The Selling (Out) of the Antiwar Movement


It was just over two years ago that I learned a little-known “antiwar” Democrat from Vermont was planning to run for President. At a rally on the eve of Bush’s Iraq invasion, a fellow protestor handed me a leaflet touting the now infamous Howard Dean, hoping that the propaganda would entice me to support his forthcoming candidacy.

Of course, I was intrigued. Few other Democrats were speaking out against the imminent war on Iraq. Luckily, I ended up not taking the bait. Nevertheless many other activists unabashedly latched onto the Dean campaign in hopes he would represent their interests in Washington. Luckily for Howard, they all had credit cards and Internet access. But as the story goes, Dean was embarrassingly sacked during the primaries and his followers were told to traverse the pro-war Kerry trail instead.

Howard Dean isn’t dead yet, however, as he has safely landed himself a lofty position within the establishment as chair of the Democratic National Committee. Unfortunately Dean’s nomination means little to the peace movement as his antiwar convictions have vanished.

The second anniversary of the Iraq war came and past, yet the most popular “antiwar” Democrat remains speechless. Dean has said nothing about Bush’s potential forays in Iran and Syria. He has not muttered a single word about ending the US occupation of Iraq. Should we be surprised?

Nope. Howard Dean’s “antiwar” convictions haven’t vanished — they never existed to begin with.

Looking back into the dirty Dean files, we find that the good doctor has had a long pro-war history. He praised the first Gulf War, NATO’s intervention in Bosnia, Bill Clinton’s bombing of the Sudan and Iraq. He even went so far as to write President Clinton a love letter praising his foreign policy in 1995 as the US waged a brutal air attack on Serbia, bringing death and destruction upon civilians and the infrastructure that provided their only life support.

As Dean told to President Clinton: “I think your policy up to this date has been absolutely correct … Since it is clearly no longer possible to take action in conjunction with NATO and the United Nations, I have reluctantly concluded that we must take unilateral action.” According to most post-war accounts, US air bombardment left the Serbian military relatively unscathed, while ethnic cleansing and violence increased drastically.

Nonetheless, Governor Dean supported Clinton’s deadly policy without a wince of shame.

Candidate Dean was no different. Despite voicing his opposition to Bush’s war when he entered the race for the White House, he never wholeheartedly opposed overthrowing Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. In September 2002, Dean had announced that if Saddam failed to comply with the demands of the United Nations, the US reserved the right to “go into Iraq.” Dean claimed he would gladly endorse a multilateral effort to destroy Saddam’s regime. In fact, Dean wasn’t even opposed to a unilateral effort lacking the support of the UN, NATO, or the European Union (see Part Two forthcoming).

On CBS’s Meet the Press in July 2003, Dean told Tim Russert that the United States must increase its pressure on Saudi Arabia and Iran. “We have to be very, very careful of Iran” because President Bush “is too beholden to the Saudis and the Iranians,” he explained. But later in the broadcast, he conceded, “I support the president’s War on Terrorism.” Dean even went so far as to tell Russert: “I believe that we need a very substantial increase in troops. They don’t all have to be American troops. My guess would be that we would need at least 30,000 and 40,000 additional troops.”

In a New York primary debate two months later, Dean elaborated: “We need more troops. They’re going to be foreign troops [in Iraq], not more American troops, as they should have been in the first place. Ours need to come home.” Dean, it seems, would have had the disorder in Iraq go on at all costs, though he wasn’t quite sure whose soldiers should do the occupying.

When Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich grilled Dean during that same debate about Bush’s $87 billion Iraq package, Dean claimed that he would support it since “we have no choice … we have to support our troops.”

So do we support our troops by bringing them home, or by financing the occupation? The self-proclaimed antiwar candidate never clarified.

JOSHUA FRANK, a native of Montana, is the author of the forthcoming book, Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, to be released in early 2005 by Common Courage Press. He can be reached at: frank_joshua@hotmail.com






JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His latest book, edited with Jeffrey St. Clair is  Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @brickburner

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