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Progressives: This is John Kerry
by John Caruso
November 2, 2004
The Distant Ocean

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It's a difficult time to be a progressive in the United States, and even more so in the run-up to the 2004 elections, watching in dismay as so many respected progressives buckle and throw their support to John Kerry--and chastise other progressives for not doing the same. I think it's worthwhile to make a list of some of Kerry's positions on key issues, to clarify just who it is they're asking us to support:

  • Kerry voted for the Iraq war and infamously proclaimed that he would do so again even knowing that there were no WMDs in Iraq. Let that sink in for a moment: he'd do the same thing again, even knowing that no WMDs would be found, and even knowing what Bush did with the authority. His handwaving about it being "the right authority for a president to have" is utterly disingenuous; we all knew exactly what was coming and what that vote meant, and since Kerry is no fool he certainly knew it as well, no matter how he tries to misrepresent it now.

  • Furthermore, Kerry has vowed to prosecute the war in Iraq even more viciously than Bush, saying that unlike Bush, he will "not back off of the Fallujahs and other places, and send the wrong message to the terrorists."

  • Kerry is also delusional enough to believe that "victory" is possible in Iraq and has said that he will not withdraw from Iraq under any other circumstances, as he declared in the first debate: "I have a plan for Iraq. I believe we can be successful. I'm not talking about leaving. I'm talking about winning." And note that this statement was made during Kerry's prepared closing comments--this was not just a statement made in the heat of the moment, but rather his official policy.

  • Kerry opposes the Kyoto Protocol, just as the Clinton administration did in its eight years in power (something that liberals and progressives have managed to ignore or forget). His official position is that "the Kyoto Protocol is not the answer. The near-term emission reductions it would require of the United States are infeasible, while the long-term obligations imposed on all nations are too little to solve the problem."

  • Revealing his true environmental stance even further, Kerry has vowed to "put that pipeline [from Alaska to the continental US] in and drill like never before, drill all over the United States."

  • Kerry voted for the USA PATRIOT act (parts of which he purportedly claims to have written himself), and made a point of reiterating his support for it in the second debate. He also supported the Clinton administration's Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the precursor to the USA PATRIOT act.

  • Kerry opposes US participation in the International Criminal Court.

  • Kerry has backpedalled on the stronger statements he made in 1971 in opposition to the Vietnam War--undercutting the one action for which he perhaps most genuinely did deserve the support of progressives--saying they were "inappropriate" and "a little bit excessive," and characterizing them as "mistakes." This is part of a general pattern of distancing himself from his now politically inconvenient former principles, as in his laughably dishonest repudiation of his previous opposition to the invasion of Grenada: "I was dismissive of the majesty of the invasion of Grenada," Kerry says now. "But I basically was supportive. I never publicly opposed it."

  • Kerry voted for and supports NAFTA, the WTO (formerly GATT), permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) for China, and fast track negotiating authority for the president. And although he's paid lip service to the idea of protecting workers' rights, nobody should be fooled by that--the Director-General of the WTO certainly wasn't.

  • Kerry has vowed to cut corporate taxes, since he's apparently not satisfied that the share of taxes paid by corporations is now lower than it's been at any time since World War II (and that was before Congress' recent passage of a massive tax giveaway for corporations).

  • Kerry has rejected international law (and co-opted Republican rhetoric nearly verbatim) in declaring repeatedly that he "will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security." This is (again) just a continuation of Clinton administration policy, which explicitly rejected the primacy of the United Nations on issues of global security, as when Clinton repeatedly attacked Iraq and bombed Yugoslavia without even the pretense of United Nations approval.

  • And of course Kerry's enthusiastic support for Israel's ongoing policy of slow motion ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is second to none, as evidenced by his official position paper.

The list goes on and on; this is just a sampling. Nearly every one of these positions mirror those of the Bush administration, and in fact in many cases Kerry is attacking Bush from the right, as I've noted previously.

This is John Kerry. If you cast a vote for him, you're giving him your consent and encouragement to go forward with these kinds of policies and principles. If you choose to do so, that's up to you--but you should at least know exactly who it is you're supporting.

John Caruso is a San Francisco Bay Area technical consultant and progressive activist.  He was one of the contributors to Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion 2002. Visit his excellent weblog to view more of his writings at: He can be reached at: