Liberals in Denial about Kerry’s Reprehensible Position on Iraq

I haven’t been commenting much here on the upcoming United States presidential election. ’s an exception, and partially, an explanation.

“Kerry has managed to lay out a position so close to Bush’s on Iraq — stay the course, put an international ‘face’ on the occupation, keep the troops in place, and so on — that the two are nearly indistinguishable; and, on the Bush-Sharon position on the Middle East — keep the West Bank settlements, conduct extrajudicial assassinations of enemies, build the wall, and so on — just announced to an astounded world, he has, if anything, gone the president one better.”

This, from Tom Engelhardt, in an introduction to an article from The Nation by Jonathan Schell. Schell’s article tries to explain a Kerry who is backing away from his principled whistleblowing during the U.S. war in Vietnam, is trying to out-hawk Bush about Israel, and who promises to send even more U.S. troops to Iraq — as Kerry complains not that the war in Iraq is wrong and should not have been fought, but only that Dubya isn’t conducting it as well or as wisely as President Kerry would.

Schell’s conclusion: Kerry and the Democratic Party are really an anti-war party but it’s a secret (shhh!). They can’t tell anyone because anti-war candidates can’t win elections, so they have to keep it under cover until they’re in power. Once elected though, watch out! So if you’re against the war — vote for Kerry! He can’t tell you yet, but he’s really on your side.

It’s rare to see this sort of pathetic wishful thinking done explicitly because it sounds so absurd: Don’t look at what Kerry actually says or does, but look instead at what he might do if he really thinks like us and is just saying or doing those things as a ruse! (It makes me wonder if Schell’s article is a “modest proposal” style parody.) But as absurd as this argument is, it underlies the hopes of many people I know who have put on hold their potential opposition to U.S. policy because they think that maybe things will fix themselves after the elections.