BEYOND THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES THERE'S A WHOLE OTHER WORLD
By William Boardman Email address removed"> Email address removed
Critics have called the Romney-Obama debates as narrow as they were shallow, but few have done more to try to broaden and deeper the national discussion
than Amy Goodman and the Democracy NOW! team, who have produced their "Expanding the Debate" series with third party candidates added to the pair anointed by the two parties' debate commission.
For the final debate October 22, Democracy NOW! went on the air in front of a live audience at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael, California, pausing the debate in progress to allow comments by two third-party presidential candidates who were excluded from the official debate: Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.
The first question at the Florida debate purported to be about "Libya," but was really about the September 11 events in Benghazi and their aftermath, as Bob Schieffer asked it: "What happened? What caused it? Was it spontaneous? Was it an intelligence failure? Was it a policy failure?" Neither candidate responded directly to the question as Gov. Romney mentioned Libya as well as Syria, Egypt, Mali and Iran, while President Obama said in passing, "your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map"."
Jill Stein, having audio problems at the start, did not answer the question either, but said in part: ""it's very clear that there is blowback going on now across the Middle East". in many ways, we're seeing a very ill-conceived, irresponsible and immoral war policy come back to haunt us, where United States foreign policies have been based, unfortunately, on brute military force and wars for oil. Under my administration, we will have a foreign policy based on international law and human rights and the use of diplomacy. And instead of fighting wars for oil, we will be leading--as America, we will be leading the fight to put an end to climate change."
Rocky Anderson said in part: "The question was whether the killings at the embassy in Libya" reflected a policy failure. And it is so clear to everyone that the policy failure has been in the way the United States has treated so many nations in the Middle East". We invaded Iraq and occupied that country. It was completely illegal. Two United Nations secretaries-general declared that it was illegal. It was a war of aggression, and it was all done on a pack of lies. Now, we aggravate the situation by keeping bases in so many other nations," engaging in direct, unmanned drone strikes in at least four sovereign nations, killing, in the process, hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent men, women and children. That is the policy failure: our belligerence, our efforts to control, to dominate and to make certain that we will always have that control over the resources in these nations."
The second question asked by Schieffer was about Syria: "30,000 Syrians have died. We've had 300,000 refugees. The war goes on. [Assad is] still there. Should we reassess our policy and see if we can find a better way to influence events there? Or is that even possible?"
President Obama, in effect, said "No."
Gov. Romney said, with creative geography, that: "Syria is an opportunity for us, because Syria plays an important role in the Middle East, particularly right now. Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea". [But]
we don't want to have military involvement there." In a round about way he went on to say, in effect, he'd pretty much follow the President's policy.
Rocky Anderson responded: " We probably just heard the greatest example of why we need to open up these presidential debates, because the premises under which both of these candidates are operating". We hear President Obama say we've got to do everything we can to help the opposition, and Mitt Romney is saying we ought to be shipping them heavy arms. This is a call for a bloodbath in Syria". you're not going to get any democratic advances through more violence in Syria."
Jill Stein said: Yes, and it's as if there's collective amnesia here, as if we didn't just go through a decade, $5 trillion and thousands of U.S. soldiers whose lives have been sacrificed, and far more civilians whose lives have been lost, in an attempted military resolution to these civil and religious strife". we have not, with all the power of that force, been able to resolve these conflicts on the ground in Iraq and in Afghanistan. So, how in the world" are they thinking that a lesser degree of military intervention is going to solve the problem?
Rocky Anderson: "I
don't think that the problem here is that we failed. I think the problem is
that we're trying to assert our will and dictate the result. Can you imagine if
there were Muslim countries coming into the United States and occupying us,
invading us, telling us how--where to run our government and then running
unmanned drones over Canada, Mexico, the United States, determining who is
going to live and who's going to die?... It's an outrage. And our national
security is at risk long-term, because of the hostility and hatred that we're
generating throughout that part of the world."