My reservations about Bernie

By Alisina Saee-Nazari

Jessica Picard/Daily Collegian
(Jessica Picard/Daily Collegian)

Around 300 people rallied at the Student Union on Tuesday to show their support for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. University of Massachusetts students and professors, as well as members of the Amherst community, came together with the intention of building a united progressive movement, glorifying Sanders’ platform. The renowned socialist has been making waves with his progressive appeal and platform calling for free higher education, an end to income equality, a livable wage, tax reform, investment in the middle class, accessible healthcare, climate change and so forth, but hasn’t been held accountable for one of his shortcomings: foreign policy.

Many liberals have convinced themselves that they “Feel the Bern,” but have done so passively, and without questioning Sanders “about what he would do as commander in chief of the world’s leading military power.” It is the election season that allows the American public to demand more from candidates, rather than settling for the lesser of two evils.

Bernie Sanders believes that war should be the last option, but has rejected Clinton’s plea for a no fly zone in Syria and endorsed the Obama administration’s year-long crusade to bomb the country.                “The United States has been bombing targets in Syria, including the Islamic State and al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, since September 2014. Those strikes have reportedly killed at least 240 civilians,” according to teleSUR. The common rhetoric of keeping America safe shouldn’t justify the lost lives of 240 Syrians and suggesting a no fly zone to “make a very complex situation in Syria even worse” seems counterintuitive.

Sanders believes we must seek diplomatic solutions before resorting to military action, but this last August said he wouldn’t end drone strikes in areas like Yemen, Somalia and the Pakistani borderlands. Since Obama took office, at least 314 civilians in these countries have been killed and Sanders argues that drone strikes should be used “selectively and effectively.” With his stance on Syria and potentially continuing the drone program, Sanders can no longer hide behind his 2002 congressional vote against the invasion of Iraq. Sanders says, “While we must be relentless in combating terrorists who would do us harm, we cannot and should not be policeman of the world,” but the amount of civilian casualties has me questioning who the terrorists are.

The senator from Vermont proved he is progressive with his support of the Iran nuclear deal. His endorsement of the deal is significant because his ability to drive the Democratic Party farther to the left is juxtaposed with the task of convincing liberals that accordance results in peace. Sanders believes the deal is “making certain that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon – an occurrence which would destabilize the region, lead to a nuclear arms race in the area and would endanger the existence of Israel.”

His approval of the deal is consistent with how the majority of the American public feels about Iran: a state of sponsored terrorism in desperate need of control. Lifting the sanctions on Iran is momentous for Iranians and their economy, but not a reason for his support. The United States’ jurisdiction has left Iranians in economic turmoil and if Sanders is fighting for the working family, what about mine? The United States’ relationship with Iran is clouded with contempt and collocated with a Pro-Israel alliance, without considering the US’s crimes against the region.

Regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Sanders believes “the U.S. must play a leading role in creating a two-state solution, which will require significant compromises from both sides.” The compromise that Sanders has envisioned calls for the Palestinians to recognize Israel’s right to exist while the Israelis must end the blockade of Gaza, and cease developing settlements on Palestinian land. His campaign website said he “strongly condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza as disproportionate and the widespread killing of civilians as completely unacceptable” yet in Aug. 2014, Sanders supported the Israeli bombardment on the Gaza strip, which starting on July 8, 2014, lasted seven weeks and “claimed the lives of over 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians.”

Palestinian civilian lives don’t endanger the state of Israel, but Sanders’ support for Israel’s bombings on the Gaza civilian population fortifies the Zionist belief that they do. Sanders’ “solution” doesn’t account for the 6.5 million Palestinian refugees displaced worldwide nor how the current settlements have violated human rights including, “home demolitions and the forced eviction of Palestinian families; punitive arrests, unfair trials, ill-treatment and torture of detainees and the use of excessive or lethal force to subdue nonviolent demonstrations as well as the use of restrictive legal means.”

Sanders instead is convinced that the “strict adherence, by all sides, to the tenets of international humanitarian law is necessary in order to avoid escalating the conflict yet again.” Ironically it is under international law that considers Israel’s expanding settlements to be illegal and in order to avoid escalation, there needs to be urgent reparations for the Palestinian people.

It’s these reservations about Sanders that have kept me skeptical of riding into the sunset on the Bernie bandwagon. He is without a doubt the most forward-thinking candidate in terms of economic agenda, but my doubts have left me with progressive guilt.

I agree with the large majority of his platform, but the primaries are a time to force candidates to answer to the people, rather than force us into the harmful dichotomy of “for” or “against.” We should be holding a rally for Bernie Sanders not to criticize his opponents, but rather challenge Sanders to become an even better candidate. My vote remains undecided because what a white man from Vermont promises is not enough, especially after eight years of promised hope and change.

Alisina Saee-Nazari is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]