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Presidential Politics: Little Prospect for Change

January 5, 2008

Are you looking for change from the slate of presidential candidates? Certainly pundits and spinmeisters on all sides interpreted the Obama/Huckabee victories in Iowa as a sign that the public wants change from both parties. But can we really expect change from the leading candidates?

One indicator might be what kind of policy advisers the candidates are surrounding themselves with. Of course, since the mainstream media reports on the election as though it were a proverbial horserace or a movie opening, voters will have a hard time finding this out.

For all that you’ve read or heard about the candidates so far, can you name the major policy advisers of any of the candidates?

If that seems worth knowing to you, you can read separate reports by independent investigative journalist Allan Nairn and American Conservative correspondent Kelley Beaucar Vlahos that reveal that the major candidates from both parties have surrounded themselves with foreign policy advisers from a narrow clique of ex-U.S. officials from the Clinton or Bush I and II administrations. Nairn and Vlahos were interviewed about their stories Thursday morning on Democracy Now!

Obviously, this is not encouraging if you want to vote for a change. It’s much worse for the many people around the world who have been victimized by U.S. wars and indifference to global suffering. Here’s how Nairn describes the choice we have:

AMY GOODMAN: Are you saying that there’s no difference between these candidates?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, fundamentally, there’s no difference on the basic principle of, are you against the killing of civilians and are you willing to enforce the murder laws. If we were willing to enforce the murder laws, the headquarters of each of these candidates could be raided, and various advisers and many candidates could be hauled away by the cops, because they have backed various actions that, under established principles like the Nuremberg Principles, like the principles set up in the Rwanda tribunals, the Bosnia tribunals, things that are unacceptable, like aggressive war, like the killing of civilians for political purposes. So, in a basic sense, there is no choice.

But there is a difference in this sense: the US is so vastly powerful, the US influences and has the potential to end so many millions of lives around the world, that if, let’s say, you have two candidates that are 99% the same—there’s only 1% difference between them—if you’re talking about decisions that affect a million lives—1% of a million is 10,000—that’s 10,000 lives. So, even though it’s a bitter choice, if you choose the one who is going to kill 10,000 fewer people, well, then you’ve saved 10,000 lives. We shouldn’t be limited to that choice. It’s unacceptable. And Americans should start to realize that it’s unacceptable.”

What all this makes clear is that if we want change, we are going to have to do much more than vote.

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