By far the most consistent and vicious attacks on Howard Dean's presidential candidacy come from his opposition to the recent invasion and occupation of Iraq. This is where the moronic McGovern comparisons come from. This is the first (and often only) real point of contention people I know raise with me when I talk up Dean. Yesterday, NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer told reporters that Dean is unelectable due to his opposition to the war.
"The American people will not elect somebody who opposed a war that they supported," Spitzer told the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh. Spitzer also said Dean won't win the Democratic nomination. (AP)
What is shaping up here is nothing less than a contest for the soul of America.
On the issue of the war there are two principle camps. On one side we have the war believers, who will quite rightly point out that the removal of a "mean sonofabitch dictator" (thanks, Molly Ivans) was a good thing, and go on to say that the discovery of mass graves justifies any means necessary. On another side we have the pragmatists who will point out that we can ill afford the war and subsequent occupation, that neither has made us safer from terrorism, and that such a unilateral Anglo-American action has dire diplomatic consequences. Around these two poles of reasonable disagreement swirl the true warmongers and peaceniks, who represent perhaps 10% of the population each and who will never change their position.
Then there's the increasingly inescapable fact that the Bush administration lied to the American public and to our allies and to the world in order to prosecute this war. There's little way to see around this, what with all the obvious fraud, much of which was known prior to the invasion, and the whistle blowing coming from within intelligence circles both here and in the UK.
And the soul of America? The question is whether or not we the people will tolerate leadership which deceives us because it believes it knows better than we do. The question is whether the American public wants a leader who positions himself as a father/protector and tells us all sorts of stories -- from Santa Claus and voodoo economics to the Tooth Fairy and WMD -- and we accept the lies because daddy knows what's best. The question is whether we believe it is of the utmost importance for our President to be honest and open, or whether we will tolerate a policy of fear mongering and recrimination based on falsehoods and cooked intelligence to dictate the course of this nation.
Howard Dean is the Truth candidate. He's telling the Truth when he says, "there's no way to know if the Iraqi people are better off now than they were under Saddam." Yes, Udai's rape camp has been shuttered, but you don't see any women walking the streets of Baghdad these days either. Indeed, we've uncovered mass graves, but we've also dug a few ourselves. True, there will be no more Ba'ath party political prisoners, purges or punitive torture sessions, but there is also precious little in the way of basic utility services, security or opportunity for the people of Iraq.
Howard Dean is telling the truth when he says we don't have a good track record at occupation and nation-building. No one does. History is littered with the burnt out remains of great nations that thought they could consistently impose their will upon others.
Howard Dean is telling the truth when he says that Iraq was not an immanent threat the US, and that this was the wrong war at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. There was no rush. Imagine if we'd waited six months and gotten the UN on board, and if that had resulted in not having complete chaos, a spree of freelance sexual assault and revenge killings, the destruction of most of the national infrastructure, and the general disintegration of Iraq as a functioning state. That would be a fair trade for half-a-year more of Saddam's ever-lightening touch.
There's a chance for our invasion of Iraq to pay off, but there's a chance that it won't too. It seems hard to deny that Team Bush fudged the run up and neglected to pour any significant resources into post-war planning. Currently there is absolutely no way to tell how this will turn out. Any statement to the contrary is pure propaganda. To say that a presidential candidate is unelectable for opposing this war is similarly bullshit.