Six of One, Half Dozen of Another

If there is anything that can be taken from Friday's presidential election debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, it is this: What difference? What substantive difference is there really between the two candidates? The debate demonstrated the near identical political programs and perspectives that guide both the Democratic and Republican parties. Both politicians were identical in their support for the bailout of Wall Street using public money. Both were unanimous in their aggressive saber-rattling towards Iran, support for NATO expansion, and continued "War on Terror." Both are committed to continued war in the Middle East, with only cosmetic differences in their strategy to wage the most effective military policy. Militarism and servility to Wall Street were the resounding themes of the debate.

The debate opened with a discussion on the financial bailout plan. The moderator, Jim Lehrer, was forced to re-ask the candidates their position on the bill multiple times and how, as president, they will adjust if the proposed $700 billion bailout was to go through. In fact, vagueness and evasions were a consistent part of the debate. On their attitude towards the bailout, the listeners received a heavy dosage of promises and beautiful plans of American workers receiving health care, environmentally sound energy production, increased jobs, increased social services, etc, etc. Both Obama and McCain gave ode to populist rhetoric, describing the hardships on "Main Street" and the "greed" on Wall Street. Yet there was agreement that the public, which has been robbed over the past years by predatory lending and speculation, should pay the tab for these same institutions. As for homeowner foreclosure and bankruptcy, no serious discussion was to be had. Obama stated in a speech on September 24 that the bankruptcy measure was "probably something that we shouldn't try to do in this piece of legislation (quoted in September 28 AP article)." Is it Main Street or Wall Street that comes first?

Military policy, or foreign policy, debate followed touching on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Russia. Obama, who has sought to attract mass anti-war sentiments towards an electoral victory, spoke frankly in favor of escalation in Afghanistan, with plans to "send two or three additional battalions," and talked tough on Pakistan. McCain, who differs with Obama only in respect to strategy, continued stressing the war in Iraq as the central battleground for the United States. Obama clarified his "opposition" to the Iraq War by stating it "weakened our capacity to project power around the world." Is this an argument for peace or more effective domination? The legitimacy of the "War on Terror" and the successful suppression of resistance to occupation in the Middle East, or "victory," were of course assumed.

On Iran, McCain began by reiterating his fanatical commitment to Israel and to continue an aggressive policy of engagement. A regular gem of U.S. propaganda, McCain repeated again and again, after a comedic attempt to pronounce Ahmadinejad's name, that Iran is an "existential threat to Israel," that "we cannot allow a second Holocaust," and that Ahmadinejad seeks to "wipe Israel off the map." The latter quote, repeated ad nauseam, comes from an October 2005 speech in Farsi at an annual anti-Zionist conference where he stated that "the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." Never has Iran or its President called for a "holocaust" or the use of nuclear weapons on Israel (which, to heighten the absurdity, would kill Palestinians too).
Obama summarized his stance as follows, "Senator McCain is absolutely right, we cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran." Obama proposed what is often considered a "softer" approach to Iran- sanctions. This recalls the forgotten genocide of the 1990s, the catastrophic death of 1.5 million Iraqis, including 500,000 children, as a result of the sanctions run under the Democratic Clinton administration.

Iran's nuclear program, which is supported by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), consisting of over 100 nations, is said by Iran to be for civilian nuclear energy needs. But even if the program is aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons, which may be, this is not reason but excuse for the United States to pursue a policy of war with Iran. After all, the region already has numerous holders of nuclear weapons, including Pakistan, India, and Israel. It is the height of hypocrisy for the United States to criticize, let alone pursue aggression against Iran in the name of security, when the United States is armed to the teeth, has supplied nuclear weapons to Israel and Pakistan, and committed the only nuclear holocausts in the history of man.

McCain and Obama proved themselves to be committed, to Wall Street and the financial oligarchs, to wars and the military-industrial complex. In short, they proved themselves to be viable and capable leaders, only capable, however, for the powerful and exploiting super-rich. A future for the working and poor of America is not to be found in the twin parties of capital, for whom Washington and Wall Street are nothing more than a convergence of financial thieves and political crooks, but rather in the emergence of a strong and independent movement of labor, blacks, immigrants, students and all the poor and oppressed in this country. The government seeks to give $700 billion over and on top of the money extracted by the financial institution in their day-to-day activities of theft. It is high time the American people form a government which will not only refuse to give handouts to those who profit off the labor of others, but instead concentrate all production in the hands of the people, so that they may truly reap the fruit of their labor.