Bernie Sanders’ Elephant in the Room


San Diego, CA —America’s new favorite populist has a foreign policy problem one his loyal supporters continually downplay and war-loving Republicans have declined to criticize. Before Bernie Sanders supporters simply dismiss this article as a hit-job on the candidate, however, they should remember that criticizing one’s chosen candidate is not a disservice to him. In fact, it might even help him understand how his followers feel about the issues that matter to them.

By:  Nick Bernabe

This article first appeared at ANTIMEDIA

Think back to the #BlackLivesMatter interruption of Sanders’ campaign event in Seattle and his subsequent actions to further incorporate racial inequality issues into his platform. Also remember that many Sanders supporters prematurely condemned the action taken by black activists without even knowing the full story. Don’t let reactionary feelings scare you into not questioning your candidate. You can improve his platform by criticizing it.

That being said, the self-described “democratic-socialist” tends to backhandedly support the American empire, a seemingly habitual system that is markedly antithetical to socialist political philosophy. “No!” you may say. “Bernie is anti-war!” Unfortunately, his voting record does not align with this assertion.

Bernie supported Clinton’s war in Kosovo

In 1999, Bill Clinton, along with Hillary and a bipartisan coalition of neoliberal humanitarian war mongers and neoconservative war profiteers, decided to overthrow the government of Kosovo. The U.S.-led, NATO-backed regime change resulted in what many would argue is a situation similar to the one we see in modern day Libya (whose government Obama, with Hillary’s help, overthrew in 2011): a failed state, mass civilian casualties, and no improvement in the human experience. What was sold as a humanitarian bombing campaign in Kosovo turned into 5,000 dead civilians at the hands of the U.S. and its allies and an utterly decimated country, which continues to struggle with deep corruption and violence today.

Bernie Sanders voted in favor of this act of military aggression. The war powers resolution in question was so broad that it almost guaranteed war crimes would take place in Kosovo, but Bernie didn’t seem to mind those small details. His support for the resolution caused one of his closest advisers to quit working for him. In a heated resignation letter, Sanders adviser Jeremy Brecher penned the following:

“The House Resolution (S Con Res 21) of 4/29/99 which ‘authorizes the president of the United States to conduct military air operations and missile strikes in cooperation with the United States’ NATO allies against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’ supports not only the current air war but also its unlimited escalation. It thereby authorizes the commission of war crimes, even of genocide. Indeed, the very day after that vote, the Pentagon announced that it would begin ‘area bombing,’ which the Washington Post (4/30/99) characterized as ‘dropping unguided weapons from B-52 bombers in an imprecise technique that resulted in large-scale civilian casualties in World War II and the Vietnam War.’

It was your vote in support of this resolution that precipitated my decision that my conscience required me to resign from your staff. I have tried to ask myself questions that I believe each of us must ask ourselves:

Is there a moral limit to the military violence you are willing to participate in or support? Where does that limit lie? And when that limit has been reached, what action will you take?”

Currently, Bernie Sanders’ platform lacks any meaningful reform on foreign policy

In an interview with ABC at the end of August, Bernie Sanders indicated that he has no intention of ending the U.S. drone assassination program if elected president. The program, which is responsible for countless civilian deaths and the creation of blowback in the form of creating new terrorists, was started under George W. Bush and expanded under Obama. According to The Hill, “Sanders indicated that he would limit the use of drones so that they do not end up killing innocent people abroad, but declined to say that he would end the targeted killing campaign completely.”

“I think we have to use drones very, very selectively and effectively. That has not always been the case,” said Sanders.

However, Sanders did say he would attempt to limit the program’s civilian casualties though he didn’t say how he would accomplish that.

Bernie Sanders supports the United States’ military relationship with the human rights-destroying Saudi Arabia which uses American-supplied arms to violently crush democratic movements within its borders. Commenting on the Saudis’ role in combating radical Islam, he told Wolf Blitzer that “[T]his war is a battle for the soul of Islam and it’s going to have to be the Muslim countries who are stepping up. These are billionaire families all over that region. They’ve got to get their hands dirty. They’ve got to get their troops on the ground. They’ve got to win that war with our support. We cannot be leading the effort.”

He reiterated this stance in Tuesday’s first Democratic presidential debate. He also made it very clear that he is not opposed to military intervention in Syria, as long as it is spearheaded by a “coalition.” He made it clear that he is fine with the U.S. being a major part of that coalition. Essentially, he towed Obama’s line on Syria, stating he is against putting troops on the ground, but vowing his full support for the proxy war that has displaced 11 million and killed 300,000.

Sanders’ remarks show a clear naïvety on foreign affairs. Ironically, Saudi Arabia, which Bernie wants to support, is the single largest driver behind radical Islam in the world. In fact, ISIS itself is an out-of-control outgrowth of U.S.-Saudi policies in Iraq and Syria.

An essay published in the progressive blog TruthDig entitled, “Bernie Sanders’ Policy Backing Saudi Intervention Needs to Change Now” slams Bernie’s flawed support of the Saudis:

“In discussing ISIS, Sanders invariably has talked about Saudi Arabia as the solution rather than a large part of the problem. It’s couched in language that seems somewhat critical, but the upshot is we need more Saudi influence and intervention in the region. In effect, more and bigger proxy wars, which have already taken the lives of hundreds of thousands in Syria and could even further rip apart Iraq, Libya and other countries.”

The essay further questions Sanders’ logic:

“Why should a U.S. progressive be calling for more intervention by the Saudi monarchy? Really, we want Saudi troops in Syria and Iraq and Libya and who knows where else? You’d think that perhaps someone like Sanders would say that we have to break our decades-long backing of the corrupt Saudi regime—but no, he wants to dramatically accelerate it.”

Saudi Arabia, along with a U.S.-backed coalition of Gulf states, is currently entangled in the Yemeni Civil War. The Saudis have been accused of multiple war crimes in Yemen and recently bombed two weddings in a matter of 10 days, killing up to 160 innocent people.

At the time of writing this article, 11 days after the U.S. bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, candidate Sanders has failed to mention it, let alone condemn it. While many critics have called the incident a likely war crime, Bernie remains deafeningly silent on the issue.

My hope is that this criticism of Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy track record will help the candidate come to terms with his previous failures — and make room for him move closer to a truly anti-war, anti-interventionist platform the one he currently claims to adhere to.

This article (Bernie Sanders’ Elephant in the Room) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Nick Bernabe and Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email