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Why Bush Must Be Defeated

Tariq Ali

This is an except from an interview with Tariq Ali conducted by Doug Henwood of Left Business Observer and broadcast on Henwoodís New York radio show on 5 August.

Doug Henwood:  Youíve said that a defeat of Bush would be regarded globally as a victory. What did you mean?

Tariq Ali:  As you know, I travel a great deal, and everywhere I go there is growing anger and if one can be totally blunt real hatred of this administration because of what it did in Iraq Ė the war it waged, the civilians it killed, the mess itís made, and its inability to understand the scale of what itís done. And from that point of view, if the American population were to vote Bush out of office, the impact globally would be tremendous. People would say this guy took his country to war, surrounded by neocons who developed bogus arguments and lies, he lied to his people, he misused intelligence information, and the American people have voted him out. That in itself could have a tremendous impact on world public opinion.... A defeat for a warmonger regime in Washington would be seen as a step forward. I donít go beyond that, but it would have an impact globally.

Doug Henwood:  A lot of people on the American left are saying Kerryís not much better, and that Bush is not all that much out of the ordinary. Kerry opened his acceptance speech with a military salute. Heíd be pretty much more of the same. What do you say to that?

Tariq Ali:  Weíre talking about the government which took the United States to war. Had Gore been elected, he would have gone to war in Afghanistan, but I doubt he would have gone to war in Iraq. This is very much a neocon agenda, dominated by the need to get the oil and appease the Israelis. This war in Iraq is very much something this administration went for. The defeat of this administration would be a defeat of the war party.

What would Kerry do? He wouldnít do good things immediately, but everything is to be gained from changing the regime, and then putting massive pressure on Kerry to pull the troops out. Itís not going to be easy, but it would be a much better relationship of forces if Bush is voted out. Letís assume that Kerry is the most opportunistic, foolish, weak, etc., then he will know that the reason Bush was voted out was because of this war.

There is an argument doing the rounds on the American left that says that Bush has united the world against the American empire, but I do not like arguments like that. This is an argument you can have from the luxury from your sitting room or kitchen in the United States, but this particular regime has taken the lives of at least 37,000 civilians in Iraq, not counting the old army. For them itís not an abstract question.

So a defeat of Bush would be regarded in many parts of the world as a small victory. This doesnít mean one has any illusions about Kerry. I certainly donít. Iím pretty disgusted by the militarism at the Democratic convention.... But despite all that Ė and we know what the Democrats are, we know the wars theyíve waged Ė our options at the moment are limited. Do we try to defeat a warmonger government or not? Do we do our best to do it? If Kerry goes on in the same way, we just have to fight him. So what? Weíve been doing this for a long time.

Doug Henwood:  There are a lot of people who argue that personnel donít matter Ė that the war emerged from the inner needs of American capitalism, American imperialism. That it was the rate of profit, the oil price, that forced the hand, and whoever is sitting in the Oval Office is just a pawn of larger forces. Do you buy that?

Tariq Ali:  I donít buy that. If you believe thatís all there is to it, then you can give up politics. Just wait at home for the big catastrophe. This is not the way you mobilize public opinion, or engage in debates to win people over. For me, thatís a dead argument, because it means you donít have to win people over. The only way you win people to your side is to go out in the streets, you argue, you talk. There is a lot to be done at the present time.

A defeat for Bush would create a different atmosphere in American political culture, to show it can be done. It will make people much more critical. The honeymoon period with Kerry would be much shorter than with Clinton. Whatever Kerry says, most people who vote for him will do so because they donít like what Bush has done in Iraq, they donít like the way the economyís being handled, they donít like the way the environment is being dealt with. When Kerry is in power, if he carries on in the same way, it would be much easier to build a bigger movement against him.