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Chuck Schumer: War Hawk or Progressive?

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The Senate Democratic leader has tried to pivot to the left after Donald Trump’s win in November, but how much of the progressive agenda has he adopted? – Cartoon by Baltimore’s Tom Chalkley

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Chuck Schumer: My views are exactly the same as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Thomas Hedges: More than a hundred days into Donald Trump’s Presidency, Senator Chuck Schumer has tried to position himself as both a leader among anti Trump voices on Capitol Hill, as well as Washington’s newest progressive.

Chuck Schumer: You’re looking at the Senate firewall!

Thomas Hedges: Here we take a closer look at Schumer and his positions in order to understand where he stands on the issues.

February 2007, and Senator Chuck Schumer is a leading voice against the surge in Iraq.

Chuck Schumer: We know this war is wrong, and we-

Thomas Hedges: It as that entire Iraq war stance, Schumer said, that won Democrats the Senate and the House a year earlier in 2006. But four years before that, amidst enormous street protests against the war, when millions around the world would display their resistance, Schumer spoke to his Senate colleagues about the need to support the Iraq War Resolution, which gave then President George W. Bush sweeping authority to invade Iraq.

Chuck Schumer: Saddam Hussein is an evil man. A dictator who oppresses his people and flouts the mandate of the international community. Those who would use terror, or those who would aid and abet that terror pose a new danger to every one of us in the United States, whether we live in midtown Manhattan, or on the plains and wheat fields of Kansas.

Kevin Zeese: He fell for, or stated, participated in the fraudulent stating of the weapons of mass destruction lie that got us into the Iraq war, that was his rationale.

Thomas Hedges: Supporting the war was a decision many politicians in Washington, including Schumer and Hillary Clinton, later said they made in the heat of the moment when the 911 attacks were still fresh in the American psyche. Still, there were many who opposed it like Bernie Sanders and Barbara Lee, but for the majority of those in Washington, Iraq was a just cause.

Speaker 5: It is clear however, that if left unchecked Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare.

Thomas Hedges: In the 2007 book he published, Positively American, in the midst of his campaign against the war, Schumer admitted that his opposition that year and the year before, was as much about ending a failed policy as it was about getting votes. In reality Schumer had been one of the war’s most ardent supporters, beyond his public display against the war carefully timed for the 2006 Congressional elections, Schumer in fact pitted much of the blame on Iraqis themselves, arguing that Sunis, Shiites and Kurds seemed more interested in starting a civil war in Iraq than in receiving help from the Americans and constructing any democratic central government.

He even said, that in a similar future situation, he might vote again to authorize the use of force against a country like Iraq. “Today,” he wrote in his book, “I still believe that when our country is under attack the chief executive deserves a degree of latitude, if God forbid, we were attacked again, I could well vote to give it to a future President, Democrat or Republican.” And when a Real News correspondent pressed Schumer in 2007 on US reparations to the Iraqi people, this is what he had to say.

Sam Husseini: Do we owe something to the Iraqi people other than just getting out? Do we owe them reparations for having brought about this war?

Chuck Schumer: I don’t believe that.

Ben Norton: It’s hard to find a Democrat that’s more gung-ho about war than Chuck Schumer. Not only did he support the Iraq war, and fearmonger about weapons of mass destruction, he tepidly criticized the Bush administration for how it carried out the war.

Thomas Hedges: In fact, tepid criticism seems to be Schumer at his most radical. In general, he is someone who supports hard-line policy decisions, atoning for mistakes only years down the line, and usually because it’s politically expedient to do so, as in an election is about to take place.

Chuck Schumer: If you don’t give up and you keep fighting and you’re right, you win!

Thomas Hedges: In his early days, Schumer wasn’t as focused on foreign policy, in the years before 911 would shift America’s attention to the Middle East, Congressman Schumer, along with the new Democrats like Bill Clinton among others, would exploit the crime scare of the 1990’s in order to gain more votes and more power. During those years, Schumer supported the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994, which spiked the prison population. And in 1995 he sponsored the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act, which became the foundation from which the Patriot Act six years later, was built.

Ben Norton: When it comes to the war on terror he was a very enthusiastic supporter and remains so. He voted for the Patriot Act, and again this is a supposed Democratic leader, who voted for the Bush administration to take away Americans civil liberties.

Thomas Hedges: In the years straddling 911, he supported many of the same policies Republicans supported. From his tough on crime approach to supporting war in the Middle East, to defending the surveillance of Muslim groups in New York after 911. Schumer and the GOP had very few differences, in fact despite shedding tears at a press conference earlier this year after the Muslim ban that Trump implemented, Schumer himself had proposed something eerily similar.

Ben Norton: In November of 2015, not that long ago, less than two years ago, Schumer also said that the US government should consider a so called pause on the re-settlement of Syrian refugees. He also, in one of the most egregious yet under reported aspects of Schumer, previously said that torture should be considered in some places, and he said that, “Oh well if you oppose torture, you say this now, but you need to put yourself in the shoes of people in these particular situations etc.” So he really left torture on the table.

Before Trump was President, he had actually donated money to Schumer, that of course, represents something, this is not a progressive Democrat. Schumer actually represents the segment, the influential powerful segment of the Democratic Party, that has helped pave the way for Donald Trump to carry out many of the policies he’s already implementing.

Thomas Hedges: But for voters who have paid attention to Schumer for a long time, the Senator’s policy choices are anything but surprising.

Kevin Zeese: He basically is a Senator for Israel. He totally supports the Israeli foreign policy viewpoint, which is a very hawkish, if you were a Republican you would call him a neocon.

Ariel Gold: He has come out in strong opposition to the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement and was very supportive of New York Governor Cuomo’s order to ban BDS in New York state, and Schumer made a direct statement in support of that.

Thomas Hedges : Schumer’s staunch support for Israel has prompted him for example, to criticize the Obama administration, when in 2016, the United States abstained from a UN Security Council resolution re-affirming something the Council had almost unanimously upheld since 1979. Namely, that Israel’s settlement building projects on Palestinian land violated international law.

Ben Norton: Schumer criticized the Obama administration for abstaining on this very basic resolution, which every other country voted for. So the US was still a pariah, because the US didn’t vote for it, it just abstained on it. But to Schumer that was not enough, he wanted it to be completely vetoed, because anything that Israel does is sacrosanct, and anyone who criticizes it, in Schumer’s eyes, is not someone he wants to ally with politically, so he’d rather affectively ally with Trump.

Thomas Hedges: The most recent showing of that allegiance was last month, when Schumer supported Trump’s decision to launch an air strike on an Air Force base in Syria, something Israel also strongly supported.

Chuck Schumer: On Syria, I salute the professionalism and skill of our armed forces, who took action last night. The people of Syria have suffered untold horrors and violence at the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his supporters in Tehran and in Putin’s Russia, making sure that Assad knows when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price, is the right thing to do.

Thomas Hedges: But perhaps Schumer’s greatest show of allegiance to Israel, was his decision to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, without which experts have warned, would put the United States and Iran on a collision course.

Ben Norton: Under President Obama, Schumer was one of the most prominent Democrats to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, and he was of course fearmongering about Iran, which to him is the devil incarnate, and he actually made factually false statements about the nuclear agreement, and claimed that it would allow Iran in 10 years to produce nuclear weapons etc.

Thomas Hedges: Leading up to his decision, Schumer reassured Zionists that he was consulting the most credentialed men in Washington, including Henry Kissinger, an opponent of the deal, and the man who orchestrated the violent coup in Chile that toppled its democratically elected leader, as well as the architect of the very bloody Vietnam war.

Chuck Schumer: I spent some time with Dr. Kissinger, I’m spending time with excellence.

Ariel Gold: So it threatened to pull us into another war, and we’re back in that threat again with Trump winning the election we hear a lot about undoing the Iran nuclear deal, and it’s one of the things that Israel has been saying they would like to see come out of the Trump administration.

Thomas Hedges: Schumer’s willingness to oppose the deal early on, which created an opening for other undecided Democrats to do the same, is a strong display of support for Israel.

News Anchor: Schumer’s support here really would have been key for the White House, but coming out overnight against this deal saying in a statement quote, “I will vote to disapprove the agreement, not because I believe war is a viable or desirable option, not to challenge the path of dis-plomacy it is because, I believe Iran will not change.”

Thomas Hedges: It also put him in yet the same camp as current President Donald Trump in terms of pursuing a Middle East policy that is in line with Washington’s most hawkish advocates. In the end, Schumer’s a friend of the neo conservative foreign policy agenda. While he may cry over Trump’s Muslim ban and purport to have the same inclinations as America’s most progressive members of the Senate, he’s fundamentally in agreement with the United States forceful efforts abroad.

Kevin Zeese: The criticism of the Democratic Party is it is the Wall Street and war party. That is Chuck Schumer, and so for him to have this kind of pretend progressive image, it’s just so obviously fraudulent.

Thomas Hedges: As the United States nears yet another arms deal with Middle East ally Saudi Arabia, this time for a hundred billion dollars, and coupled with its four billion dollar annual aid to Israel, we can expect Schumer not only to support an even more militarized Middle East, but to continue to rail against countries like Iran that pose a threat to US and Israel’s hegemony in the region.