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Criticism for Dean Not Justified
by Tommy Ates
December 16, 2003

Dean's doing the right thing. By sticking to his guns, the leading Democratic presidential contender again separates himself from the pack by correctly stating the significance of the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Nothing's changed.

The Iraqi insurgents are slowing making the their presence felt in northern and central Iraq, outside the 'original' Sunni triangle of resistance as portrayed by U.S. occupation generals back stateside at CENTCOM. Oil wells and refineries are repeatedly sabotaged delaying the delivery of Iraqi oil to domestic and international sources, causing horrendous gas shortages (in the 2nd largest oil producing nation) as well as further disabling an anemic economy. More than a third of Iraqis are under or unemployed amidst new jobs with the fledging American-backed Iraqi army paying only $60 dollars U.S. (not enough to feed a family). As a result, half of recruits from the first graduating class have quit in protest.

Apparently, there is more money to be made in the burgeoning black market.

In his first major foreign policy address, Howard Dean lays out the continued challenges the American military will have to face, helping to create a democracy in a land that has known only imperialism (first from Europe, then the Baath Party). But, beyond the praise that world leaders have given Bush for Saddam's capture. The job of defending the nation from terrorism has been placed on hold. And even most conservatives concede, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with September 11th.

It is on this fact Dean stakes his position on foreign policy (not like a revisionist Richard Gephardt or John Kerry who supported the war). Al Qaeda is the true enemy. Therefore, America's defense must be attuned to a terrorist threat based on sound intelligence and agents on the field. Not the mislabeling of state-inspired insurgents as 'terrorists,' not an ever-changing rational for a mission without a clear exit strategy. Even Karl Rove should realize the continued use of 'bait and switch' arguments with the American people will not endear trust and goodwill, particularly on the eve of an election year. Results will.

With the Hussein capture a trophy for Bush agenda abroad, the Bush administration has tried to spin Saddam's capture as a referendum of the President's leadership. In response, the ebbing Democratic candidates (Lieberman, Kerry, and Gephardt) broke ranks with the Democrat's pledge for friendly debate (not to attack each other but Bush), sent salvos of derision and condemnation on the "anti-war" Dean machine, trying (again) to tie their foreign policy agenda to President Bush's 'war on terror' campaign. A cause they distanced themselves from just moments before. However, in so doing, these contenders violate the one true rule of electability that makes Howard Dean seem so attractive, even to Republican voters.


The debate of the President's right to launch pre-emptive war against America's perceived enemies is the one issue, along with the lackluster economy, which will define the presidential race in 2004. Flip-flopping positions makes the Bush rational stronger in the eyes of independent and moderate voters. As a result, the Democratic field has split 'the Big Three' further as Dean, Clark, and Gephardt gain momentum among primary voters for not kowtowing to this brief respite in Bush foreign policy.

Perhaps the biggest threat to Howard Dean may not be the perceived weakness from the Republicans, but from within the Democrats themselves. After the news of Saddam's capture, fellow candidate Senator Joseph Lieberman commented that 'if [Dean] had his way, Saddam and his sons would still be in power.' Quite a charge from the once morally 'revered' statesman, known for taking the high road in politics, now taking revenge on former Vice President Al Gore (for his surprise endorsement of Dean).

Now, he has become so eager to achieve the party's nomination he has signaled a willingness to try and demoralize the Dean candidacy (even after he reiterated his pledge to support any eventual nominee).

Unfortunately for Democrats, if he succeeds, Lieberman will only push the issue (about the status of Iraq) in the President's favor, as remnants of Saddam's regime are eventually found and brought to justice. In order to win this debate with Lieberman and Kerry, Howard Dean must emphasize that the Baath Party are only marginal players in the Iraqi insurgency. The numbers of disaffected Iraqis continues to grow, not due to being 'enemies of democracy,' but over the frustration of rampant crime, decaying infrastructure, and pervasive unemployment.

If the U.S.-led coalition can solve these issues, then Iraq will truly be a success. However, staking a presidency on such risky foreign policies detracts from the original issues important to the American people, such as health care, the economy, and domestic security.

Dean is asking those questions.

So far, the Bush administration has shed few answers.

Posted: December 17, 2003


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