FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Lance Armstrong Must Break with Bush

by DAVE ZIRIN

To all the haters that don’t think cycling is a sport, and the Tour De France ranks just below watching an apple turn brown, let’s be clear: Lance Armstrong has earned the love. The cancer-surviving cyclist ended his career with a record seventh straight Tour De France victory. Immediately the accolades rolled in, and he has earned every dollop with an athletic tenacity and compelling personal story that’s touched the lives of millions.

But one piece of praise seemed to stand out like Judge John Roberts in Harlem. This was gushed from a guy who has taken a few spills from his Schwinn in recent weeks: President George W. Bush. “Lance is an incredible inspiration to people from all walks of life, and he has lifted the spirits of those who face life’s challenges,” Bush said about the fellow Texan and “old friend”. “He is a true champion.”

The praise struck an odd note considering Armstrong’s comments after winning his seventh yellow jersey. They weren’t about the Alps, the cobbled Paris streets, or the new bell on his handlebars. They were about Iraq. “The biggest downside to a war in Iraq is what you could do with that money,” Armstrong said through gritted teeth. “What does a war in Iraq cost a week? A billion? Maybe a billion a day? The budget for the National Cancer Institute is four billion. That has to change. Polls say people are much more afraid of cancer than of a plane flying into their house or a bomb or any other form of terrorism.” His timing was fortuitous. A report came out of the Congressional Budget Office the next day that indicated the war in Iraq will cost more – adjusted for 2005 dollars – than any war since the Second World War, with a price tag that may near 800 billion dollars.

Armstrong’s statement is significant because it represents a sharp turn from his previous statements against the Iraq invasion. When the war was launched out in 2003, Lance’s soft anti-war views sounded more James Baker than Ella Baker:

“I know George Bush well, having met him about 20 times, and I support him, but going ahead with this war without the support of Europe would be dangerous … it would be a mistake to engage in war without the backing of the United Nations and Europe,” he said. “If there’s going to be a war then we’ll be up against a billion Muslims – so it would be unreasonable for the United States to go it alone against such a huge part of the world.”

Armstrong took great pains at the time to compliment Bush with every statement, saying that Dubya sometimes appeared “brash,” but that he was “more intelligent than people give him credit for.” He added, “Bush isn’t a banker from New York, or a tycoon from California. He’s a cowboy from Texas.”

In 2004, Armstrong’s anxiety about the war was rising, perhaps affected by the French protests during that year’s Tour. But despite his stronger objections, Armstrong still reserved praise for his “friend” in the Oval Office. “I don’t like what the war has done to our country, to our economy,” he said. “My kids will be paying for this war for some time to come. George Bush is a friend of mine and just as I say it to you, I’d say to him, ‘Mr. President, I’m not sure this war was such a good idea’, and the good thing about him is he could take that.”

Now in 2005, Armstrong has taken a much harder stance. This could be attributed to possible aspirations for political office. Armstrong in a recent interview laid out his views on a number of issues, describing himself as “against mixing up state and Church, not keen on guns, pro women’s right to choose. And very anti war in Iraq,” – which may lead some of us to wonder exactly what political party in our glorious duopoly would even allow him to stand as a candidate. Others have said that he is simply under the sway of his rock star partner Sheryl Crow – she of the “War is Not the Answer” t-shirts, the group Musicians Win Without War, and singer of searing anti-war anthems like “Soak up the Sun.”

But the real reason for Armstrong’s recent statements most likely stems from simple frustration. Armstrong sees his life’s work, cancer funding and research, being undercut by this war. He takes this position even though it could lose him his Oval Office access. He speaks out “on foreign soil” even though it could mean derision when he returns. He will assuredly face words such as those from one internet blogger who wrote “Lance Armstrong should be detained the moment he steps back on American soil, and then he should have a bicycle tire pump shoved so far up his ass that he whistles Dixie when he breathes.” If the cancer that spread to his lungs and abdomen, not to mention the Pyrenees, didn’t deter Armstrong, a pustule armed with a laptop and fried cheese probably won’t keep him up nights. Especially when the priorities of medical research or “generational war” hang in the balance.

Armstrong has devoted countless hours to the fight against cancer. There is not more money for cancer research because of the war. It’s that simple. It’s also not just cancer. In my hometown of Washington, DC, this $800 billion price tag means high rates of infant mortality, shuttered public hospitals, and schools in a constant and eternal state of crisis. This is a battle for priorities. If Lance wants to see victory, chuckling it up with his “fellow Texan is no way to lead this movement forward. Instead Armstrong should ride among the critical mass bikers and anti-war couriers at the national anti-war protests on September 24th in Washington, DC. Consider this an invite, Lance. Consider this a way to continue to “live strong.

DAVE ZIRIN’s new book “What’s My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States” is published by Haymarket Books. Check out his revamped website edgeofsports.com. You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing edgeofsports-subscribe@zirin.com. Contact him at whatsmynamefool2005@yahoo.com.

 

 

DAVE ZIRIN is the author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press) Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail