A decent respect to the opinions of mankind. Even in 1776 our founders knew that was important. It is far more important now that we are tied so tightly together; now that we are capable of destroying our shared environment; now that we owe mankind (foreign lenders) trillions of dollars; now that what we do is all on TV.

Yes, I beg you to vote for John Kerry for domestic and social reasons. We will be a more prosperous, healthier, fairer society if you do.

But I want to hand the mike to Andrew Tanenbaum for the final pitch. It turns out he is the anonymous ‘Votemaster’ at electoral-vote.com. He ‘came out’ yesterday. And while his whole story is fascinating – an MIT grad and author of five books translated into 22 languages, living temporarily in the Netherlands – it’s his motivation for doing the site that I want to leave you with:

Why Did You Do This?

In a nutshell, because living abroad I know first hand what the world thinks of America and it is not a pretty picture at the moment. I want people to think of America as the land of freedom and democracy, not the land of arrogance and blind revenge. I want to be proud of America again. The U.S. media do a spectacularly bad job of informing Americans about what is going on in rest of the world.

After Sept. 11, the U.S. could do no wrong. The entire world was on America’s side. The invasion of Afghanistan was seen as completely justified. After all, the Al-Qaida leadership had to be decapitated. No one questioned that.

But Iraq was a completely different matter. Bush, Cheney, and Powell said they had conclusive proof that Saddam had WMD and could attack at any instant. The rest of the world wanted to see the proof. No proof was forthcoming. The answer was “trust us.” We now know there were no WMD. There weren’t even factories or labs to produce them. Saddam was an evil dictator with evil fantasies but he was no threat to America. Yet former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said that the planning to invade Iraq began the day Bush was inaugurated. The administration simply misused the horror of Sept. 11 as a convenient excuse for doing something that was already in the works.

Let me tell you a short story. When I was in elementary school, the school was plagued by a bully. He was the biggest, strongest kid around and would beat up anyone he didn’t like. We were all exceedingly polite to his face, but hated his guts behind his back. One day he was chasing some poor kid and he tripped and skidded a considerable distance, scraping his face on the rough asphalt of the playground. He was bleeding and in pain, screaming for help. But nobody came to help him. We all just walked away. George Bush is the world’s playground bully. The world sees him–and by inference, America–as arrogant, self-centered, and mean. I spoke to Americans from dozens of countries at the DA caucus. Everyone told the same story–the world hates America. When talking to foreigners, I can tell them about the Bill of Rights or freedom or World War II, or whatever I want, but all they see is this big, stupid, arrogant, playground bully and a stolen election in Florida last time. I think America deserves better. I want America to be respected in the world again, and John Kerry can restore the respect America deserves.

. . . Now you might be thinking: Who the hell cares if America is the world’s pariah, along with, say, North Korea and Zimbabwe? Well, I care, for one, and I think most Americans want to be respected for being a democracy rather than simply being feared because we have more nuclear weapons than anybody else. You can’t make the world love you by running commercials full of snarling wolves on worldwide TV.

But there are some practical matters to consider as well. If you look at British and Canadian publications, such as The BBC, The Guardian, The Economist, and The Globe and Mail, you get a picture not colored by partisan electoral considerations. You sometimes wonder if they are reporting the same war as the U.S. media. The situation in Iraq has deteriorated very badly. Over 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died in the war, mostly women and children. Well over 1000 American soldiers–many of them just kids who signed up for the National Guard and never expected to go to war–have been killed there and thousands more have been maimed for life. Americans are being killed daily in increasing numbers and unless there is a radical change, this will go on for years. Reenlistment rates are way down and manpower needs are way up. With a President Kerry, there is hope that other countries might contribute serious numbers of troops to help stabilize Iraq. With a second Bush administration they will just say: “You broke it, you fix it.”

If other countries won’t help out, Bush is going to be faced with an unpleasant choice: accept another Vietnam-type quagmire lasting for years or reinstitute the draft. There is no way we can win in Iraq with current troop levels. Something has to change. More of the same won’t work. And it is an open secret that after the election, Bush is going to ask Congress for another $70 billion down payment on Iraq. Who is going to pay for it? We are.

In addition, the U.S. needs the help of other countries to gather intelligence about terrorists, cut off their funding, and track them down. Trouble is, when the playground bully comes asking for help, everyone just walks away. A new president who shows respect for the world instead of arrogance will get a lot more help. And we need help, believe me.

☞ All along, John Kerry has had a simple slogan: STRONGER AT HOME, RESPECTED AGAIN IN THE WORLD. The world yearns for us to make a fresh start.

Today we get to do it – to pay a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.

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