February 27, 2004

"Because many important members of his own party were involved in this scandal, it was a distasteful subject for other committee and subcommittee chairmen to investigate. They did not. John Kerry did."

If his performance in 2000, and some of his recent liasons (i.e. Grover Norquist and Fred Newman), are any indication, the shell-of-a-man-formerly-known-as-Ralph-Nader is going to attempt to sow great mischief and spread much disinformation about Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mekong Delta) in the struggle ahead -- with the indulgence of the "US mainstream news media" and mysterious infusions of Bush cabal cash and undercover brown shirts (disguised as conservatives and independents "drawn" to Nader's crusade)...It is imperative that you understand who JFK is and what he has done and stood for in his distinguished (and unique) career in the US Senate. If you have read the LNS for more than the last few weeks, you know that we were quite disappointed in him, indeed we had pretty much written him off...But he showed in Iowa and New Hampshire that he had either woken up or he was simply keeping his powder dry last year...Read this piece by The Nation's David Corn...You will need it when the shell-of-a-man-formerly-known-as-Ralph-Nader makes his play for moral authority in this race...It is not only JFK's heroic service in uniform that makes him UNIQUELY qualified for the political wet-work ahead...

David Corn, The Nation: In the years since, there's been nothing like it. Senator Hank Brown, the ranking Republican on Kerry's subcommittee, noted, "John Kerry was willing to spearhead this difficult investigation. Because many important members of his own party were involved in this scandal, it was a distasteful subject for other committee and subcommittee chairmen to investigate. They did not. John Kerry did."

Repudiate the 9/11 Cover-Up and the Iraq War Lies,
Show Up for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)

This article can be found on the web at

What's Right With Kerry

[from the March 15, 2004 issue]

In the heat of battle, with his campaign crumbling,
Howard Dean lashed out at John Kerry. First, he called
the leader in the Democratic presidential race a
"Republican." Then he said, "When Senator Kerry's
record is examined by the public at a more leisurely
time...he's going to turn out to be just like George

Just like George Bush? It is true that Kerry, another
Yalie and Skull and Bones alum, has voted in favor of
NAFTA and other corporate-friendly trade pacts, that
he once raised questions about affirmative action
(while still supporting it), that he has, like almost
every Democratic senator, accepted contributions from
special-interest lobbyists (while being one of the few
to eschew political action committee donations), that
he voted to grant Bush the authority to invade Iraq.
But this hardly makes him Bush lite. There is, as
evidence, his nineteen-year Senate record, during
which he has voted consistently in favor of abortion
rights and environmental policies, opposed Bush's tax
cuts for the wealthy, led the effort against drilling
in the Alaskan wilderness, pushed for higher fuel
economy standards, advocated boosting the minimum wage
and pressed for global warming remedies. But what
distinguishes Kerry's career are key moments when he
displayed guts and took tough actions that few
colleagues would imitate. One rap on Kerry is that he
is overly cautious and conventional. He's no firebrand
on the stump, nor does he come across as the most
passionate and exciting force for change. But his
history in Washington includes episodes in which he
demonstrated a willingness to confront hard issues, to
challenge power, to pursue values rather than
political advantage, to take risks for the public

Kerry arrived in the Senate in 1985. This Vietnam War
hero turned antiwar leader had been lieutenant
governor of Massachusetts. But he entered the body
more as the prosecutor he had been in the late 1970s
after graduating from Boston College law school. In
early 1986 Kerry's office was contacted by a Vietnam
vet who alleged that the support network for the
CIA-backed Nicaraguan contras (who were fighting
against the socialist Sandinistas in power) was linked
to drug traffickers. Kerry doubted that the Reagan
Administration, obsessed with supporting the contras,
would investigate such charges. He pushed for a Senate
inquiry and a year later, as chairman of a Foreign
Relations subcommittee, obtained approval to conduct a

It was not an easy ride. Reagan Justice Department
officials sought to discredit and stymie his
investigation. Republicans dismissed it. One
anti-Kerry effort used falsified affidavits to make it
seem his staff had bribed witnesses. The Democratic
staff of the Senate Iran/contra committee--which
showed little interest in the contra drug
connection--often refused to cooperate. "They were
fighting us tooth and nail," recalls Jack Blum, one of
Kerry's investigators. "We had the White House and the
CIA against us on one side and our colleagues in the
Senate on the other. But Kerry told us, 'Keep going.'
He didn't let this stuff faze him."

Kerry's inquiry widened to look at Cuba, Haiti, the
Bahamas, Honduras and Panama. In 1989 he released a
report that slammed the Reagan Administration for
neglecting or undermining anti-drug efforts in order
to pursue other foreign policy objectives. It noted
that the government in the 1970s and '80s had "turned
a blind eye" to the corruption and drug dealing of
Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who had done
various favors for Washington (including assisting the
contras). The report concluded that "individuals who
provided support for the contras were involved in drug
trafficking...and elements of the contras themselves
knowingly received financial and material assistance
from drug traffickers." And, it added, US government
agencies--meaning the CIA and the State
Department--had known this.

This was a rather explosive finding, but the Kerry
report did not provoke much uproar in the media, and
the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill did little
to support Kerry and keep the matter alive. His
critics derided him as a conspiracy buff. Yet a decade
later the CIA inspector general released a pair of
reports that acknowledged that the agency had worked
with suspected drug smugglers to support the contras.
Kerry had been right.

After the contra investigation, Kerry next turned to a
far more sensitive target: a bank connected to a
prominent Democratic Party fundraiser. During their
investigation of Noriega, Kerry's staff discovered
that the Bank of Credit and Commerce International had
facilitated Noriega's drug trafficking and money
laundering. This led to an inquiry into BCCI, a
worldwide but murky institution more or less
controlled by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. BCCI was
a massive criminal enterprise, although this was not
yet publicly known. It had engaged in rampant fraud
and money laundering (to help out, among others, drug
dealers, terrorists and arms traffickers) around the
world. Its tentacles ran everywhere. Its political
connections reached around the globe. Jimmy Carter and
Henry Kissinger both became involved in the scandal.
When banking regulators finally shut down BCCI in
1991, an estimated 250,000 creditors and depositors
from forty countries were out billions of dollars.

One key issue was whether BCCI had secretly and
illegally acquired control of First American bank in
Washington, DC. The top officials of First American
were Clark Clifford, a longtime Democratic graybeard
and a party fundraiser, and Robert Altman, his
protégé. Democratic senators grumbled about Kerry's
crusade, which put Clifford in the cross-hairs. "This
really pissed people off," Blum says. BCCI hired from
both Democratic and Republican quarters an army of
lawyers, PR specialists and lobbyists (including
former members of Congress) to thwart the
investigation. The Justice Department of the first
Bush Administration did not respond to information on
BCCI uncovered by Kerry's staff. So Blum took the
material to New York District Attorney Robert
Morgenthau, who then commenced an investigation of
BCCI that led to indictments. And Kerry again found
himself tussling with the CIA, for the agency had been
using the services of BCCI even after it had learned
that the bank was crooked and in league with
terrorists (including Abu Nidal).

In the fall of 1992 Kerry released a report on the
BCCI affair. It blasted everyone: Justice, Treasury,
US Customs, the Federal Reserve, Clifford and Altman
(for participating in "some of BCCI's deceptions"),
high-level lobbyists and fixers, and the CIA. The
report noted that after the CIA knew the bank was "a
fundamentally corrupt criminal enterprise, it
continued to use both BCCI and First American...for
CIA operations." The report was, in a sense, an
indictment of Washington cronyism. In the years since,
there's been nothing like it. Senator Hank Brown, the
ranking Republican on Kerry's subcommittee, noted,
"John Kerry was willing to spearhead this difficult
investigation. Because many important members of his
own party were involved in this scandal, it was a
distasteful subject for other committee and
subcommittee chairmen to investigate. They did not.
John Kerry did."

While Kerry was in the middle of the BCCI muck, Senate
majority leader George Mitchell asked him to assume
another difficult task: investigate the
unaccounted-for Vietnam POWs and MIAs. For years
so-called POW advocates, like billionaire Ross Perot,
had claimed American GIs were still being held in
Vietnam, and the highly charged POW/MIA issue was the
main roadblock to normalizing relations. Working
closely with Senator John McCain, a Republican who had
been a POW, Kerry got the Pentagon to declassify 1
million pages of records. His committee chased after
rumors of American soldiers being held. He took
fourteen trips to Vietnam. This was a hard mission:
How could his committee say there were absolutely no
POWs still captive in Vietnam? Yet anything less could
keep the POW controversy alive.

On one trip to Hanoi, as Douglas Brinkley notes in
Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, Kerry
insisted that he be allowed to inspect the catacombs
beneath Ho Chi Minh's tomb, where, according to a
persistent rumor, the remaining POWs were being held.
Permission was granted, and with conservative
Republican Bob Smith by his side, he inspected the
tunnels and found no signs of POWs. In January 1993
Kerry's POW/MIA committee released a 1,223-page report
concluding that there was "no compelling evidence that
proves any American remains alive in captivity in
Southeast Asia." Some POW die-hards howled.
(Journalist Sydney Schanberg has accused Kerry of
covering up and destroying evidence that POWs were
left behind.) But the report mostly settled the issue.
President Bill Clinton was able to drop the Vietnam
trade embargo and normalize relations.

Investigations were not the only notable moments in
Kerry's Senate career. On September 10, 1996, as he
was in a tight re-election contest against William
Weld, the popular Republican governor of
Massachusetts, Kerry voted against the Defense of
Marriage Act, which would deny federal benefits to
same-sex couples and permit states to not recognize
same-sex marriages conducted in other states. He was
one of only fourteen senators to oppose the measure.
Several leading Senate liberals--including Paul
Wellstone, Tom Harkin and Pat Leahy--had voted for it.
But on the floor of the Senate that day, Kerry, who
noted that he did not support same-sex marriage, said,
"I am going to vote against this bill...because I
believe that this debate is fundamentally ugly, and it
is fundamentally political." He refused to pretend
that the bill was not a wedge-issue trap devised by
conservative Republicans. The legislation, he charged,
was "meant to divide Americans," and he argued
fiercely that it was unconstitutional. "If this were
truly a defense of marriage act," he said, "it would
expand the learning experience for would-be husbands
and wives. It would provide for counseling for all
troubled marriages, not just for those who can afford
it. It would provide treatment on demand for those
with alcohol and substance abuse.... It would
guarantee daycare for every family that struggles and
needs it."

The following year, a re-elected Kerry was in another
lonely position as one of only five original sponsors
of the Clean Money, Clean Elections Act, to provide
for full public financing of Congressional elections.
The measure would remove practically all
special-interest money from House and Senate
campaigns. (Kerry's colleagues were Wellstone, Leahy,
John Glenn and Joe Biden--all Democrats.) "Kerry was
totally into it," says Ellen Miller, former executive
director of Public Campaign, a reform group pressing
for the legislation. "He believes in this stuff."

In introducing the legislation, Kerry said on the
Senate floor, "Special interest money is moving and
dictating and governing the agenda of American
politics.... If we want to regain the respect and
confidence of the American people, and if we want to
reconnect to them and reconnect them to our democracy,
we have to get the special interest money out of
politics." He was also a backer of the better-known
McCain-Feingold legislation, a more modest and (some
might say) problematic approach to campaign reform.
But over the years he's pointed to the Clean Money,
Clean Elections Act as the real reform. "It is a tough
position in Congress to be for dramatic change in
financing elections," says Miller. "It's gutsy to go
out and say, 'Let's provide a financially leveled
playing field so there is more competition for
incumbents.' Kerry and Wellstone were the leaders and
took a giant step. It was remarkable."

After two decades in the Senate, Kerry has a long
record that can be picked apart by competitors within
his own party as well as in the GOP. And though he has
been re-elected three times, he has not developed the
best political skills. He has not shed a manner too
easily criticized as aloof or patrician. He has had
brushes with smarmy campaign financing. But there have
been times he has shown courage, devotion to justice
and commitment to honesty, open government and
principle-over-politics. There are few senators of
whom that can be said. A full assessment of the man
ought to take these portions of his public service
into account.

Posted by richard at February 27, 2004 01:07 PM