Left for Dead
WASHINGTON, D.C.For four years the centrists in the Democratic Party, i.e., the Democratic Leadership Council run by the Clintons, whined on about how Ralph Nader, not Al Gore, lost them the presidency in 2000. In last year's presidential primaries, the DLC spared no effort to bring down Howard Dean, who replaced Nader as the party's primary hate object. The DLC sent one loser after another into the fray. First there was Joe Lieberman, who warned that Dean was a dangerous lefty. When Lieberman got clobbered in one state after another, all efforts shifted to Clinton look-alike John Edwards. When he got beaten, the DLC had to settle for one of its lesser lights, John Kerry.
Soon after Kerry lost, the mainstream whiners started blaming him, who never was the right candidate and who ran a lousy campaign. Now, they said, it's time to move toward the center and focus on values, and oh, by the way, let's not forget religion next time around. The party needs a fresh candidate. Maybe Hillary could do the trick, although she has been looking rather listless of late.
Then, wouldn't you know it, out of the woodwork came that damn Dean again, this time running to replace Terry McAuliffe as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. A fate worse than death. The Dems dropped everything, and took off after the troublemaker.
Dean is being attacked, as usual, as a marginal lefty (which, as Vermont governor, he proved he is notunless, that is, you call providing all children in the state with health insurance a leftist program). Even if you have to confess to close friends that Dean is probably not a socialist, you've got to admit he's a nut, as evidenced by his yelling in Iowa. He ought to be in a mental hospital.
What do these politicians want? They want, as always, to move to the center, that is, the right, so as to be in a position to better attack George W. Bush by imitating him.
The party chair will be chosen by 430 voting members of the Democratic National Committee on February 12. In addition to Dean, the candidates include former congressmen Tim Roemer and Martin Frost, party activist Donnie Fowler, New Democratic Network president Simon Rosenberg, former Ohio party chairman David Leland, and former Denver mayor Wellington Webb.
Roemer is controversial because he is against abortion, but he promises not to change the party's position if elected. Frost opposes Washington consultants. Webb, the one black candidate in the field, strongly backs abortion rights. Fowler emphasizes his experience in running campaigns and got applause at a recent meeting in Sacramento by slamming the Beltway power structure. "I am tired of conceding to the aristocracy of consultants in Washington and the Republican Party and the crazy right wing," he said. Leland runs on his experience as a former state party chair. And Rosenberg wants to improve the party's use of technology and downplays the importance of New Hampshire and Iowa in the selection process.
Any one of the above probably would do the trick for mainstream Dems, especially the candidates emphasizing technology, which is a fetish at the DLC. But Dean, who wrecked the party by opposing the war, openly discussing 9-11, backing gays, and generally being a "liberal," will further wreck the party by alienating voters in conservative Southern states, andmost importantlyprovide fodder for Republican media campaigns, making it that much harder for the Dem campaign spinners to win.
To which Dean said, "My attitude is that they are going to run those ads anyway, so why not go down and stand up for what you believe in?," adding, "How are we going to convince people in Mississippi that their economic interests are the same as ours if we don't show up? It is incredibly insulting to people."
The very idea you can do something besides cower before the red-state conservatives is too much for the DLC robots. Dean's gotta go. He's liberal, crazy, and in a refrain from the election, doesn't "share our values."
The defense department's own set of spooks for spooky purposes
Revelations by Bill Arkin of U.S. Special Operations commandos operating within the U.S. in his new book, Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs, and Operations in the 9-11 World, won't come as much of a surprise to people who have nursed fears for years, but it does mark the emergence of yet another tentacle of Donald Rumsfeld's Sparta across the Potomac. At the moment, Rumsfeld has one war going and a cleanup operation in another conflict. He is scoping out military operations in 10 countries, including Iran and Syria, is newly embarked on building a spook apparatus abroad to rival the CIA, and now is revealed to be running ops inside the U.S. that inevitably will clash with the FBI and various police units of the Homeland Security Department.
Different from the other government agencies' relatively politically impartial domestic forces, Rumsfeld's operations are driven by the neo-conservative ideologues in the top layers of the governmentby people who have domestic as well as international political agendas.
Needless to say, Rumsfeld has not let on to the public what has been going on since 9-11. In his unchallenged testimony before the 9-11 Commission last year, the secretary of defense defended the Pentagon from charges that it was asleep at the switch at the time of the attack, noting, "The Department of Defense . . . did not have responsibility for the borders. It did not have responsibility for the airports. . . . And the fact that I might not have known something ought not to be considered unusual. Our task was to be oriented out of this country . . . and to defend against attacks from abroad. And a civilian aircraft was a law enforcement matter to be handled by law enforcement authorities and aviation authorities. And that is the way our government was organized and arranged."
For years, the militia movement and their allies in various nativist groupings warned of an imminent military takeover by U.S. troops operating under the Soviets, or worse, the black hand of the U.N. Nor do the revelations about Rumsfeld's plans come as a surprise to the '60s leftists who discovered gumshoes from military intelligence in their midst. Oliver North's spectacular admission during the Iran-Contra hearings in the late '80s of his secret mission involving the continuance of government during a wartime crisis raised fears of martial law. And most recently, the layering of defenses in D.C., including missile batteries and, during the inauguration, thousands of backup military forces, makes the existence of the military operating freely within the U.S. almost a routine occurrence.
However, the counter-terrorism commando units will, sooner or later, end up bumping into similar ops by the FBI and Homeland Security, to name but two of the myriad federal police units operating within the country.
U.S. to EU: Eeee-yewww!
Efforts to ease tensions between the U.S. and Old Europe before the president departs for the continent next month don't seem to be working out. The U.S. is opposed to the EU's lifting of sanctions against selling arms to China, and Bush is opposed to trying Darfur war crimes in the International Criminal Court.
Last week, the U.S., in rejecting an effort by Britain, France, and other European nations to try Darfur war crimes in the international court, claimed that it has no accountability and can't be trusted. Said one State Department official: "The ICC is a total non-starter."
The U.S. does not belong to the court and under Bush is strongly opposed to any involvement. Among other things, the U.S. fears that its own operativesspies or military personnelmight end up before it, charged with war crimes. That's a real possibility because the U.S. has narrowed its definition of torture and has adopted procedures at Guantánamo and elsewhere that critics say violate the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners.
For Darfur, the U.S. wants to set up a court in Africa similar to the one set up by the U.N. Security Council that tried war crimes in Rwanda in the early '90s.
Additional reporting: David Botti and Nicole Duarte
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.