“The One Percent Doctrine” and the New Hampshire Presidential Debates

by on January 7, 2008 · 13 comments

in Election, War and Peace


A sense of depression and hopelessness crept over me as I watched the CNN replay of Republican and Democratic debates at Saint Anselm’s College in Manchester, New Hampshire. I felt numb with despair at the conclusion, when I turned off my television. I made myself a cup of mint tea to settle my stomach, pet my three cats, and played some jazz to detoxify my mind. This is electoral politics in America in 2008!

The Republicans performed as expected – with the notable exception of Ron Paul, who said that Bush’s policies of invasion and occupation were in “violation of international law.” The rest of the Republican candidates (Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Fred Thompson, and Rudolp Guliani) defended Bush’s policy of pre-emptive war against potential threats while spouting worn out militaristic slogans about the “war on terror.”

All six Republican candidates opposed any attempt by the government to intervene and address fundamental problems facing the US: structural poverty and unemployment, the crisis in health care, the pressing crisis of climate change, or excess corporate profits. All of them supported repressive solutions to immigration. Thompson and Romney supported the notion of expelling (one might call it an American form of “ethnic cleansing”) 12 million “illegal aliens’ from the country. McCain and Guliani said this was too draconian, but embraced the notion that immigrants should be legally punished. Paul and Huckabee supported the “fortress America” concept of a militarized border fence from San Diego to Texas.

When the ABC anchorman Charles Gibson introduced the four Democratic candidates Clinton, Obama, Edwards, and Richardson, I admit I was guilty of having a little more hope. But this hope rapidly faded after the first question was asked.

The ABC anchorman opened the Democratic debate with a “what if” question framed within the Bush administration’s militaristic assumptions supporting the “global war on terror.” He asked each of the Presidential candidates if they would authorize a unilateral pre-emptive military strike into Pakistan without the cooperation of the government if they had received credible intelligence on the location of Osama bin Laden.

Obama answered first that he would launch such a military strike as a response to the crime of 9-11, a reiteration of a position he articulated last summer. Clinton replied without hesitation in the affirmative, as did Edwards. Richardson’s response was also in the affirmative, although somewhat more nuanced in as much as he said he would use US leverage to get the Pakistani dictator Musharraf to resign and try diplomacy first.

This notion of pre-emptive war is now official American policy. David Suskind, in his book, THE ONE PERCENT SOLUTION, has described how America’s version of Darth Vader, Dick Cheney, justified the policy as the right of the United States to launch a pre-emptive war against Pakistan. According to Cheney, “if there’s a “one percent chance” that Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty.”

This kind of specious reasoning contributed to the devastating invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US is now mired down in two bloody and protracted counterinsurgency wars, and is also a part and parcel of the reasoning behind the Democrats response on a unilateral military attack on Pakistan. Suskind (p.62) summarized the ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE with the following words:
“As to “evidence,” the bar was set so low that the word itself almost didn’t apply” If there was a one percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon a mass destruction – and there has been a small probability of such an occurrence for some time -the United States must now act as if it were a certainty. This was a mandate of extraordinary breath.”

The Democratic responses disturbed me. I was surprised that none of them raised the question of the reliability of the intelligence, since it was the alleged “reliable intelligence” on Iraq that was used to justify the invasion of that country. None of the Democrats supported Ron Paul’s earlier declaration that the invasion of Iraq violated international law. Obama timidly called it a “mistake.” It is now five years later, and still no Iraqi WMDs have been discovered.

Anchorman Gibson next asked the Democrats if they still wanted to withdraw American troops given the military “success of the surge.” All the candidates praised and genuflected humbly before the Pentagonians paying homage to the military and praising them for their devastation of Iraq, reminding me of the Democratic party’s pathetic attack on MOVE ON .ORG for mocking General Petreaus’s selling of the occupation. Richardson, running in back of the pack, did say he would remove all troops within a year of getting elected President. Clinton said she would remove them as quickly and responsibly as we can, which leaves all the time in the world. It was clear to me by the end of the debate that of all the candidates only Ron Paul of the Republicans understood the real nature of the war. Unfortunately he has reactionary positions on almost everything else.

All the Democrats said they were for “change.” Edwards promised to take on the corporations, while Richardson asked rhetorically what had happened to the democratic party that “used to be the party of economic growth and jobs.” Admittedly, they Democrats were somewhat better on social issues such as the environment and the economy. But it cannot be counted on to provide genuine progressive social change -only a sustained widespread progressive social movement will bring that about.

The nice thing about a one-percent doctrine is that you can be 99% wrong, and still believe you are right and do anything with impunity. I left the debate feeling that perhaps Jean Paul Sartre, the now dead French existentialist, was right when he wrote: “elections are a trap for fools.”

Nevertheless, I may still vote in 2008, albeit with a downtrodden heart. With my favorite candidate, Dennis Kucinich, already bowing out and offering his votes to Obama in Iowa, I am now considering shifting my support to John Edwards because of his stance on class issues, but with no illusions regarding his stands on war and peace. But this all depends on what happens between now and next November, and what positions Edwards takes. If he fails to satisfy, I am still tempted to vote for a Peace and Freedom or Green candidate. Yet, it is still possible that I may get so disgusted with the failed American political system that I won’t vote at all because “it only encourages them.”

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Richard Nadeau January 7, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Clarification:

Kucinich has not dropped out of the race for President. Still he disappointed me by telling his followers to vote for Obama if he didn’t reach 15% in the polls.

In a written statement released on Jan. 1, Kucinich said: “I hope Iowans will caucus for me as their first choice this Thursday, because of my singular positions on the war, on health care, and trade. This is an opportunity for people to stand up for themselves. But in those caucuses locations where my support doesn’t reach the necessary [15 percent] threshold, I strongly encourage all of my supporters to make Barack Obama their second choice. Sen. Obama and I have one thing in common: Change.”

This statement was terribly disappointing to me and I believe a strategic mistake. It is the reason I am reconsidering my vote.

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avatar OB Joe January 8, 2008 at 10:08 am

Thank you Richard for the clarification. Now, earlier you wrote that you favored Dennis Kuchinich. Many of us on the left support him – OB Rag poll had him first, I believe (can’t find the poll just now on the site), but we knew that even if all progressives voted for him, he still would not get the nomination of the party; it was hoped that with a strong showing that he could be VP or force the more mainstrream Democrats to move left. But we KNEW that he wouldn’t win, and that there is a need for the left to support -for our own interests – someone who was/is more viable. So we knew all along that if we were to support Kuchinich, we would have to on election day, vote for someone else. So why the surprise? There is hope and there is reality.
There is a point to vote for someone who is viable, even if not perfect, for lefties, and that is we become genuine members of the winning coalition, instead of bitter supporters of an also ran. We can do this without selling out our leftist beliefs and values.

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avatar Molly M January 8, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Dont tell me that you would vote for the Greens after their terrible response to the crisis in democracy starting in 2000. What did Nader do when the Constitution was being subverted by the Bush team at the Supreme Court?

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avatar Richard Nadeau January 8, 2008 at 4:45 pm

Nader is right – the two party system is thoroughly corrupt and compromised, both parties are war parties, and neither is capabable of defending the constitutution or the genuine long term interest in America.

OB Jo obviousdly thinks he has a God’s eye view of “reality,” as though only he sees what is real. Because he is all knowing he is never surprised. He is right of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. Its the same old recycled BS that we are sold every election year. And the wars go on and on.

In reality the current system is clearly disfunctional and needs serious transformation. It is not working, is increasingly anti-democratic – and that is why we have a political crisis in America, a failed state if you will. It is BS that Nader cost the Democrats the election in 2000, a line promoted by the Democratic party to absolve itself of responsibility.

OK, vote for endless war and endless privatization. But I am not with you. If voting Democratic could change the system it would be outlawed. As I said in my essay, I am now leaning towards Edwards, but that doesn’t mean I buy the crackpot realism of OB Joe.

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avatar Anon Anarchist January 8, 2008 at 7:12 pm

Right on, Richard! The capitalist system will never change itself enough to allow an equitable society. Even Nader by participating in the corrupt electoral system colloborated with the capitalists. We must prepare for the revolt of the people. When the people rise up, all capitalist parties will be gone, and todays politicians will be seen as apologists for a class system that enslaves the working class.

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avatar OB Joe January 9, 2008 at 7:03 am

Richard Nadeau – First I agreed with you about voting for Kucinich, and I also agree with you about possibly voting for Edwards. Plus I’m on the left politically. But I also disagree with you about certain factors. So, why the insults? I’m now “a crackpot realist” because I knew Kucnich would not get the nomination? Is this the way you engage in discourse, by insulting your ‘opponents’?

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avatar Molly January 9, 2008 at 8:35 am

Okay, boys, get out of the sandbox. The fact about Nader and the Greens in 2000 and that they did NOTHING during the Presidential crisis shows their true grit. Now, the rest of us are NOT OFF the hook as we DID NOTHING ALSO. We sat there in front of our tubes watching as Bush and his cronies stole the election. I’m not a Democrat, either RN. I even voted for Nader that year.

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avatar Richard Nadeau January 9, 2008 at 9:36 am

I have tried to engage people honestly on this website. I have no regrets for what I wrote and stand by my statement. They reflect my genuine discust with electoral politics, and my sincere belief that we need something more.

The Greens and Nader had no real power in 2000 compared to the Dems and Repubs. The Dems went along with the rigged election, voted for the use of force in Iraq, voted for the Patriot Act, voted over and over agaon to fund the war of aggression, refuised toi impeach, etc., etc, and during the past decade they have been stumbling over themselves to show us how they worship the military as much as the Repubs. In fact, their behavior during the last decade has been abominable, and they have increasingly acted like Republicans embracing the deep structure of militarism and imperialism that is so dominant in our culture.

I am sick of it! Sick of the endless wars, the endless sell outs. And you wonder why people are skeptical, why Congress has such a low approval rating? Realism is a back door to reaction, and I wont buy it.

Look at the results of the New Hampshire primary – the more progressive the candidate, the worse they did in the voting. The two most pro-war candidates won! Kucinich got a mere 1%, while Edwards only got 17% gathering less than one half the votes of Clinton or Obama. Edwards can’t win, anymore than Kucinich can. So, please, spare me your realism.

The intellectual father of “real politick,” of political realism, is Niccolo Machiavelli. OB Joe implies that I base my reasoning on “hope, not reality.” So when someone says “be realistic, ” I consider that an insult. The reality of the last decade is that the corporations are in control and their money dominates the elections.
ABC would not even allow Kucinich to particpate in the New Hampshire debate and the Democratic party went along with the exclusion. So please, don’t lecture aboiut being realistic.

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avatar OB Joe January 9, 2008 at 9:42 am

Richard, okay, well said. And again, I can’t help but agree with you. No insults intended toward you, but to put all your eggs in one basket (Kucinich) is not realistic if you know that he won’t get the nomination. That’s all I was trying to say.

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avatar OB Joe January 9, 2008 at 9:44 am

Molly – you’re only half right. It is true the left did nothing during the 2000 crisis. Nader got more votes in San Francisco that year than George Bush. The Dems didn’t do anything either.

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avatar Richard Nadeau January 9, 2008 at 9:59 am

OB Joe:

I’m sorry to be so feitsy, but you really need to read what I actually wrote. I concluded that I was considering Edwards, the Peace and Freedom Party and Green Party, or that I might get so disgusted, that I won’t vote at all. So you insult me again by misreareading and misinterpreting what I wrote.

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avatar OB Joe January 9, 2008 at 10:20 am

Touche’

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avatar Richard Nadeau January 9, 2008 at 11:22 am

Or to rephrase , I concluded that I was watching events closely , and seriously considering moving my eggs to other baskets. I specifically gave reasons for my dissapointment in Kucinich in Iowa. So how you could claim what you claimed, that I was putting all of my eggs in the Kucinich basket, is frankly beyond me.

I will watch them all closely and follow their words and their actions. I do know that if Huckabee wins, we all better be able to prove we “love the baby Jesus. ” Frankly. I love the innocence of all babies.

What I will not do is put my all the “eggs in one basket, to use your words. Frankly, OB Joe, you were projecting about your own proclivities, not mine. It is clear to me that you have placed all your eggs in the Dem basket, no matter what happens in the Middle East. I cannot go there with you.

So I say to you:

Be careful, OB Joe, about putting all your eggs in one basket. They will eventually get rotten and stink if you leave them there too long. They may even transform themselves into a war basket, as they have so many times before, when from on high the American Eagle’s talons will fiercly grasp the globe once again with its claws.

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