culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!
as the post-Vatican II generation would put it:
my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault!
confess: I wanted to believe. I wanted to hope. I wanted
to have faith in Howard Dean as the anti-war candidate. I even wrote a column about
it, wherein I praised the former Vermont governor and
sometime critic of the Iraq war. Good lord, I even compared
him to Adlai Stevenson!
oh boy, was I ever wrong! How wrong? Here is Dean giving
Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post the
don't even consider myself a dove,' he told me and my colleague
Ruth Marcus during a conversation before the rally…. It's
true that he opposed the war in Iraq, he says, but he supported
the 1991 Gulf War and the Bush campaign against the Taliban
in Afghanistan. More interesting, at a time when many politicians
are shuddering at President Bush's ambitions to remake the
Middle East conservatives, because they are skeptical of
such grand reshaping ambitions; liberals, because they see
resources being diverted from social causes at home Dean
sounds if anything more committed than Condoleezza Rice to
bringing democracy to Iraq.
that we're there, we're stuck,' he said. Bush took an 'enormous
risk' that through war the United States could replace Saddam
Hussein and the 'small danger' he presented to the United
States with something better and safer. The gamble was 'foolish;'
and 'wrong.' But whoever will be elected in 2004 has to live
with it. 'We have no choice. It's a matter of national security.
If we leave and we don't get a democracy in Iraq, the result
is very significant danger to the United States.'"
that we've made the biggest mistake in our history, we have
to pursue the same course until we've dragged ourselves, and
everyone around us, down into perdition. Iraq was a "small
danger" a few months ago, but now, magically, it is transformed
– after Saddam's defeat – into "a very significant
danger to the United States." And he can always lay the blame
at Bush's doorstep. President Dean can always claim to have
inherited the guerrilla war in Iraq, yet claim that now "we
have no choice." It's the perfect alibi.
Dean barnstorms the country and charms the left-wing of his
party with his brand of pernicious guff, he is turning into
a disaster for the anti-war movement, and an embarrassment
to his supporters. If we're lucky, Dean may derail his own
campaign with his careening instability long before he gets
anywhere near the White House.
should've been warned. A few days before this story came out,
it was a sunny Saturday afternoon on San Francisco's Fillmore
Street, when I spied a "Dean for President" table in front
of the Royal Ground coffee shop. It was an irresistible urge
that pulled me across the street, and led me into my first
real live experience with the Dean Phenomenon in the person
of a slightly yuppie-ish, thirty-something guy with a square,
Dudley Do-Right-ish chin and a
determined look in his eyes. He thrust a leaflet into my hand
as I approached, and immediately started babbling about the
glories of government-guaranteed universal health care.
gee, I thought, do I look that sick?
don't bother with any of that," I said, smiling in what I
hoped was a disarming fashion. "I could care less about Dean's
domestic views, which I don't agree with, anyway. However,
I do like his foreign policy stance, especially when it comes
Dean Guy looked disappointed, yet he nodded anyway.
tell me," I said, checking out the literature on his table,
"what's up with Dean saying we should go into Liberia, but
not Iraq? Isn't that a bit of an inconsistency?"
Dean Guy looked utterly flabbergasted: "Oh no," he exclaimed,
clenching his jaw, "they're completely different."
I said, "one involves our alleged 'national interest,'
and the other doesn't bother with that pretense."
is a humanitarian intervention," he assured me, "Iraq
was for the oil."
the U.S. must intervene everywhere – as long as it's a self-less
but what about World War II?" There was a triumphant finality
in his voice, as if to say: Gotcha! "What would you
have done then?"
out of it. After all, what did we get out of it? Soviet-occupied
Europe and half a century of Cold War."
are you" – the poor kid looked frightened, for a moment,
as if he'd seen a ghostly apparition – "some kind of isolationist?"
got that one right."
wrong," he said, shaking his head vigorously. Was that
a rattling sound I heard? "Just wrong."
that's right: me and George Washington, we're both
wrong. Not to mention Thomas Jefferson, the founder of your
he said, "if we had hours to debate this…"
a few minutes to a customer, but I'd already had enough. It
was plain to see that hours – days, weeks, months of
debate would never disabuse this young zealot of the conceit
that he and Howard Dean could reform the whole world, if only
the voters were willing. If the U.S. federal government can
guarantee "universal health care" to its citizens, why not
wave a similar magic wand over the people of Iraq? Dean's
all for it, as his remarks to the Post make all too
democracy to Iraq is not a two-year proposition. Having elections
alone doesn't guarantee democracy. You've got to have institutions
and the rule of law, and in a country that hasn't had that
in 3,000 years, it's unlikely to suddenly develop by having
elections and getting the heck out."
the alleged "anti-war" candidate, agrees with Condi Rice's
concept of a "generational" project to bring "democracy"
to Iraq, and joins Bill Kristol in questioning
the depth and endurance of the President's commitment.
if the war was a mistake, then the occcupation is not only
wrong but also potentially disastrous for the U.S. To realize
just how catastrophic, imagine President Dean doing what he
told the Post he'd do:
would impose a 'hybrid' constitution, 'American with Iraqi,
Arab characteristics. Iraqis have to play a major role in
drafting this, but the Americans have to have the final say.'
Women's rights must be guaranteed at all levels."
least the Bushies keep up the "democratic" pretenses and never
openly proclaim their authoritarian intentions. The imperious
Dean, on the other hand, makes no bones about America's role
as the hegemonic power: with the Dean administration at the
helm, the Americans will always have the final say. The man
isn't running for President. He won't settle for anything
less than Emperor.
ineffable arrogance of the idea that we can turn Iraq into
the equivalent of the 51st state, albeit one "with
Iraqi-Arab characteristics," is frightening coming from a
serious candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Coming out of the mouth of the supposed "anti-war" candidate,
it is downright eerie. What is this, anyway? Have we
suddenly fallen through a hole in the space-time continuum?
Has all reason fled, with only madmen left behind? The campaign
has barely begun, and already Dean is completely reversing
himself and betraying his base.
it's a little early for that sort of thing, isn't it? Candidates
usually wait until after they've won the election before selling
their constituency down the river. Dean's great novelty may
be that he's the fastest sellout, ever.
this presidential election season is over, "Are you deaning
out on me?" may yet enter the vernacular to mean brazenly
reversing course without ever acknowledging the radical
change in direction.
want to apologize to my readers for ever saying a single good
word about the double-talking, double-dealing, dubious Dean,
a snake in the grass if ever there was one, slimier even than
Bill Clinton. Just as Caligula
was a piker, as Rome's imperial villains go, compared to the
megalomanical evil of Nero, so the damage done by President
Dean will far surpass that done by any of his recent predecessors.
Caligula's malevolence merely singed Rome: Nero's
burnt it to the ground.
to make any excuses for myself – I can't say my friends didn't
warn me but many have been taken in by Dean's ostensible
opposition to the Iraq war. I got a lot of letters from many
good people after writing my paean to the Dean "phenomenon."
It's true, I inserted all the proper caveats, and said politicians
aren't to be trusted, or something to that effect. Yet, still,
it's amazing how gullible I talked myself into being: it's
like watching a fantasy or a science fiction movie, when the
sense of disbelief must be suspended in order to enjoy the
experience. Hoping against hope that my worst suspicions would
be dispelled as the campaign progressed, instead, the development
of Dean the candidate has revealed that the man is not merely
a liar, but a chameleon of uncommon ability.
is a case to be made that a Dean victory would be worse
than four more years of Team Bush. The Bush crowd at least
is now saying that the occupation of Iraq is going to be as
short as possible. We know they're lying, but at least they
pay homage to the traditionally "isolationist," i.e. non-interventionist
sentiments of the American people. The Democrats, and the
more "internationalist" Republicans, like Senator Richard
Lugar, are critical of the President for not "admitting" that
the occupation is going to be anywhere from 5 to 10 years,
if not more. They take the Dean line, that "we're stuck" there,
and can't leave because, although it wasn't before, Iraq is
somehow mysteriously tied in with our "national security."
stuck-in-the-mud argument is pure balderdash. Every minute
we spend there increases the danger to U.S. troops, who are
sitting ducks for a major terrorist attack, and increases
Iraqi and Arab resentment against the U.S., strengthening
the hand of our enemies and endangering the American homeland.
We either get out, or get driven out, bankrupting ourselves
in the process.
was really looking forward to an election year with some real
debate over the question of the Empire, with at least Dean
speaking up for the traditional anti-imperialism of the Democratic
party's Bryanite-McGovenite wing. But I'm afraid that this
time around the whole spectacle is going to be a crashing
bore. Who cares if the two wings of the War Party engage in
a foreign policy "debate"? In order to get a word in edgewise,
the antiwar movement is going to have to mobilize behind a
third party candidacy, most practically a party that already
has ballot status in most states.
narrows the field considerably, since the Libertarian and
Green parties are the only ones that come close to meeting
such a tough standard. Ralph Nader, who is well on his way
to becoming the Norman Thomas of his generation, is widely
known to be considering a run. The Libertarians, too, have
an opportunity to make a major impact in 2004, although they
show no signs of recognizing it. I've had a few letters from
readers who would dearly like Congressman
Ron Paul to run, as he did in 1988. Now
that's the kind of doctor we need to run for President:
not the politically ambidextrous Dr. Dean, but the principled
plain-speaking Dr. Paul. If only he would do it….
any case, the Dean deception is the kind of fraud that opponents
of our interventionist foreign policy would do well to steer
clear of. He is no more opposed to our imperial foreign policy
than is Joe Lieberman – or George W. Bush, for that matter.
In spite of the electorate's increasing
nervousness over the occupation of Iraq, all the major
presidential candidates for President are singing the same
hymn to global intervention, albeit in different keys. Wake
me when it's over.
IN THE MARGIN
some earth-shattering news, I'll be taking the long Labor
Day weekend off. See you on Wednesday.
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