No. 251, Nov. 6-12, 2003

SECCIÓN EN ESPAÑOL

COMMENTARY





To read an article, click on the headline.


Howard Dean: A hawk
in a dove’s cloak

 

An open letter to America:
It’s time to take back our country

 







Howard Dean: A hawk in a dove’s cloak

By Sean Donahue

“Soon we’ll find out who is the real revolutionary, I don’t want my people to be tricked by mercenaries.” ­ Bob Marley

Howard Dean wants the peace movement to believe that he is its best hope for bringing change in Washington.

In television ads and presidential debates, Dean has emphasized his opposition to Bush’s decision to launch a unilateral invasion of Iraq—and downplaying his support for the continued U.S. military occupation of Iraq, and his earlier waffling over whether he might have supported a war in Iraq under slightly different conditions. Dean’s emphasis on his opposition to the war in Iraq also obscures his earlier support for the first Gulf War, the war in Kosovo, and the war in Afghanistan.

Indeed, Dean’s earliest statements on foreign policy in the presidential campaign were written with the help of one of the architects of the war in Afghanistan, Danny Sebright, who held the Orwellian title of Director of the Executive Secretariat for Enduring Freedom at the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld. Sebright oversaw military operations that claimed the lives of over 3,000 civilians without achieving the stated objective of finding and arresting Osama bin Laden. Under the Clinton administration, Sebright worked at the Pentagon helping to oversee weapons sales to the Middle East during the period in which the US became the largest weapons exporter in the world. When Sebright left the Pentagon in February of 2002 he went to work for his old boss, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, at the Cohen Group, a Washingon-based consulting company. The firm uses its political connections to help companies obtain contracts with the Pentagon and with foreign governments. While it is discreet about its clientele, the Cohen Group does list some of its successes on its web site — a list that includes helping to negotiate arms sales to Latin American and Eastern European countries, and “Advis[ing] and assist[ing] [a] US company in working with US Government officials and the Coalition Provisional Authority in securing major contract related to Iraq reconstruction.” The fact that a close Dean advisor works for a consulting firm involved in pitching contracts for reconstruction projects in Iraq raises questions about the true motives of Dean’s support for the President’s $87 billion Iraqi reconstruction program.

More recently, Dean has been getting foreign policy advice from President Clinton’s former Deputy Chief of Staff, Maria Echaveste. Echaveste’s record is mixed. To her credit, Echaveste led the Department of Labor’s campaign against sweatshops in the mid-1990s and has worked for the United Farm Workers union. But Echaveste also played a key role in shaping the legislative and public relations strategies that helped the Clinton administration get Congress to approve Plan Colombia. Echaveste traveled to Colombia with President Clinton to help promote a policy that included aerial herbicide fumigations of vast areas of farmland and rainforests in southern Colombia and more US funding, weapons, and advisors for the Colombian military. Over the past three years she has done nothing to distance herself from a policy that contributed to the escalation of Colombia’s civil war, the destruction of forests and farms, massive displacement, and dramatic increases in assassinations and disappearances.

For his part, Dean has been vague about his position on US military aid to Colombia. (Incidentally, Sen. John Kerry has chosen Rand Beers, who oversaw Colombia policy at the State Department for both the Clinton and Bush administrations, to head up his foreign policy team.) Dean comes from the centrist wing of the Democratic Party, and draws his advisors from the party’s establishment, even though he tries to portray himself as a progressive and an outsider. His opposition to the war in Iraq isn’t rooted in the moral vision or political analysis of the peace movement, but rather in the foreign policy establishment’s skepticism about the rash and impulsive nature of the Bush administration’s military actions in Iraq. In remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations last June, Dean said that:

“America must not shy away from its role as the remaining superpower in the world. We are, as Madeleine Albright once put it, the “indispensable power” for so many challenges around the world. Inevitably, some will resent us for what we have, and some will hate us for what we believe. But there is much in the world that we cannot achieve on our own. So we must lead toward clearly articulated and shared goals and with the cooperation and respect of friends and allies.”

In other words, Dean doesn’t object so much to Bush’s willingness to use military force, which he sees as indispensable to maintaining the US’s political and economic position in the world, but rather he objects to Bush’s refusal to play by the rules of the game and recruit a coalition of allies to support US goals. Dean went on in the same speech to hold up Harry Truman’s role in articulating the US vision for the world and creating the NATO alliance and the World Bank as examples of the kind of foreign policy he would like to pursue.

Howard Dean admits that the war in Iraq was a mistake, but he supports the underlying policy positions that led to the war. As much as we might want to believe that changing presidents will change the US role in the world, replacing George Bush with Howard Dean would do little or nothing to advance the peace movement’s goals.

Sean Donahue is Project Director of the Corporations and Militarism Project of the Massachusetts Anti-Corporate Clearinghouse.

Source: CounterPunch

An open letter to America:
It’s time to take back our country

By John & Elaine Mellencamp

As the echo of the war drums fades away and the angry masses calling for blood slowly disperse, we, as a nation must now confront the truth. We face the unpleasant reality of an uncertain future, compromised safety, a failing economy, and the question of how a society of otherwise reasonable citizens was systematically lied to and manipulated into backing the political “hijacking” of Iraq.

Before a single bomb was ever dropped, some of us, formerly called the “anti-American and unpatriotic,” have questioned or opposed this war. Now, each day, as the dust settles and the truth slowly surfaces, more and more people come to the inevitable conclusion of what a debacle this whole war was.

39,000 bombs later, no weapons of mass destruction uncovered, no dangerous dictators captured, no connection to Sept 11. What have we gained but relentless media coverage of a fallen statue and some stolen oil fields—the spoils of this misadventure. Not to mention lucrative corporate payoffs and an enormous price tag of over $80 billion . . . some tax cut.

But what have we lost? We have lost the lives of over 300 Americans. Approximately two US troop deaths each day, 193 [as of Oct. 22] deaths since the war was declared over. In total, an estimated 20,000 people have died, thus far, in this conflict.

In addition to the lives given for this effort, our nation has suffered the loss of respect within the world community, particularly the United Nations. We have managed to squander any goodwill we once had to now succeed in solidifying our image as the globe’s leading bully. Arrogant and thoughtless.

The word Democracy means literally “by the people.” This is the basis of our government and society. It is what this country was founded upon and what makes us American. It is not just our “right” but also our duty to speak out and voice our thoughts and opinions. How, then, was it possible that, in the land of freedom, those who opposed the common opinion were called. “un-American?” Resentfully, we wonder.

The song “To Washington” was met with criticism and was labeled an anti-war song. That was not at all the case or intention; it was merely a report of the political climate, in the age-old tradition of the troubadour spreading the news through song and story. Professionally, we, the Mellencamps, have the opportunity to travel extensively, and we take full advantage of that by talking to, listening to, and experiencing the diversity our vast country has to offer. The lyrics of “To Washington” are not just a personal opinion, but also the view from a very wide horizon.

Who is to say what is or isn’t “patriotic?” Do the flags that wave from every minivan really offer any support? Where is the support for the thousands of service men and women who return to the states to see their benefits cut, their health problems ignored, their jobs gone and their families living in poverty? How are they repaid for their efforts; for risking or losing their lives? So far, dismally.

This nation was founded to enable freedom and diversity of opinion, and many lives have been lost to secure that liberty. Paradoxically, some still resist the open mindedness that is the very foundation of this country.

The Governor of California was removed from office based on finance troubles. And yet George W. Bush has lied to us, failed to keep our own borders secure, entered a war under false pretense, endangered lives, and created financial chaos. How is it that he hasn’t been recalled? Perhaps this time we could even have a real election . . . but that wouldn’t fit the Bush administration’s “take what you want and fire people later” policy. Take an election; take an oil field; take advantage of your own people—a game of political Three-Card Monte.

The fight for freedom in this country has been long, painful, and ongoing. It is time to take back our country. Take it back from political agendas, corporate greed and overall manipulation. It is time to take action here in our land, in our own schools, neighborhoods, farms, and businesses. We have been lied to and terrorized by our own government, and it is time to take action. Now is the time to come together.

Source: CommonDreams.org