Leaning back slightly towards his anti-war youth, Senator John Kerry promised a less militaristic US foreign policy if he is confirmed as secretary of state.
Speaking at his confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the body he currently chairs, Sen. Kerry decried the militarism "thrust upon us" by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"We cannot afford a diplomacy that is defined by troops or drones or confrontation," Kerry asserted.
"We cannot allow the extraordinary good we do to save and change lives to be eclipsed entirely," the Massachusetts Democrat added.
Kerry, who is expected to cruise through the nomination process and take Hillary Clinton's place as secretary of state next month, appeared to be leaning back toward his more peaceful youth. After winning a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for exceptional bravery in Vietnam, Kerry renounced his medals and became a leading voice in the anti-war movement.
His 1971 testimony before the same Senate Foreign Relations Committee is widely viewed by progressives as his finest moment. Kerry testified that US troops in Vietnam "raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blew up bodies, randomly shot civilians, razed villages... shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam."
While many on the left hailed Kerry as hero for his brutally truthful repudiation of an extremely unpopular war, he was vilified by conservatives, who labeled him a traitor who aided the enemy. Such allegations dogged him right through his failed 2004 presidential bid and up to the present day.
As a US Senator, Kerry grew much more hawkish. He supported the 1991 Gulf War, as well as the war in Afghanistan. He even aligned himself with the most aggressive Bush neoconservatives when he called not only for a global war on terrorism, but also for attacking Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 or terrorism against the United States.
Kerry's pledge of a less militant foreign policy apparently did not include Iran, as he told the Senate committee that US policy is "not containment."
"The president has made it definitive," Kerry insisted. "We will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." Kerry's comment seemed to ignore the assessment of outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Gen. Benny Gantz, all of whom concur that the Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) also grilled Kerry about Sen Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and his membership in Global Zero, a group seeking a nuclear weapons-free world. Apparently living in a world free from the threat of nuclear annihilation is a bad thing for some Republicans, and Kerry seemed to understand this, assuring Corker that ridding the world of nukes was merely an "aspiration."
Kerry also said he hopes the death or retirement of popular Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez would usher in a new era of "transition" in America's relationship with Latin America. He did not mention the fact that Chávez, who has been elected three times, has presided over a program in which Citgo, the Venezuelan state petroleum company, has provided free home heating oil to hundreds of thousands of needy Americans in Kerry's home state of Massachusetts and in 24 other US states.
Lachelle Roddy, an protester with the anti-war group Code Pink, made headlines yesterday when she interrupted Kerry's confirmation hearing to denounce US killing of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in the Middle East as Washington's backing of Israeli policies and actions that critics call apartheid and ethnic cleansing.
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