Why is Bernie Sanders so popular? Because unlike the other candidates, he doesn't spend a lot of time talking about foreign affairs. Bernie Sanders isn't harping on about ISIS or Russia - instead, he's talking about social security and taxes. He's talking about health insurance and fighting Wall Street. He's talking about the struggle of everyday Americans and fighting the rich.
Because he says what people want to hear, he's doing well in the polls. As a result, the ship that is Bernie Sanders has come blasting across the sea with a mighty net outstretched in the water to scoop up otherwise disinterested or discouraged voters and keep them within the framework of the current political system. Like Rand Paul on the Republican side, Bernie has positioned himself to be the "outsider" candidate for the Democrats, supposedly standing in opposition to his "rival" Hillary Clinton. I use the word "supposedly" and put "rival" in quotations because this alleged competition between Hillary and Bernie is more artificial than Dick Cheney's heart. This is because, first and foremost, Bernie has agreed to support Hillary if he doesn't get the Democratic nomination, a point that should leave room for serious pause.
When Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor on June 28, 2011, he used the word "corporation" 44 times. The word "bank" appears 14 times. The word "rich" appears 22 times. Most of these words were used negatively, and yet they are all deeply associated with Hillary Clinton, who has maintained her political career by taking cash from corporations, banks, and other super-rich special interests. Therefore, if Bernie wanted to truly strike off as an independent candidate, he would be attacking her on all of these points. Instead, we hear things such as, "I like Hillary Clinton. I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton." Instead, we get a willingness to endorse Hillary - a willingness that stretches back to 1992, where Bernie endorsed her husband, Bill Clinton, and later, John Kerry and Barack Obama. Some might argue that this is merely political posturing, or somehow "necessary" for him to win, but if he's selling out to get into the White House, can it really be considered a victory once he's in it? Bernie's willingness to endorse Hillary Clinton - the very embodiment of everything he is famous for speaking out against - should be a betrayal to his supporters on the magnitude of, say, Rand Paul's willingness to endorse Mitt Romney.
The Sanders campaign and US news networks have done a brilliant job keeping his pact with Clinton - and Bernie's other past endorsements - dead, buried, and out of the public's view. But the massive emphasis on his domestic policies is designed to not only hide his obedient submission to the Democratic Party establishment, but more alarmingly, to the military-industrial complex.
Here are some highlights from his voting record, (mostly) via votesmart.org:
In 1993, Bernie voted YEA on HR 2446 - Military Construction Fiscal Year 1994 Appropriations Bill, which provided $3.63 billion for military construction.
That same year, he also voted in favor of S J Res 45 - Authorization for Use of US Armed Forces in Somalia, which authorized President Bill Clinton to use US troops in Somalia for the purpose of providing logistical support to the United Nations peacekeeping force.
In 1994, Bernie voted in favor of HR 4453 - Military Construction FY95 Appropriations bill, which provided $2.52 billion for military construction.
To his credit, Bernie voted in 1995 for H Res 247 - Bosnia Troop Deployment Resolution, which expressed the intention of the United States to withhold the use of ground forces in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to require approval from Congress before any ground forces are deployed. Yet, as later votes would show, Bernie's opposition to ground forces doesn't necessarily mean opposition to overall military intervention.
The following year, Bernie voted in favor of HR 3107 - Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, which "imposes sanctions on persons exporting certain goods or technology that would enhance Iran's ability to explore for, extract, refine, or transport by pipeline petroleum resources, and for other purposes."
In 1997, Bernie voted for HR 2159 - Foreign Operations FY98 Appropriations bill, which included: $3 billion for Israel, including $1.8 billion in military assistance and $1.2 billion in economic assistance; $2.12 billion for Egypt, including $1.3 billion in military assistance and $815 million in economic assistance; $770 million for former Soviet Republics; and $215 million for international narcotics control and law enforcement.
He also voted for HR 4059 - Military Construction FY99 Appropriations bill, which provided $2.82 billion for general military construction.
In 1998, Bernie's name was included as a YEA vote on HR 4655, the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998, which expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the aim of the United States to remove Saddam Hussein from power. President George W. Bush later used the Iraqi Liberation Act to provide justification for military action for the 2003 invasion.
In 1999, Bernie voted for HR 2465, which provided $4 billion for military construction, and he voted for HR 3196, which provided: $2.16 billion for military and economic assistance to Israel; $760 million for military and economic assistance to Egypt; $535 million for Eastern European and the Baltic States, including $150 million for assistance to Kosovo; $300 million for military and economic assistance to Jordan; and $285 million for international narcotics control.
Writes Ron Jacobs of Counter Punch, 3/31/2003:
"For those of us with a memory longer than the average US news reporter, we can remember Bernie's staunch support for Clinton's 100-day bombing of Yugoslavia and Kosovo in 1999. I served as a support person for a dozen or so Vermonters who sat-in in his Burlington office a couple weeks into that war. Not only did Sanders refuse to talk with us via telephone (unlike his Vermont counterparts in the Senate-Leahy and Jeffords), he had his staff call the local police to arrest those who refused to leave until Sanders spoke with them. The following week Sanders held a town hall meeting in Montpelier, VT., where he surrounded himself with sympathetic war supporters and one university professor who opposed the war and Bernie's support for it. During the question and answer part of the meeting, Sanders yelled at two of the audience's most vocal opponents to his position and told them to leave if they didn't like what he had to say."
In 2001, Bernie supported HR 1954, which extended the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996.
Following the 9/11 attacks, Bernie voted in favor of H J Res 64 - Authorization for Use of Military Force, which allowed President Bush to use the United States Armed Forces against anyone involved with 9/11 and any nation that harbors these individuals.
It should be noted that this measure was passed by an overwhelming vote of 420-1. Even the passionately anti-interventionist Ron Paul supported HJ Res 64.
In 2002, Bernie voted against H J Res 114, which authorized President Bush to use military force against Iraq.
However, he would continue to support bloated military defense bills that would ultimately be used to sustain the war he allegedly disagreed with.
In 2003, Bernie supported HR 5010, which provided $355.1 billion in appropriations for the Defense Department for fiscal year 2003 - an increase of $37.5 billion from 2002 - as well as: $71.6 billion for procurement of aircraft, missiles, weapons, combat vehicles and shipbuilding; $7.4 billion for ballistic missile defense; and $58.4 million for foreign aid, which includes humanitarian assistance, foreign disaster relief and de-mining programs.
He also voted in favor of HR 2800 - Foreign Operations Appropriations, FY 2004 bill, which granted $1.8 billion in military and economic assistance to Egypt and $2.2 billion for Israeli military assistance.
In 2004, Bernie supported HR 4613, which allocated $25 billion for emergency defense spending for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $77.4 billion for the procurement of new weapons.
In 2005, Sanders supported HR 2863 - Defense Department FY2006 Appropriations Bill, which provided $50 billion for ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2006, Bernie voted for HR 5631, which provided $70 billion for ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2007, he supported HR 1585 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, which granted $187.14 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan operations.
In 2009, he voted in favor of HR 2647, which authorized $309 million for research and evaluation, procurement, or deployment of an alternative Missile Defense System in Europe, and also allowed the Secretary of Defense to increase the active-duty number for the US Army to a number greater than otherwise allowed by law up to the 2010 baseline plus 30,000 troops.
During the same year, he called closing the torturous gulag at Guantanamo a "complicated issue" and ultimately rejected a proposal to shut it down.
In 2011, Bernie co-sponsored S. Res. 85, which urged the UN Security Council to take action to protect civilians in Libya from attack, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory.
In 2014, Bernie came out in favor of levying economic sanctions (an act of war) against Russia: "The entire world has got to stand up to Putin," he said. "We've got to deal with sanctions."
Bernie also didn't object to having his name included - by unanimous consent - in S.498, which backed Israel's brutal, summer-long military assault against Gaza.
Some time after, Bernie was berated by his supporters at a town hall meeting for supporting Israel, an exchange that included Sanders screaming at the audience to "shut up" and threatening them with police force.
Later that year, Bernie came out in favor of airstrikes against ISIS. He is also in favor of shipping armaments to the Kurds in Iraq for the purpose of fighting off terror groups, a failed strategy that the Obama administration implemented with the Syrian "rebels" some years prior. "I think we should arm them," Sanders said during a CNN interview. "Even that's a difficult issue - to make sure that the people that we arm today don't turn against us tomorrow. But I think providing arms for those people who we can trust and providing air support is in fact something we should be doing."
Today, Sanders is a presidential candidate. As mentioned previously, he has stated he is not running against Hillary, and worse, that he will endorse her if he fails to obtain the Democratic Party nomination. He has also up until the publication of this article managed - quite masterfully - to largely avoid talking about his foreign policy positions.
The reasons for this are speculative, but one might suspect that it has to do with his spotty, often-hypocritical record. In the same way that Bernie speaks out against corporate cronyism, yet agrees to endorse Hillary Clinton - the Queen of Corporate Cronyism - Bernie has a habit of directly coming out against wars but then finding indirect ways to support them. He didn't back troops being sent to Bosnia, but he favored airstrikes. Bernie voted against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but then supported bills which allocated money towards the occupation. He says he doesn't want war with Iran, yet he has supported sanctions in the past, and continues to accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons, even as US and Israeli intelligence agencies say otherwise.
Maybe Chris Hedges and others are right in suggesting that Bernie is a "sheepdog" for the Clinton campaign, and maybe his primary purpose is to energize voters before dropping out and encouraging them to support her. Or perhaps he is planning to break the trend of Democratic endorsements and forge a new path. But whatever the case may be, one thing remains true: his positions when it comes to foreign affairs are nothing new or unique. On that front, Bernie is just the same as nearly every other US politician. He's an imperialist. He thinks it's America's job to play Team America: World Police. Using our tax dollars, he has joined with warmongers in both political parties and condoned - directly or indirectly - some of the most gruesome US foreign policy decisions in decades.
All the more reason for him to keep our attention focused elsewhere. As Bruce Gagnon - coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space - said after attending a 2015 speech by Sanders, "I left wondering how many people noticed that he never once mentioned military and foreign policy. It's rather hard to imagine making a speech to 9,000 people and asking them to vote for you to be president but avoiding the elephant in the middle of the room. The Pentagon now rakes in 55% of every discretionary tax dollar so you'd think that would be on the table as a campaign issue. But it's not, which makes me more than alarmed."
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