war in Iraq is synonymous with a mythological war on terror.  The only true antiwar and anti-occupation candidates are belittled as unrealistic and marginalized as extremists.  America’s mainstream media pointedly ignore antiwar protests and gatherings as they pretend that the wearing of flag lapel pins is a legitimate issue.  

That we have moved the debate so little with so great an effort over so many years is tragic beyond words.  

What is the next move?  What can we do that we have not done that can ease the tensions of the world and end an immoral occupation?  

We can continue to protest and engage in acts of civil disobedience because it is the right thing to do but we can no longer pretend it will have any effect in the near future.  We can neither pretend that supporting the mainstream Democrats will further the antiwar, anti-occupation cause.  The frontline Democrats may represent a softening of war rhetoric but they have made it amply clear that policy will be controlled by events on the ground.  In the context of an ongoing war, the Democrats are as likely to call for more troops, as likely to pull the trigger on attacking Iran, as likely to support Israel in attacking Syria, and as likely to propose a revival of military conscription as the leading warmongers of the Republican Party.  

What can we do?  

The major parties have fought back the emergence of an independent or third party movement by arguing that a vote for independence is a throwaway.  Try as we may, we cannot convince the electorate that voting for a Ralph Nader in the general election is anything but a waste of time and effort.  

The people are not ignorant.  They see the results and they believe that two to three percent of registered voters made no impact – or if they did, it was anything but the intended effect.  Ralph Nader (so the story goes) helped to elect George W. Bush.

While it is futile to argue otherwise in a general election, the opposite is true in the primaries.  In a primary, before the nomination is sowed up, voters have an opportunity to shape the policies of the party nominee.  In a primary, voters have a power they will not possess in any other election.  

We can assume that the party of war is beyond redemption.  Nevertheless, every vote for Ron Paul will send a message to the others that there is a price for warmongering—even in the Republican Party.  

In the Democratic Party, everyone who is antiwar and anti-occupation will be throwing their votes away if they vote for the leading candidates.  They will be delivering a message to Clinton that is only prudent to authorize war with Iraq and Iran.  They will be delivering a message to Obama and Edwards that it is fine to be antiwar but pro-occupation, that it is appropriate to balk at a four-year deadline for withdrawal, that it is unnecessary to denounce the Bush Doctrine of aggressive war, that it is unnecessary to demand the dismantling of our permanent bases (including our fortified embassy), and that the prospect of expanding the war to Iran and Syria is acceptable.  

Anyone who votes for the mainstream candidates will become a party to what is happening in Iraq and the blood that flows will stain their hands as well as the hands of the Neocons.  

The only way for an antiwar voter to make an impact is to vote for a second-tier candidate with an unqualified antiwar, anti-occupation policy.  

Remember that Robert Kennedy did not break out against the Vietnam War until Eugene McCarthy began to steal the antiwar thunder.  

It does not matter which of the antiwar candidates you choose.  If you want to make an impact on the policy of the frontrunners, show them the way.  

Every antiwar protest vote in the early primaries is worth a hundred or a thousand votes for Clinton, Obama or Edwards.  If the true antiwar vote can reach ten or fifteen percent, Obama and Edwards will listen and respond accordingly.  

End the war by voting against it.  



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