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Senator Bernie Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist,” and has long been cast as an “anti-war” candidate, running in the 2016 race with a foreign policy record he argues is markedly different from the consistent hawkishness of Hillary Clinton.

Actual socialists don’t agree.

Writing at the Canadian Centre for Research on Globalization, Shamus Cooke argues that Sanders, who even plans to maintain Obama’s drone program, is an unrepentant “imperialist” just like Clinton:

Some Sanders supporters might respond; “at least his foreign policy is better than Hillary’s.” But Sanders himself has been unable to provide a real argument to support this claim during the ongoing debates.

When Sanders attempted to frame Hillary as “pro-regime change” in relation to the catastrophe she created in Libya, Hillary pointed out that Sanders voted “yes” to support that regime change. As the war machine rolled into Libya Sanders wasn’t a speed bump; he was a lubricant. Clinton and Sanders both have Libyan blood on their hands.

Sanders has Afghan blood on his hands too, having voted for the invasion of the now-endless Afghan war that triggered the beginning of the flurry of Middle East wars. And while Sanders brags about voting “no” for the 2003 Iraq war, his vote soon morphed into a “yes,” by his several votes for the ongoing funding of the war/occupation.

Cooke isn’t the only socialist to rag on Sanders. His mention of Sanders’ dishonest practice of opposing foolish wars in high-profile votes and then funding them later was cited by Ashley Smith at Socialist Worker back in 2006:

Under the Bush regime, Sanders’ militarism has only grown worse. While he called for alternative approaches to the war on Afghanistan, he failed to join the sole Democrat, Barbara Lee, to vote against Congress’ resolution that gave George Bush a blank check to launch war on any country he deemed connected to the September 11 attacks.

Ever since, he has voted for appropriations bills to fund the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, despite their horrific toll on the occupied peoples as well as U.S. soldiers. …

He also opposes immediate withdrawal from Iraq, despite the fact that a majority of residents in his home city of Burlington voted for such a position in a town meeting resolution in February 2005.

Likewise, Patrick Martin at the World Socialist Web Site made the case this past October that Sanders is making a “false claim” to socialism because of his aggressive, more-of-the-same foreign policy:

While opposing the use of American ground forces, at least for the present, Sanders was enthusiastically in favor of soldiers from other countries “engaging in combat and getting killed” in the wars in Syria and Iraq. …

After expressing the desire that Arab soldiers fight and die in Syria (doing the “dirty work” for US imperialism), Sanders went on to declare his support for another Obama policy: assassination by drone-fired missiles.

Asked whether he favored using drones and Special Forces for counterterrorism, Sanders responded, “Well, all of that and more.”

And at Jacobin Magazine, Paul Heideman suggests that Sanders’ inconsistent opposition to irresponsible foreign policy isn’t based in any position of principle:

Sanders attacked previous US interventions, from the invasion of Iraq to American backing of coups in countries like Guatemala and Iran. Yet his proposed alternatives made it unclear on what grounds he objected to such actions. …

Sanders lauded King Abdullah II of Jordan (it is never a good look for a socialist to praise a monarch) for his role in the fight against ISIS. Yet Jordan, like most American allies in the Middle East, is a highly repressive country, where criticizing the king entitles someone to three years of imprisonment in the country’s notoriously torture-filled jails.

While Sanders is willing to criticize many of the most egregious over-extensions of American empire, it seems he has no interest in contesting the American suppression of democracy across the globe.

I share all this because it’s evidence—straight from the horse’s mouth—that Sanders is about as revolutionary and anti-establishment as Barack Obama…which is to say, not very.

If Sanders somehow does edge out Clinton and the eventual Republican nominee for the win, his supporters will discover what’s already clear to Sanders opponents of all stripes: yes, Bernie Sanders might govern a little differently than Clinton, but he’s no more a source of real positive change than the Great Left Hope of 2008.

Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Rare, weekend editor at The Week, and a fellow at Defense Priorities. You can find more of her work at or follow her on Twitter @bonniekristian
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