Bernie Sanders: Savior or Sellout?

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SANDERS THE SAVIOR . . .

If you’ve paid any attention to politics, you’ve probably heard of Bernie Sanders. He led quite the campaign during the election, drawing massive crowds all around the country. To many, Bernie is the fringe, radical, anti-establishment candidate that we’ve all been waiting for. He is the lord and savior of the working class, here to abolish capitalism and de-throne god!

Okay, I may have exaggerated just a bit with that last part. Still, there’s no question that Bernie has gained the support of not only your average Democrat/Progressive voter, but also that of the radical wing of the American political spectrum. Could it be the fact that he is a self-professed ‘socialist’ that is appealing to the radical youth of America? Or could it be the fact that he’s so often called out his supposed political rival Hillary Clinton on being a wall-street backed war criminal in the debates? Either way, it is clear that he’s made waves among progressives and radicals across the country. But is he really the social revolutionary everyone believes him to be? To answer that question, let’s first look at the facts.


1. GAY RIGHTS

Bernie Sanders likes to boast that he is a longtime proponent of marriage equality. When asked about his personal “evolution” on social views, Sanders answered New York Times Columnist Gail Collins by saying, “I’m not evolving when it comes to Gay Rights. I was there!” Some media outlets have frequently referred to Bernie as a “pioneer” for marriage equality, which helped his image tremendously in light of Hillary Clinton’s less than satisfactory track record on social issues. Would you be surprised to find out that Bernie Sanders has not always been the crusader for equality that he claims to be? 25 years ago, Sanders told author W.J. Conroy that LGBT rights were “not a major priority for him.” When asked if he would support a bill that would protect gays from job discrimination, he replied, “Probably not.”

Now, I will give credit where credit is due. Bernie Sanders DID oppose the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) in 1996, which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. This is something which Sanders often brings up in his campaign as alleged proof of his consistent, uncompromising social views.  However, during the time of his decision, Sanders claimed his actions were purely out of concern for “state’s rights” NOT equality, noting that “DOMA violated the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause by allowing one state to refuse to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another.” 10 years later, in 2006, Sanders voted against legislation which would have legalized same-sex marriage in his home-town of Vermont, defending his actions by stating that he would be more “comfortable” with the idea of ‘civil unions’ rather than full-fledged marriage equality.

Coincidentally, his Republican rival for the Senate seat, Richard Tarrant, was also a supporter of ‘civil unions.’ Now, none of this is to say that Bernie Sanders is not genuine in his current support of marriage equality, but when you compare his bold claim to fame as a ‘pioneer’ of gay rights with the reality of his track record, it leaves much to be desired.

2. NATO BOMBING OF YUGOSLAVIA

During the Kosovo war of 1999, a military operation was launched by NATO against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Serbian people, which involved airstrikes lasting from March 24, 1999 to June 10 1999. This military aggression was authorized by then commander-in-chief Bill Clinton, and supported by, wouldn’t you know it, our old pal Bernie.

This bombing campaign led to the massacre of between 489 and 528 civilians, it devastated communities, destroying infrastructure, bridges, public buildings, industrial plants, private businesses and more. Bernie’s support for these hawkish attacks even caused one of his staffers, Jeremy Brecher, to resign. Read his letter of resignation here. And to top it all off, when antiwar activists occupied Bernie’s office in response to this, he had them all arrested.

3. WESTERN-BACKED COUP IN UKRAINE

Beginning in 2013, the country of Ukraine was being gradually destabilized, as massive pressure was being put on the current regime to join the EU. In 2014, this escalated to a full-fledged coup d’etat. You might have heard of it. According to the Western media, this conflict consisted only of “peaceful activists who wanted to join the EU.” However, it has come to light that many militant groups fighting for control over the region were Neo-Nazi organizations, fascist groups who were backed and funded by the U.S./NATO and the EU. These groups have committed countless war crimes and atrocities upon innocent civilians, most of whom are of Russian identity.

On February 20th of 2013, video footage was leaked of snipers firing upon protesters in Kiev, Ukraine. Twenty people were murdered, and the Western media immediately jumped to the conclusion that President Yanukovich and his supporters were behind the attacks. However, surprise surprise, the Western media was wrong, again.  A phone conversation between Estonia’s foreign minister Urmas Paet and EU foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton, leaked to the public on March 5th, reveals that the snipers were actually from the new coalition government, a.k.a one of the proto-fascist regimes we armed and funded. This indicates that Western diplomats knew about this, and covered it up. (This is strangely reminiscent of the crisis in Syria and the chemical weapons attacks which former President Obama and Western media claimed was committed  by the Assad regime, but were actually committed by the Syrian militants that we armed and funded, no?)

Well, I’ll bet you’re wondering what any of this has to do with Bernie Sanders. I’ll tell you. In 2014, Bernie Sanders voted in favor of a $1 billion aid package for the new coalition government. This means that Sanders voted in favor of a bill that provided $1 billion for fascist war criminals. I think that’s minus one more for social issues.

 4ISRAEL AND PALESTINE

Bernie Sanders has always tried his best to avoid talking about the issue of Israel and Palestine. Could this be largely because he knows that speaking out about Israel is essentially political suicide in today’s election arena? Possibly. But it doesn’t help much that he supported the colonization of Palestine in the first place, or that he has publicly made excuses for Israel’s most recent assault on Gaza.

When confronted with the issue in a town hall meeting, Sanders admitted that Israel may have “over-reacted” during the conflict, but went on to essentially blame Hamas for the entire thing, and then, after silencing dissenters and telling them to “shut up,” he derailed the conversation by trailing off onto the topic of ISIS. Not only that, but Sander’s foreign policy would include continuing military funding to Israel as well as Saudi Arabia, two of the most corrupt and hawkish regimes in the Middle East. This is despite Israel’s colonization, occupation and brutalization of Palestine, Israel’s policy of apartheid, or Saudi Arabia’s recent bombing campaign against Yemen, which has led to the deaths of well over 1,000 Yemeni children. Not to mention the Saudi regime’s tyrannical domestic policy, which includes the beheading of atheists and homosexuals. Minus one more point for gay rights. Additionally,  Bernie Sanders recently suspended one of his staffers, Simone Zimmerman, for expressing hostility towards Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu one year prior to this, at the height of the violence during the assault on Gaza.

To his credit, Sanders was later asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer during the Democratic debates if “Israel has a right to defend itself,” and his response, which can be read below, suggested that he strongly opposed the actions taken by Israel in the 2014 bombardment of Gaza.

Of course Israel has a right not only to defend themselves but to live in peace and security without fear of terrorist attacks – that is not a debate.

…Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, [and] has every right to destroy terrorism. But we have in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded, and some 1,500 who were killed. Now, if you’re asking me — not just me — but countries all over the world, was that a disproportionate attack? The answer is I believe it was.”

5. TRUMP, NUKES AND NORTH KOREA

Tensions have been rising between the United States and North Korea as two U.S. Navy Destroyers recently found their way onto the Korean Peninsula in a show of force, and Japanese warships are now set to join them. Trump recently stated that “all options are on the table,” with regards to North Korea. The Western press has often referred to DPRK leader Kim Jong-un as “belligerent,” “hostile,” and “dangerous,” citing his regime’s ‘nuclear ambitions’ as well as their recent liquid-fueled ‘scud missile’ tests. These tests failed miserably as the missiles, not even armed with warheads, traveled a mere 37 miles before crashing into the Sea of Japan.

The U.S. Government continues to increase pressure on the DPRK to curb their nuclear program as Kim Jong-un responds by flexing his military might with rallies and parades. As a result, the Trump administration has frequently threatened increased sanctions, military force, and has even attempted to persuade China to join the Unites States in backing the DPRK into a corner. As hostilities rise and we find ourselves on the brink of a third World War, the rest of the world is crying out for peace and diplomacy rather than military aggression and force.

Bernie Sanders is often portrayed as the sworn adversary of Trump, his supporters often referring to his stance on universal healthcare as evidence of this. However, when it comes to foreign policy, it would seem they have more in common than not. When questioned about Trump’s most recent actions on the Korean Peninsula and collusion with China, Sanders stated that he believes Trump is “on the right track.”

“North Korea is a real danger to this world, and we have got to do everything we can to prevent a nuclear war and to get them to stop their nuclear program,” he said, speaking with Chris Cuomo in a CNN interview,

“China has got to apply the screws and tell North Korea that if their economy is going to survive, they cannot continue expanding their nuclear arms program and their missile program,” he added.

The Unites States doesn’t exactly have any room to talk when it comes to nuclear weapons, considering our peak stockpile of 31,255 warheads, our current arsenal of 4,000 nuclear bombs, or the 1,054 test detonations we’ve launched. Compare that with North Korea’s estimated 13 – 21 nukes, their measly 5 test detonations, add in the fact that we are the only country on earth to actually use this abhorrent technology and it seems the U.S. really doesn’t have a leg to stand on when arrogantly pointing the finger at other nations that pursue similar military conduct.

Perhaps if we ended our current campaign of regime change operations, bombings, invasions of sovereign nations and our constant pursuit of global dominance and military hegemony, North Korea wouldn’t feel so threatened to the point of attempting to advance Pyongyang’s military capabilities.

Not to mention the horrendous trail of innocent bloodshed and war crimes that was left by the U.S. in the last Korean war, in which 635,000 tons worth of bombs and 32,557 tons worth of napalm was dropped on the small, densely populated country that is North Korea.

Furthermore, some Sanders supporters claim that he is a proponent of nuclear disarmament. The alleged proof of this being that he co-sponsored legislation introduced by Senator Ed Markey that would save up to $100 billion over 10 years from President Barack Obama’s excessive plan to spend $1 trillion on new nuclear weapons. This is money that would supposedly be spent on other ‘defense’ priorities as well as domestic needs, such as education and healthcare.

However, upon actually reading the bill, one finds that it does not call for a reduction in the current proposed nuclear warhead cap whatsoever. In fact, the bill calls for preserving the current proposed cap of 1,550 warheads, but to save money by not building as many delivery systems (missiles, submarines and bombers) as the Obama administration intended.

Such a position on nuclear weapons is the typical centrist-‘progressive’ position, the very same one adopted by the establishment Democrats Bernie Sanders claims to oppose.

6. SYRIA, DRONES AND U.S. IMPERIALISM 

Over the past 8 years, President Obama’s drone program has caused scores of civilian casualties, devastating communities in Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and even Somalia.  A recent study found that nearly 90% of people killed in recent drone strikes were not the intended target. I don’t think I have to tell you how awful and detestable this dangerous addition to the War on Terror is, or why any self-professed anti-war humanitarian should actively oppose it without compromise. Well, I hate to break it to you, but Bernie Sanders has publicly admitted that he would not end the drone program. He went on to say that he intends to use the program very “selectively and effectively.” (Like we haven’t heard that one before.)

During a town hall meeting on April 25th, 2016, Sanders was asked questions regarding Obama’s ‘kill list,’ which is a classified list of “suspected terrorists” that are targeted and assassinated by armed drones without a trial or due process, the following is what Sanders had to say on the matter,

“Look. Terrorism is a very serious issue. There are people out there who want to kill Americans, who want to attack this country, and I think we have a lot of right to defend ourselves.”

Sanders was also asked about Obama’s intervention in Syria, specifically regarding his decision to deploy 250 more troops in the region. When questioned about this topic, Sanders responded with the statement below.

I think the—look. Here’s the bottom line. ISIS has got to be destroyed, and the way that ISIS must be destroyed is not through American troops fighting on the ground. ISIS must be destroyed and King Abdullah of Jordan has made this clear, that the war is for the soul of Islam and it must be won by the Muslim nations themselves.

I think what the President is talking about is having American troops training Muslim troops, helping to supply the military equipment they need, and I do support that effort. We need a broad coalition of Muslim troops on the ground. We have had some success in the last year or so putting ISIS on the defensive, we’ve got to continue that effort.”

Recently, on April 7th, Sanders released a statement regarding the U.S. missile strike on a Syrian airbase launched by Commander-in-Chief Donald J. Trump. The statement began with the following quote,

In a world of vicious dictators, Syria’s Bashar Assad tops the list as a dictator who has killed hundreds of thousands of his own citizens to protect his own power and wealth. His regime’s use of chemical weapons against the men, women and children of his country, in violation of all international conventions and moral standards, makes him a war criminal.

As the most powerful nation on earth, the United States must work with the international community to bring peace and stability to Syria, where over 400,000 people have been killed and over 6 million displaced. The horror of Syria’s civil war is almost unimaginable.

There he goes, already reinforcing the Western narrative that Assad’s is one of the most tyrannical regimes in the entire world, that he is in possession of chemical weapons often aimed at civilians, and that he must be forced out of power via a coup orchestrated by foreign entities. These chemical weapons accusations aimed at the Assad regime are reminiscent of the WMD accusations aimed at Saddam Hussein in 2003, which was followed by a bloody interventionist war that destabilized the region, gave rise to groups like ISIS and did very little in the way of ‘liberating’ the people of Iraq.

To his credit, his statement did not deny the bloodshed resulting from U.S. meddling in the past, as shown in the quote below.

If there’s anything we should’ve learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which the lives of thousands of brave American men and women and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians have been lost and trillions of dollars spent, it’s that it’s easier to get into a war than get out of one. I’m deeply concerned that these strikes could lead to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement in the Middle East. If the last 15 years have shown anything, it’s that such engagements are disastrous for American security, for the American economy and for the American people.

The Trump administration must explain to the American people exactly what this military escalation in Syria is intended to achieve, and how it fits into the broader goal of a political solution, which is the only way Syria’s devastating civil war ends. Congress has a responsibility to weigh in on these issues. As the Constitution requires, the president must come to Congress to authorize any further use of force against the Assad regime.

Further, the U.S. must work with all parties to reinforce longstanding international norms against the use of chemical weapons, to hold Russia and Syria to the 2013 deal to destroy these weapons and to see that violators are made accountable.

It’s all well and good that he does not deny the consequences of our past intervention, or that he is adamant about going through congress to authorize military force, but the fact that he is still clearly a proponent of regime change in Syria leaves much to be desired regarding his foreign policy platform.

And excuse me for being skeptical, but the last Democrat who entered office campaigned on an entirely anti-war platform, promising to bring the troops home and immediately end all U.S. military aggression overseas, and even he ended up bombing more countries than Bush. This, in a way, confirmed looming suspicions that the military industrial complex will never be challenged, no matter who takes office.

IN CONCLUSION . . .

It seems Bernie Sanders may not be the perfect humanitarian radical everyone believes him to be after all.

Could his questionable policies and track record simply be a result of ignorance and poor judgement, or is he just another sellout to the establishment? That’s up to you to decide.

Either way, it’s important to acknowledge these inconsistencies and hold our politicians accountable accordingly.

The innocent people who die as a result of the unintended consequences of poor judgement do not have a say in whom we vote for, and they deserve a voice.

If people really want Sanders to be the savior they see him as, they must hold him to a higher standard and demand he change his positions on key issues.

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