Originally published in the San Antonio Express-News, August 22, 2004
by Susan Ives

I’m not a very good member of the Democratic Party. I wouldn’t be a good Republican either or a good Green or a good anything that has the word “party” tacked on after it. Well, maybe birthday party. I like birthday parties.

The script for being a good party member is this: Up until the convention, feel free to shoot your mouth off, but once the candidate is nominated, you will support him and every word that comes out of his mouth.

The party’s goal between now and Nov. 2 is to win the election, not to conduct an internal policy debate. Been there, done that during the primaries. Now we must present a united front. So zip your lip.

My zipper broke. I guess that’s why I’m a newspaper columnist instead of a precinct chair.

Don’t worry, Democrats. When the time comes to tap my touchpad at Hobby Middle School, I’ll be voting for the Kerry-Edwards ticket. But that doesn’t mean I’ve bought into the platform lock, stock and Swift Boat.

I suspect that most anti-war activists think like I do.

I’m impressed that Kerry volunteered for front-line duty in Vietnam when his family connections could have secured him a cushy berth in the National Guard. I accept the testimony of the official citations and his shipmates that he earned a Silver Star for genuine valor.

I was bothered that his acceptance speech glorified his military experience and glossed over his anti-war activism. But ultimately, I don’t care what happened 35 years ago. I care what will happen next year.

Even more disturbing than the “I’m-more-macho-than-you” rhetoric is the Democratic Party platform on national security.

Parts of it had me nodding my head in agreement. It recommends that the United States ensure its strength and security by moral, diplomatic and economic leadership instead of by disproportionate reliance on military might. It stresses the importance of building real alliances — equal partnerships — by leading instead of bullying. It takes nuclear proliferation seriously and aims to stop it.

The platform includes a plan for getting out of Iraq faster: internationalize the military mission, even if it means giving up unilateral control.

But then it proposes that the troop strength be increased by 40,000. It recommends the development of even more new weapons systems. The U.S. military budget request for 2005 is $420.7 billion, up from $399.1 billion this year. I suspect the Kerry plan will cost more. The Democratic response to Republican militarism is more militarism. I can’t accept that.

I would have liked to have seen the platform incorporate Dennis Kucinich’s suggestion to establish a Department of Peace, on equal footing with the Department of Defense, to analyze foreign policy and advise the president on national security. It would include an office of peace education that would instruct our young people in peaceful conflict resolution skills for use at home and abroad.

A peace academy, similar to the military service academies, would grant degrees and send graduates to serve in domestic and international nonviolent conflict resolution programs. It’s a grand idea.
I would have liked to have seen an unequivocal denunciation of pre-emptive war as national policy.

Instead of mushy platitudes about ensuring safety while ensuring liberty, I would have liked to have had a hard-and-fast promise to let the so-called Patriot Act expire.

I would have liked less talk about war and more talk about peace.

I’m willing to give the Democrats a chance to listen to all of the voices, including the voices of dissent. They’ll get my vote, but they’ll also get my opinion.

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