Bernie… - reviewed by Ann Garrison

Book Review of
Bernie and the Sandernistas,
Field Notes from a Failed Revolution by Jeffrey St. Clair

Reviewed by Ann Garrison

Acid Dreams

For a straight-no-chaser interview with Jeffrey St. Clair about his book, "Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes from a Failed Revolution," listen to KPFA Radio’s Against the Grain, 12.21.2016. The book itself is more like a series of acid dreams with added intoxicants. We now live in a world of such acid dreamlike extremes that I wouldn’t have bothered to read a more sober account. As the Democratic National Convention finally begins on cable TV, St. Clair summons the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson, the master of lucid acid dreaming, and they work very well together. Margot Kidder, writing from her small town Montana mountain home, helps them liberate imagination and resolve the contradictory conditions of dream and reality in revolutionary synthesis.

Everywhere is war

In his introduction, St. Clair writes “Indeed, war has become the nation’s permanent condition. There seems to be a new one every few months. Few can keep up. And who goes off to fight them? Not many of us, or even people that we know. A new warrior class seemed to have taken root. We noticed them mainly from the decals on their trucks or from their wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs, rarely encountered in the check-out line at Safeway. More and more, machines were doing the war’s wetwork, killing nameless people in nameless regions on the far side of the world, hundreds of miles from any known base of operations. War has become the background noise, the ambient soundtrack of our time.”

And the failure of the Sanders campaign is of course his failure to amplify and oppose that soundtrack. What kind of “revolution” fails to stop the wheels of the war machine? What kind of fool or con artist jabbers on about stopping climate change while promising to help Saudi oil sheiks win their sectarian pipeline wars in Syria and Yemen?

When hostile corporate journalists asked Sanders how the hell he was going to pay for free college tuition or “Medicare for All,” why didn’t he point to the war budget required to sustain more wars than any of us can keep track of, 800 military bases, and the Unified Combatant Command with its nine global, cyber and space spanning sub-commands?

Trump isn’t likely to keep his promises not to squander trillions more on wars that create more chaos and terror, but Sanders didn’t even make them. In a brief nod to the expense of permanent war, he said that we should have intervened in Rwanda, but that Europe should pay their fair share of our next pseudo-humanitarian, imperial resource war.

Jeffrey St. Clair has followed the sordid trail of every pro-war stance that Senator Sanders took and every pro-war vote he cast along the way to his failed crusade for war abroad and equality at home. Each is worth knowing as we try to understand how we came to be “mired in debt and endless war” as Senator Sanders got to where he is, from Burlington to the House to the Senate, and his luxury vacation retreat on Lake Champlain. It all began with his post-Vietnam War retreat to Vermont where the Progressive Alliance emerged to declare its independence from Republicans and Democrats and made him the Mayor of Burlington. That seems to explain why he put on a show of leaving the Democratic Party after it failed to give him the nomination last July, and why he still clings to his flimsy veneer of independence from the Democratic Party, even after becoming its “Outreach Chair,” a brand new position that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer created just for him. I hope that’s not enough to fool anyone, including the radical, anti-war Green Mountain base that gave him his start.

Final question for Jeffrey St. Clair:

Under the chapter heading, "Once and Future Sandernistas," you wrote that, "Both [Obama and Clinton] are military interventionists, pursuing wars on at least 12 different fronts, from Afghanistan to Yemen,” and I’m still wondering how you count to 12. I usually count 7. . . Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Syria, but that’s because I count bombing wars that I’ve heard about. What are the five more that you count to get to 12?

Ann Garrison
Independent Journalist

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December 22, 2016