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Rocky Anderson: The Democratic and Republican parties are responsible this perverse, corrupt system

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington.

Now joining us again to discuss his bid for president in the 2012 elections is Rocky Anderson. Rocky’s the former mayor of Salt Lake City. He’s the presidential candidate for the new Justice Party. Thanks for joining us again, Rocky.


JAY: Now, you were a Democrat. I’m not sure how long you were in the Democratic Party, but I’m guessing for some time. Why did you decide to form a new party, versus duke this out within the Democratic Party?

ANDERSON: Because it’s not going to happen within the Democratic Party. The Democratic and Republican parties are together responsible for this perverse, corrupt system we have in place now, where the wealthy have their way with our government, where both parties are feeding at the trough of special interests, corrupt money, and they’re both thriving from the system. Why would they ever move away from it? They’re very content with playing this game with these rules that have led our country to this point today.

JAY: Now, in the big picture, I think it would be hard to disagree with you on what you just said. But when you come down to some specific issues, there seems to me there are some significant differences between a President Obama and a President Romney. Certainly there would have been, for example. And if you go back in history, I don’t know that a President Gore would have invaded Iraq. Are you not a little concerned that a President Romney might be more likely to start a conflict with Iran than a President Obama? And on some of the domestic issues, even if they’re smaller differences, are there not some difference on the issue of taxation and some of the other issues to do with the social safety net?

ANDERSON: There are certainly some issues to where the parties are at loggerheads. But we, I think, lose sight of the fact that underlying all of this is this corrupt, perverse system where the American public keeps getting shafted, and unless we stop fearing that the lesser of two evils might be defeated by the worse of two evils and instead demand a different paradigm, demand a completely different system, where money no longer calls the shots in this government, we’re not going to ever see that fundamental change. We’re basically, by voting for either the Republican or Democrat in this race, reaffirming this system, where those with the money end up prevailing.

Look what happened with health care. We know that the vast majority of people in this country want a system where, like the rest of the industrialized world, everybody has essential health care coverage. And yet neither of the parties could stand up to the millions—hundreds of millions of dollars that was thrown at this issue by the insurance industry and by the pharmaceutical industry, and they caved to the money. The American people deserve so much better than that.

We’re going to keep seeing these kinds of wars of aggression, absolutely illegal, self-destructive wars, wars that are so tragic to everybody involved, as long as the military-industrial complex maintains its stranglehold over our government. And both of the parties are responsible. And you just have to take a look at the antiquated F-22 system, where Republicans and Democrats alike were fighting for billions of dollars of continued funding only because they wanted to take the pork back to their states or to their districts. And these contractors know what they’re doing. But the F-22, they had contractors or subcontractors in 44 different states. And they do that for one reason. It’s certainly inefficient, it certainly creates more costs in these projects, but it’s because they know that they can get members of Congress who want to keep that money flowing back to their states or their districts to vote to continue these projects.

JAY: Right. But what about my point, which is that given everything you’re saying, I think, is very hard to dispute, assuming one wants to base their argument on facts, at the same time, there does seem to be a difference. As I say, the Iraq War is more likely not to have happened. The issue with Iran, there are some statements, at least when they were running for election—it’s hard to tell now—but both Obama and Biden seemed to have a little bit more of a rational approach to Iran, where a neocon clique around Romney is more likely to actually start something, don’t you think?

ANDERSON: You know, I’m not sure about that. I think it’s sort of the reverse of Nixon going to China. I don’t think, for instance, that a Republican president ever would have gotten away with signing into law a bill that would allow the president to point to anyone, including a United States citizen, for them to be rounded up, basically kidnapped, incarcerated, indefinitely detained up to the end of their life, without legal representation, without charges, without a trial. That is a total subversion of the highest due process ideals, what’s really core to our Constitution.

JAY: Right. Just in case people—just in case there’s anybody watching that doesn’t know what we’re talking about, this is the NDAA legislation that was passed very recently, recently signed by President Obama into law, which gives the American military the right to indefinitely detain people, including American citizens, if they are presumed or suspected of having Taliban or terrorist sympathies, connections—a very strange piece of legislation.

ANDERSON: And the law even covers belligerence. You know, I’m a belligerent when it comes to these matters. I’m very, very concerned. And I’ve been speaking out for years about the destruction of the rule of law in this country, and especially with somebody like a Democratic president. President Obama, one of the first things he said when he came into office is, oh, about those war criminals, let’s just forget it and move forward, like when he was in the United States Senate and he voted, after he promised to filibuster—.

JAY: Right. But what would a President Anderson’s policy be towards Iran and the Israeli challenge or threat to attack Iran?

ANDERSON: Well, very clearly we need people in our government that are standing up for U.S. citizens and the interests of all of the players. We ought to have as much of the interests of the Palestinians in mind as well as Israel. But there’s one thing that stops our government from doing that, and it’s the power of AIPAC, the political action committee of the Israeli lobby that ends up calling the shots, and it’s very, very destructive, not only to our long-term interests, but the long-term interests of stability in the Middle East.

We need a two-state solution, we need leadership that will bring people together and make that happen, because it can be done if we have the will. But we cannot send the signals anymore that the United States is there for Israel, we’re going to continue to send billions of dollars—more per capita than any other nation—in military assistance unconditionally.

JAY: But isn’t the issue a little deeper than that, in the sense that while AIPAC plays its role, U.S. strategy since World War II in the Middle East has been about Saudi Arabia and Israel—not just Israel; it’s as much about Saudi Arabia as it is Israel—and having these two states, as you can say, the manager of U.S. interests in the region? So, like, a change in policy would have to be—as I say, it’s not just about the role of AIPAC. You’d have to have a whole new way of approaching the Middle East, wouldn’t you?

ANDERSON: Well, you would, but it’s going to take standing up to those lobbying organizations and saying our number-one obligation is to promote the interests of the United States and long-term stability in the Middle East, because we keep taking the short-term view. We support these dictators, these tyrants, only because of our interest in oil resources and the military strategy that comes along with that.

Look at our record in the Middle East. The root of the hostility in Iran against the United States right now is our overthrow of their democratically elected president Mosadeq in the early 1950s. And then we went from there to do the same thing in Guatemala and overthrowing the Árbenz government, democratically elected. We have a terrible record as a nation.

It’s time that we turn that around and say we truly promote democracy, we want to give everybody a shot, instead of always being the hostile party. And imagine how it appears to those in the Muslim world when we keep invading and occupying and imposing our will in the Muslim world. It’s absolutely outrageous. We would be suicide bombers too if another country came in and said, okay, you’re a Christian nation, we’re going to change things and we’re going to dictate how you use your resources and what you do with your military.

JAY: So, more specifically, then, back to Iran, President Obama’s taken the position that there’s—the United States will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. Israel is threatening to attack it. They’ve pushed for stronger sanctions. Of course, the actual information from the IAEA is murky at best. In fact, there seems to be no actual hard information that there is a nuclear weapons program in Iran. And Defense Secretary Panetta even said they haven’t made the decision to build a bomb. But what would be your specific policy at this time if you were president now?

ANDERSON: But it would be the same as it would have been toward Iraq when we were being told all those lies by the Bush administration, when the IAEA was saying then, as they are now, that there was no hard evidence of Iraq at that time building a nuclear capability. This needs to be evidence-based. We need to know the facts and not spread the—if you ask most Americans today, given what they’re hearing, I think they would say that, yes, Iran is building up a nuclear capability, when there are no facts to support that. The IAEA is there for a reason. And I think that the imposition of sanctions is having an impact. And now we’re hearing from Israel that they really wish that we weren’t doing that, that the international community wasn’t imposing those sanctions, because it’s getting in the way of them being able to go over and militarily attack Iran.

JAY: We ran a story today, a protest in New York City, people who support the Green movement and support the opposition in Iran, but also oppose any form of war against Iran, but they also oppose sanctions. They’re saying sanctions are just hurting ordinary Iranians and creating a human disaster in Iran, and it’s not having any—if anything, it’s strengthening the regime, not weakening it. So the sanction policy itself is being criticized by opposition forces in Iran.

ANDERSON: But—and I think there’s a lot to that. And it’s exactly what we saw in Iraq. That wasn’t hurting Hussein. That was hurting the Iraqi people.

You know, the Iranian people came out by the hundreds of thousands right after 9/11, and they had a candlelight vigil in Tehran expressing their sympathy and solidarity with the American people. And look how we’ve absolutely blown it as a country when we could have fostered these friendly relationships and instead we’ve created so much hostility.

And, granted, the American people stood in solidarity with the Iranian people after the last election in Iran and said, we need to let the government there know that we won’t stand for the kind of violence and the kind of perversion of the supposed democracy that they’re building, that we need to stand together as a people. And the people of this country need to understand that a military attack against Iran is only going to consolidate the power of the leaders there who are doing such a disservice to their own people. We need to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people because they are the ones who will suffer the worst if there’s a military attack against that government.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Rocky.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Rocky Anderson is the presidential candidate and founder of the newly-formed Justice Party. Anderson served as Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah for two terms, and he rose to nationwide prominence as a champion of several national and international causes, including climate protection, immigration reform, end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, restorative criminal justice, GLBT rights, and an end to the "war on drugs."