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July 11, 2003

Howard Dean? Antiwar!?


Not Quite

by Anthony Gancarski

Only in 2003 could a 5'8" politician named Howard be considered a favorite for a major party's Presidential nomination. Yet that is exactly what has happened with former Vermont Governor Dean. His supporters point to his strong showing in the recent "MoveOn.Org Presidential Preference Primary" as well as to the surprising strength in his campaign's fundraising as evidence that Dean is viable.

This writer, however, wonders if the Dean supporters are following their candidate blindly, without knowledge of the full spectrum of his positions. Dean's support came, in large part, from what sympathetic pundits called his principled stand against the Iraqi war; finally, many on the left reckoned, here is a candidate who will stand up to the President and his war machine. Hell, he even appropriated Wellstone's old saw about the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party". It's as if Bulworth were crossed with Chomsky, and infused with mysteriously strong funding.

Those who believe in Dean's viability as a Presidential candidate would do well to look more closely at the candidate himself, and the positions he's taken of late. Is Dean anti-war? As another small state governor might have said, it depends on what your definition of war is.

In a recent AlterNet piece, Ahmed Nassef laid the claim bare for the hard left: "Dean Not Progressive on Mideast." As anyone who remembers the hue and cry in the wake of Rachel Corrie's recent death can attest, many leftists see the US as the principal abettors of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, and seek to curtail Washington's support for that government quickly and severely. Candidate Dean, however, sees things a bit differently.

The Alternet scribe quotes Dean's endorsement of "AIPAC's view" of Israeli security, as well as the Governor's claim that "we have to stop terrorism before peace negotiations." Leaving aside the question of who "we" are, exactly, it's impossible not to notice that Dean takes a more overtly pro-Israeli tack in his public rhetoric than the current President does in action. And Dean doesn't stop there; his recent, unconditional advocacy of $12 billion in grants and loans to the Israeli government even exceeded the stated goals of such as Paul Wolfowitz, who sought to make the disbursements conditional on acceptance of the two-state solution and rollbacks of Israeli settlements.

Wherever Dean's [anomalous?] opposition to the Iraqi war came from, he seems willing to aggressively engage other countries in the region. Dean, who claimed on "Face the Nation" recently that President Bush is "beholden" to the Saudis as well as to Axis of Evil member Iran, also believes that the US must take a singularly active role in Liberia. Stumping in Iowa City early in July, Dean stated that "I would urge the president to tie our commitment to assist in this multilateral effort to an appeal to the world to join us in the work that remains to be done in Iraq. We could stabilize the situation and remain in Liberia for no more than several months, at which time a U.N. peacekeeping mission could be deployed to oversee a period of transition."

There's that "we" again, representing in this instance a mere deployment of two thousand "peacekeepers." Far be it from the anti-war candidate to ask the question on the lips of many of his supporters: namely, why don't we just leave the entire job to the UN? Haven't the American people seen enough "peacekeeping" for one generation?

Apparently not, as Dean maintains that the situation in Liberia is "significantly different" from that in Iraq. In Liberia, "there is an imminent threat of serious human catastrophe" that apparently just hasn't been the case in Baghdad or Basra. Cholera and depleted uranium poisoning, guesses this writer, are simply the cost of freedom.

Such fuzzy logic from the putative Democratic frontrunner cheers Bush strategists to no end. It's not for nothing that Karl Rove spent July 4th, as the Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin put it, "rousing support for Dean". As "a dozen people marched toward Dana Place wearing Dean for President T-shirts and carrying Dean for America signs, Rove told a companion, "'Heh, heh, heh. Yeah, that's the one we want'," Then, "Rove exhorted the marchers and the parade audience: " 'Come on, everybody! Go, Howard Dean!'."

And why shouldn't Rove cheer for Dean? The man is to the Democratic field what International ANSWER was to the Iraqi war opposition. An unknown quantity, about whom too little will be known until too late. Luckily for the Dems, though, Hillary waits in the wings.

As I've been calling for some weeks, Hillary's shadow campaign for the Presidency in 2004 builds apace. Sam Smith's Progressive Review ran the following tidbit recently:

"New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has subtly but carefully altered her stance on running for president in 2004. . . During her trip to London this weekend, Mrs. Clinton hinted during a television interview that a 2004 run "might happen." Appearing Friday on BBC Channel 4's "Richard and Judy Show," Mrs. Clinton was pressed on whether she might challenge President Bush as early as next year. "You never know what might happen," she told the TV duo, after first dismissing as "rumors" reports that she was considering a run in 2004. The day before, Mrs. Clinton was challenged by BCC radio interviewer Martha Kearney, who complained that the top Democrat's often-repeated answer that she has "no intention" of running for president in either 2004 or 2008 "doesn't really rule anything out, does it?" Well, but it is as close as I can come," Mrs. Clinton responded."

Consistent with "you never know what might happen" are the neocon forces on Fox News Sunday [July 6] shifting their deck chairs on the Titanic. After having been instrumental in helping to sell the war with Iraq, it was bracing to hear Charles Krauthammer standing athwart the thrust to invade Liberia, his opposition leading him to mouth the Buchananesque phrase "blood and treasure." One gets the sense that Mr. Krauthammer took the position, in part, to secure a phony moral high ground [after all, there is no public debate of any significance about whether the US military should set up shop in Liberia, so Krauthammer's "principled opposition" matters about as much as mine to what American policy is and shall be].

Bill Kristol, of course, argued that "the US [military] should be everywhere" while letting it be known that he hasn't committed his support to Bush's re-election by saying that he's "supported the President since 9/11". Translation, of course, is that the Kristolites are more than prepared to shift their loyalties from Crawford to the party of Pelosi, Daschle, Gephardt, and Clan Clinton. Juan Williams, for his part, had a tête-à-tête with Bill Kristol for implying that Liberia wasn't as important a place to US strategic interests as Israel.

Strangeness indeed on Fox News, with Steel Pulse having played Fox and Friends on July 3rd. It's unspeakable that the network uses Roots Reggae and Juan Williams to promote this Liberian excursion as something along the lines of a quota invasion. One of the few voices that made any sense on television last Sunday was that of John Warner on "Meet the Press", who emphasized the tripartite nature of the Liberian civil war, depicting three brutal armies, "all of them at each other's throats."

What will Liberia be? Another bloody mess. Another quagmire. Of this I have no doubt. Why else would Fox News put Steel Pulse on the air if someone in-house hadn't decided to pimp Marcus Garvey out to justify American "peacekeeping".

Does Fox News know what Rastas think of American culture? They see this as Babylon, and their perception is justified. The sterility and debasement at the heart of American corporate culture is anathema not only to Rastas, but to people generally seeking to live according to Scripture. The national discourse impels us to confuse lust with love, zero tolerance with toughness, and preemptive attack with self-defense. But I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said already. So perhaps it's just as well to close with the lyrics from the Steel Pulse song performed on Fox News on the 3rd of July, if only to put US military action in Africa into one of its proper, seemingly timeless contexts, in the faint hope that someone in the federal government comes to terms with the harsh facts of US military action, whenever it's imposed on the peoples of the world. By and large, they don't want us in their business. And how can we blame them?

"Worth His Weight in Gold (Rally Round)"

Rally round the flag

Rally round the red

Gold black and green

Marcus say sir Marcus say

Red for the blood

That flowed like the river

Marcus say sir Marcus say

Green for the land Africa

Marcus say

Yellow for the gold

That they stole

Marcus say

Black for the people

It was looted from

They took us away captivity captivity

Required from us a song

Right now man say repatriate repatriate

I and I patience have now long time gone

Father's mothers sons daughters every one

Four hundred million strong

Ethiopia stretch forth her hand

Closer to God we Africans

Closer to God we can

In our hearts is Mount Zion

Now you know seek the Lion

How can we sing in a strange land

Don't want to sing in a strange land no

Liberation true democracy

One God one aim one destiny

Rally round the flag

Remember when we used to dress like kings

Conqueror of land conqueror of seas

Civilization far moved from caves

Oppressor man live deh

I curse that day

The day they made us slaves I say

How can we sing in a strange land

Don't want to sing in a strange land

Liberation true democracy

One God one aim one destiny

Rally round the flag

Red gold black and green

A bright shining star – Africa

Catch star liner right now – Africa

A history no more a mystery – Africa

Respect and authority – Africa

Climb ye the heights of humanity

Rally come rally rally come rally.

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Anthony Gancarski, the author of Unfortunate Incidents, writes for The American Conservative, CounterPunch, and LewRockwell.com. His web journalism was recognized by Utne Reader Online as "Best of the Web." A writer for the local Folio Weekly, he lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

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