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Wednesday, July 16, 2003

EXCHANGE WITH A VISITOR ON IRAQ'S WMD AND BUSH (AND BLAIR): ARE DEMOCRATS WISE TO ATTACK BUSH HERE? Final Version

Our thanks to Ralph, a visitor, for leaving this comment at the end of the previous article. It seems sufficiently important to deserve being singled out in a stand-alone article, followed by the buggy response.

Note that Ralph's comment has a link to a Los Angeles Times article. The background here? Essentially, an observation made by prof bug in our previous article to the effect that two prominent Democrats, about 3 weeks or so ago, had written an op-ed article in that paper --- or maybe the New York Times --- warning Democrats to be wary of supporting Presidential candidates who are mainly appealing to party activists, themselves far to the left of Democratic voters on key issues . . . not least security and foreign policy ones. The buggy prof lamented that he couldn't find that article with either a google search or a more direct effort at The N.Y. Times or L.A. Times. Tried; tried again. No luck. Prof bug himself, recall, is a registered Democrat and naturally concerned about the behavior and future prospects of his party. He worries that pc-radicals and Paleoliberals --- the hard-core of the party activists around most of the country (not all) --- will overwhelm the Clintonite moderates and force the party back into near Presidential-oblivion: save for the ill-starred Carter years of the late 1970s, its fate between 1968 and 1992.



Buggy Prof:

Regarding the article in question, check out (an L.A. Times web page address). It's a column by Lawrence J. Haas and Richard Klein titled, "Democrats Will Have To Hop Onto Security Wagon." I'm not certain if it's the same one that ran in the NYT or not, but it's at least quite similar in theme and in the credentials of the writers. If the link isn't good any more, let me know and I can email you a PDF copy.

Keep up the great blog.



 

THE BUGGY REPLY:

Ralph, many thanks for the comments and the link to the L.A. Times. That article is no longer available there, but (thanks to a google search ) a good summary exists on this web page.

Alas, despite a good argument, it's not the article we need. Not to despair. That elusive literary will-o'-the-wisp, it turns out after more snooping with Google, was written by Bruce Reed and Al From of the Democratic Leadership Council and appeared originally in the L.A. Times earlier this month: see From and Reed. The Democratic Leadership Council? What's that? Well, established in the 1990s, the DLC, a Clintonite group, has sought to move the Democratic Party beyond futile left-right ideological debates and situate it as a moderate reform party with a broad-based appeal . . . something absent in the party between 1968 and 1992, with Republicans winning firmly all the presidential elections save for Jimmy Carter in 1976. The Progressive Policy Institute, note, is the intellectual powerhouse for centrist, intellectually informed policies of the sort the DLC champions. Not the only one to be sure; but one of the better.

Now down to business here: do Presidents habitually lie and deceive the US public about big security issues, especially decisions that lead to war or its prosecution?
 

CLINTON AS A CASE IN POINT TOO

In the previous buggy article, recall, we dealt with this matter at length. In particular, there's a section in the middle there that deals with how past presidents have twisted ambiguous or contestable intelligence on major war-issues, starting with Woodrow Wilson in the 1916 presidential election, in politically advantageous ways . . . their motives mixed and themselves ambiguous, though not at all excluding genuine concern that vital US security and other national interests were at stake. FDR, as the buggy argument tried to show, might have run his 1940 presidential campaign in less than fully forthright ways too --- only with Imperial Germany of 1916 replaced by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Militarist Imperial Japan. Ditto Truman in the late 1940s and then Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush Sr. and maybe now Bush Jr. Did they deliberately deceive and lie? The evidence in all these cases isn't clear. And to repeat: whatever their motives, they might always have included worry and concern for US national interests.

To this list, now add Clinton

Go back, to get down to specifics, to late 1998. The US embassy in Kenya and in Tanzania were bombed in the fall, most likely by Al Qaeda agents (some of whom have been subsequently arrested). The Clinton response? Two-fold: an ineffectual cruise-missile attack on an abandoned Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and a successful missile attack on a Sudanese pharmaceuticals plant in late 1998 that was alleged --- wrongly as it turned out --- to be an Al Qaeda front. Caught up in the Monica Lewinsky affair --- Republicans out for his blood, impeachment looming; angry howls everywhere from the right --- did Clinton deliberately lie and deceive the US public because the CIA had botched here? Seems doubtful, however complex his motives might have been. Nor was that all. In December--- kinectically charged Republican attacks multiplying, the Welinsky mess piling higher and higher--- Clinton then ordered several hundred cruise missiles launched at Saddam Hussein's regime. UNSCOM inspectors had just quit that country, full of frustration. Saddam's programs of mass destructive weaponry, it was taken for granted everywhere, were now free to operate full-blast. As president, Clinton feared letting Saddam get away with this; the dangers for our country and friendly allies seemed too great. By then, despite some ambiguities and uncertainties surrounding the Iraqi WMD, Clinton and his advisers could point to 14 UN Security Council Resolutions demanding immediate Iraqi disarmament . . . the first one passed 7 years earlier, in the fall of 1990; all to no avail.

To repeat the key question: did the Clinton administration deliberately mislead the US public and the president lie to the US people about Saddam's WMD, the way Bush and Blair are said to have lied and deceived us just recently? Or did it see Saddam's regime as a continued threat to the US, and in need therefore of quick execution. Was Robert Scheer, a syndicated columnist, up and arms then? Or Ariana Huffington, a colleague of his? Or other pundits-with-a-grudge against Bush now? And while we're at it, why did Michael Walzer, the intelligent editor of Dissent --- a good journal of Social Democratic commentary and a professor at Princeton: the author too of a stimulating book Just War --- publicly defend Clinton's cruise missile attacks with vigorous just-war arguments, but explicitly deny these to the Bush and Blair efforts a little more than four years later?

The questions answer themselves, don't they? Ideologues use double-standards; always, no exception. That's what, among other things, marks them as ideology-bearers . . . simplifiers and polemicists par excellent, with little concern for detachment or even strained objectivity. For the pc-left and paleo-libs, there can never -- ever -- be a good-faith error made by a Republican president . . . especially in foreign policy. For the radical right, the same is true if the president happens to be Democratic.

 

And so?

And so, it seems, neither the left nor the right has a monopoly on apologetics and ideological chicaneries and venom. Back in the 1990s, the right in this country --- well-funded, full of hopping-mad hatred for the Clintons --- sustained well-funded attacks on them for years, managing among other things to get an Independent Counsel appointed who, after 3 poking-here, poking there years of work costing $50 million found Bill Clinton guilty of a horrendous . . . eh, sexual fling (about which Clinton then stupidly, and maybe in character, lied in a judicial process). As for the futile Clinton policy of dealing with Saddamite Iraq and Al Qaeda, furioso Republicans charged --- exactly like enraged Democrats and others now about Bush --- that Clinton was seeking to divert attention from his troubles, including possible impeachment, by demagogically launching missiles here and there.

In the months that followed, the right-wing campaign swelled in manic volume. At one point, in early 1999, a well-known US Senator stood up and cautioned the raw hyped-up critics in these words: "I find it [all] outrageous. What have we come to? What in the hell is going on here? These guys seem like they are possessed by their desire to undo this guy." That Senator's name: Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today . . . and the party's main spokesman in the Senate on security and foreign policy issues. Sound familiar today? (Again, the buggy prof wants to single out his debt for the quote and the whole Clinton episode just discussed to the journalist, Max Boot, who wrote the excellent L.A. Times article.)

For the rest, this short buggy article needs to be read in tandem with the previous article and, for that matter --- when all the archives are available (which they still aren't) --- with three earlier articles the buggy prof wrote on this topic in late May and June before our site was shut down on July 1st.