Howard Dean, Frontrunner?
Who knew? Vermont’s angriest doctor isn’t just a vanity candidate any more.
Sticking to a Cease-Fire
Palestinians and Israelis see a lot of the same-old same-old. They also see a crucial moment.
The organization charged with protecting our seas thinks activists are more dangerous than rusty tankers.
Howard Dean, Frontrunner?
For Howard Dean, it’s been a good couple of days. The Democratic presidential candidate and former Governor of Vermont placed first in MoveOn.org’s nonbinding but influential online primary last week, soundly beating the field’s nominal frontrunner, John Kerry, as well as lefty favorite Dennis Kucinich. And just yesterday, Dean announced that his fundraising totals for the second quarter would top $6 million — possibly more than any other Democratic candidate, and certainly more than anyone expected from his insurgent campaign.
Dean’s early success is due in no small part to the Internet. He has tapped its power in a way that no other candidate ever has, launching a surging grassroots organizing effort through his official site, and raking in donations online. Along the way, Dean has inspired excitement in voters — largely due to his willingness to take on the White House aggressively. As Time‘s Joe Klein notes, ” … [T]he former Governor of Vermont has emerged as the one Democrat who can draw a crowd.”
“In any case, Dean has unlocked a fairly new and vibrant Democratic constituency that transcends his left-wing peacenik stereotype. It is young, middle class, white and wired.”
Dean also seems poised to inherit John McCain’s “Straight Talk” mantle from the last presidential race, as the Boston Globe‘s Sarah Schweitzer reports. Though McCain himself is pulling for Kerry to win the nomination, the similarities between Dean and the maverick Republican are apparent.
“As he formally declares his bid for the presidency today, Dean is tapping into the tell-it-like-it-is strategy that Senator John S. McCain, Republican of Arizona, used in the 2000 primary. To supporters, Dean is the candidate most aggressively lobbing criticism at Bush, often with a work-with-me-here, raised eyebrow.
‘He is the only one making the noises I want to hear,’ said Bob Hedler of Manchester, after hearing Dean offer his oft-repeated mantra of beating Bush by not being like him.”
For better or worse, then, Dean is no longer a dark horse. He has become a contender. And with his new status comes new danger. Suddenly, his critics are legion: Republicans and mainstream Democrats are demonizing him for his supposed radical liberal politics. Critics on the left, however, having looked at his intermittently progressive record, are wondering what all the fuss is about.
In a typically vitriolic piece on the right-wing American Daily, Doug Patton castigates Dean for his supposedly far-left agenda.
“Back here in the real world, a man named Howard Dean is running for president, and what he is selling is a snake oil worse than anything ever pedaled door-to-door or at any MLM convention. In fact, what Howard Dean is pushing would make FDR gasp and Lenin applaud.”
Nor is the Washington establishment embracing him with open arms. A recent Washington Post editorial read like a laundry list of Dean’s faults, and ended with these grudging sentiments: “And so, Mr. Dean: Welcome to the race — we suppose.” Additionally, the centrist Democratic Leadership Council — which is tied to Connecticut Senator and presidential hopeful Joseph Lieberman — clearly views Dean as a threat, as it demonstrated in a sneering, now-infamous memo sent out in May.
“What activists like Dean call the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party is an aberration: the McGovern-Mondale wing, defined principally by weakness abroad and elitist, interest-group liberalism at home. That’s the wing that lost 49 states in two elections, and transformed Democrats from a strong national party into a much weaker regional one.”
Dean’s politics, though, bear little resemblance to those of the Democrats’ most notorious losers. In fact, they look more like one of its most enduringly popular (albeit divisive) figures: Bill Clinton. While Dean is pro-choice and supports same-sex civil unions, he is pro-gun, pro-death penalty, and as hawkish on Iran and Israel as many of the neoconservatives running the White House today.
Indeed, as Norman Solomon observes, there’s a real disconnect between Dean’s media image and his record.
“But the Democratic Leadership Council need not despair. Most of the nation’s political journalists, including pro-Democrat pundits, insist that the party should not nominate someone too far ‘left’ — which usually means anybody who’s appreciably more progressive than the DLC. That bias helps to account for the frequent mislabeling of Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who has risen to the top tier of contenders for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.
After Dean officially announced his campaign on June 23, some news stories identified him with the left. It’s a case of mistaken identity. ‘He’s really a classic Rockefeller Republican — a fiscal conservative and social liberal,’ according to University of Vermont political scientist Garrison Nelson.”
Slate‘s William Saletan notices the discrepancy, too. The establishment doesn’t have much to worry about, he writes: “Dean isn’t nearly the left-winger his fans or critics imagine.”
Sticking to a Cease-Fire
After months of refusing to budge on the precise prerequisites for a cease-fire, both Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian armed-factions have agreed to temporarily put down their weapons. After thirty-three months of fighting, neither Palestinians, Israelis nor political analysts are holding out much hope that the violence will end for more than a moment. There is the expected despair and pessimism, but there are also several important developments.
The Sharon administration’s actions have seemed as schizophrenic as usual. On the one hand, the same old “terrorist” labels are being thrown around. Silvan Shalom, Israel’s Foreign Minister while meeting with Condoleezza Rice called the cease-fire was a “ticking bomb” that would “maintain the infrastructure of terror.” On the other hand, the Israeli army is actually pulling out of parts of Gaza and planning to remove additional troops from the West Bank later in the week. Even Sharon displayed a rare patience with the Palestinian Authority after the fatal shooting of one Israel’s foreign workers in the West Bank. Sharon told Knesset members: “Even if the Palestinians were the fastest in the world and the most determined, you can’t expect them to destroy terrorism in a moment, since this morning.” That statement is a far cry from Sharon’s recent demands for zero violence before a cease-fire. In addition to that somewhat more lenient take on the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade attack, Sharon plans to meet with Abbas on Tuesday to further discuss the roadmap.
It’s significant that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have agreed to suspend their attacks for three months, even if the Al-Aqsa Brigade did not agree to the hudna (cease-fire) agreement. Palestinian journalist, Daoud Kuttab, writes in the Lebanon Daily Star that Hamas’ agreement to a “hudna” could signify an important shift in Palestinian politics. Kuttab notes that by using the Koranic phrase, the Palestinian Authority is lending the two Islamic movements an “ideological ladder to climb down from.”
“[W]hile the cessation of anti-Israeli violence is the declared goal of this hudna, the real goal should be the successful integration of these hard-line groups into a pragmatic political process in which they can participate in the decision-making apparatus with the responsibilities that this entails.
From the hard-liner who spoke about a violent struggle until all of historic Palestine is liberated (without much discussion of where the Israeli Jewish population would go) to more moderate Islamists who said that their military resistance would continue until the end of the 1967 occupation and that after that their struggle would be political. The real meaning of this hudna is therefore the capitulation of both these positions.”
In the long-term, a viable political way out for the Islamic militants is clearly essential. In the short run, most Palestinians are doubtful that the cease-fire will change the status quo. One Palestinian official told Ha’aretz that the hudna will only work if the United States pressures Israel to comply with the first stages of the road map, like pulling Israeli troops from parts of the West Bank and Gaza and freezing all settlement activity.
Even though the Israeli tanks are rolling out of Palestinian communities, Palestinians don’t see much cause for celebration. Islam Online reports that impoverished Gazans see Israel’s cease-fire as a dishonest political maneuver. As one woman interviewed put it: “The truce is just an ink on paper, as the Israeli government would not comply with it.” She pointed to the remains of her demolished house and added: “Before they set down for talks with Israel, they should have come here.”
But as Bradley Burston reports in Ha’aretz many Palestinians and Israelis are pushing their leaders towards a cease-fire out of economic necessity. One self-identified right-wing Israeli man in the working-class town of Dimona explained that there is “no way around” negotiations.
“Palestinians want to go out to work, without a Merkava (tank cannon) barrel swinging at them, and Israelis want to get on the bus to work in the morning without being blown threw [sic] the roof.”
In that spirit of necessity, hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli civilians met in Ramallah this weekend for a peace-building summit. The event was organized by Palestinian and Israeli leaders, including Palestinian negotiation Hanan Ashrawi and Israeli writer Uri Avnery. The group issued a statement welcoming the cease-fire, but emphasizing the need to place current events in a larger context:
“We welcome the increasing move towards Hudna […] and the chance to break the cycle of violence, bloodshed and killing of innocent Israelis and Palestinians — but a cease-fire can be no more than one step in the right direction. A stable and lasting peace cannot be achieved without putting a complete end to the occupation which is the root cause of the hatred and bloodshed. Leaders, politicians and diplomats cannot be relied on to do the job alone. There is needed a daily struggle for peace, a grassroots struggle, a joint struggle of committed citizens from both sides, acting together.”
Ultimately, analysts agree that the conflict has reached a pivotal moment. Akiva Eldar of Ha’aretz warns that another failed cease-fire could intensify the violence and lead Palestinian and Israeli extremists to become even more entrenched in their positions.
“The cease-fire is playing with fire. In order to limit the danger that it will lead to a third intifada, worse than its predecessors, all the sides involved must stay within the bounds of the current game — stopping the violence and incitement on one side, and stopping construction of Jewish settlements and the separation fence on the other.”
Greenpeace — a longtime advocate for eco-justice, well known for its subversive but often effective techniques — may be forced out of its decade-long tenure as a consultant on the board of the International Maritime Organization’s. IMO’s suprise decision has sparked a debate as to whether Greenpeace’s unorthodox protest methods are cutting edge or, as IMO claims, unsafe. But Greenpeace — which joined the IMO’s advisory board after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 — claims that IMO’s decision is largely due to the pressure Greenpeace has exerted on the IMO to fix its safety standards for the tanker industry’s dilapidated cargo boats.
IMO is a United Nations body ostensibly dedicated to the health and safety of the sea — it is intended to serve as a regulating body for the oceans’ well-being. But two weeks ago, in its 90th session meeting, it gave notice that it may oust Greenpeace — along with other non government organizations such as the Iberoamerican Institute of Maritime Law (IIDM) and the International Bar Association (IBA) — from its decision process by removing their observer status.
Greenpeace has been actively involved in protesting against countries that use unsafe cargo ships in order to cut costs, even when transporting oil, plutonium, and toxic waste. Two of those countries, Turkey and Australia, have lodged complaints with the IMO about Greenpeace’s methods. Greenpeace’s techniques — which have included activists chaining themselves to ships that carry dangerous cargo or illegal timber — are a major affront to the shipping industry. The Environmental News Service writes:
“The complaint to the IMO from Turkey notes that in July of 2002, activists chained themselves to various parts of the oil tanker ‘Crude Dio’ and hung a banner reading “Stop the Oil Industry. Clean Energy Now!’
The shipping industry has been trying to brand Greenpeace actions as ‘dangerous’ for years, despite the organization’s view that the ‘real dangers are the cargoes such as oil, plutonium, and toxic wastes.'”
But Greenpeace remains adamant that its activists are well-versed in nautical standards and that it would not place them in danger:
“Safety is parmount to Greenpeace at all times. Our activists are thoroughly trained, our nautical standards and expertise have earned the respect of coast guards and maritime specialists around the world. Unlike the oil industry, we don’t put other people’s lives or the environment at risk with our actions.”
The IMO’s final decision — which will be handed down this November — could leave the tanker companies as the only consultants to the IMO. Greenpeace claims that this incestuous relationship exists because the IMO is financially dependent on the tanker industry:
“Despite the faade of noble purpose, the IMO is in fact financially dependent on the tanker industry. The dues paid by each country are determined by the tonnage of their respective fleets, which makes the large flag of convenience countries – Panama, Liberia, Greece, Cyprus, and others — the largest contributors; in turn the oil companies often pay these dues and will even represent these countries directly at the IMO. Longtime Greenpeace representative RŽmi Parmentier said ‘I remember once a Panamanean delegate with a double sided business card: one side saying Panama Consulate and the other one saying “Exxon Legal Office, NY.”‘”
Although Greenpeace’s status remains, as of yet, unchanged, come November, the shipping industry may have carte-blanche access to the seas. According to Greenpeace, the IMO’s statement of intention further demonstrates how the shipping industry threatens to reign supreme over the well-being of the world’s oceans:
“At a time when United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for a strengthening of the role of civil society at all levels of the UN, removing Greenpeace from the IMO simply demonstrates the unfettered powers of the oil industry and multinational corporations in today’s world. As the doors of the IMO close to all but the corporate dealmakers and backroom politicos, Greenpeace will continue its fight to protect our oceans and its struggle against unsafe cargoes. This fragile earth deserves a voice. The IMO has a duty to listen.”