Howard Dean on War & Peace
Former VT Governor; Former Democratic Candidate for President
With the 2006 midterm elections approaching, the rhetoric on Iraq was hot. "The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong," DNC Chairman Howard Dean proclaimed. "We are causing the problem," said Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania, one of the first prominent Democrats to call for an immediate withdrawal.
I had our first TV ad ready to show immediately if he became their nominee. At a 2003 convention he said, "I want my country back! I'm tired of being divided! I don't want to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore. I want America to look like America, where we are all included. We have a dream. We can only reach the dream if we are all together--black and white, gay and straight, man and woman!"
I thought he looked like a madman, bringing the left-wingers at the convention to their feet with rhetori and a style that would turn off most Americans. It wasn't what he said, but how; he came across as nasty, mean, and unlikable.
But Dean flamed out, as Democratic voters clued in to Dean's primal scream--which perfectly captured the problem.
DEAN: I would not have used the word “permission,” nor is that what I meant. You know, my words are not always precise, but my meaning is very, very clear. Iraq was not an imminent threat to the US We had successfully contained Iraq for 12 years with no-fly zones. They had virtually no Air Force to speak of. It turned out they did not have the weapons of mass destruction that people thought they did, myself included. It turned out that much of what the president told us was not so. I believe that Saddam Hussein’s removal from power is good. But I also believe that the way to have done it was to do it through the UN, which is why I opposed the president’s war in Iraq from the beginning.
DEAN: I do. We were presented with a series of facts. I came to a different conclusion than the senators did on those facts. My conclusion was that there was no Al Qaida in Iraq, as the president intimated. My conclusion was that Iraq was not about to acquire nuclear weapons, as the president intimated. My conclusion was that we’d successfully contained Saddam Hussein.
DEAN: I was able to sort out that the president was not being candid with the American people. We have lost 500 soldiers and 2,200 wounded. Those soldiers were sent there by the vote of Senator Lieberman and Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards. That is a fact. And I think that’s a very serious matter. And it is a matter upon which we differ.
AD AUDIO: NARRATOR: Where did the Washington Democrats stand on the war? Dick Gephardt wrote the resolution to authorize war. John Kerry and John Edwards both voted for the war. Then Dick Gephardt voted to spend another $87 billion on Iraq. Howard Dean has a different view.
DEAN: I opposed the war in Iraq, and I’m against spending another $87 billion there. Our party and our country need new leadership.
ANALYSIS: While Dean has used the war issue hundreds of times, his decision to target three opponents with a negative ad is unusual for Iowa, which has a tradition of positive campaigning. It suggests he is also worried about Kerry and Edwards, who trail Dean in Iowa, gaining momentum. The ad is factually accurate, but while Dean says he opposes the president’s $87 billion budget for Iraq, he does not favor a quick pullout and therefore would have to spend some of that money.
DEAN: Of course not. Our military has done an absolutely terrific job in Afghanistan, which is a war I supported, and in Iraq, where I did not support the policy but I always support the troops. I believe that, had Saddam been captured earlier, we might have been able to spend more time looking for Osama bin Laden, which is the real problem.
DEAN: I beg to differ. Saddam is a dreadful person and I’m delighted to see him behind bars. But since Saddam Hussein has been caught, we’ve lost 23 additional troops; we now have, for the first time, American fighter jets escorting commercial airliners through American airspace. Saddam Hussein has been a distraction [from fighting Al Qaeda].
LIEBERMAN: We had good faith differences on the war against Saddam. But I don’t know how anybody could say that we’re not safer with a homicidal maniac, a brutal dictator, an enemy of the US, a supporter of terrorism, a murderer of hundreds of thousands of his own people in prison instead of in power. To say that we haven’t obliterated all terrorism with Saddam in prison is a little bit like saying somehow that we weren’t safer after WWII after we defeated Hitler because Stalin and the communists were still in power.
DEAN: But the fact is, since Saddam Hussein has been caught, we’ve lost 23 additional troops; we now have, for the first time, American fighter jets escorting commercial airliners through American airspace.
FACTCHECK: Actually, scrambling fighter jets to intercept and escort airliners has been fairly common ever since Sept. 11, 2001. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has scrambled more than 1,600 such missions since the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon more than two years ago, according to a news report:
NORAD: Sometimes they’re scrambled because someone has violated a restricted airspace, sometimes they’re scrambled to respond to an emergency request, and there are other situations we can’t discuss.
DEAN: I think we need to bring in foreign troops. You cannot expect the Iraqis to think that they have their own government if we’re appointing their people. We need an election. Over a period of a few years, until the Iraqis really are able to have a democracy which is strong enough not to allow Al Qaida to emerge and has a constitution that’s widely enough respected so they will not have a fundamentalist Shiite regime.
KUCINICH: The war is not over. We have 130,000 troops there. And the occupation equals a war. My plan calls for the end of the occupation, for the US to get out. Now, the UN will not cooperate unless the US takes a change of direction. And here’s the change of direction: The Bush administration must let go of its aspirations to control the oil in Iraq. They must hand over to the UN the handling of the oil, on a transitional basis.
DEAN: I opposed the war in Iraq . And I’m against spending another $87 billion there.
ANALYSIS: The ad accurately reminds viewers that Gephardt voted both to give George Bush the authority to wage war in Iraq, and also for the $87-billion postwar reconstruction package. But Dean’s statement is not exactly what Dean has said in the past:
A: Howard Dean: I think Bush’s fundamental flaw in negotiating with North Korea is in fact his refusal to negotiate. The North Koreans in principal have suggested, in return for a non-aggression pact, they would give up nuclear weapons. That is something we should explore in bilateral negotiations.
A: George Bush’s father had over 100,000 foreign troops in Iraq, many of whom where from Muslim nations. We need to bring troops from those countries back to Iraq to replace our Guard and Reserve troops and one of our two divisions in Iraq. This cannot be an American occupation it must be and international reconstruction effort.
A: There are some circumstances which allow unilateral interventions. One is to stop genocide if no other world body had taken the responsibility to do that and, second, to defend the United States of America after an attack or to prevent an immediate attack.
DEAN: I’ve made it very clear that we need to support our troops, unlike President Bush, who tried to cut their combat pay after they’d been over there and he’d doubled their tour of duty, unlike President Bush who successfully cut 164,000 veterans off their health-care benefits.
In response to an audience question about the security fence under construction to separate Israel and Israeli settlements from Palestinian territory, Dean struggled. “The Israelis have a right to defend themselves,” he said, “but this is a very sad story,” blocking even casual contact between the two peoples. “The course of the wall,” extending into disputed territory, “is a concern,” he said, “as I have told the Israeli leadership. But this is a short-term tactic for defense against terror. The wall cannot be permanent.”
Taken literally, nothing in that statement offends longstanding US policy, or majority public opinion on Israel. But certain phrases have political resonance. Not to “take sides” sounded a little like being “evenhanded,” an old phrase that once meant granting bona fides even to the Palestinian hard-liners who seek nothing less than Israel’s dissolution.
Dean, whose wife and children are Jewish, meant nothing of the sort. But-rookie mistake-he did not realize how his political opponents in both parties would jump on his wording. As he said a few days later, he would have to learn to use “different euphemisms.”
DEAN: We have no choice, but it has to be financed by getting rid of all the president’s tax cuts. Even though I did not support the war in the beginning, I think we have to support our troops. The $87 billion ought to come from the excessive and extraordinary tax cuts that this president foisted upon us, that mainly went to people like Ken Lay who ran Enron.
DEAN: We can’t do that. We cannot lose the peace in Iraq. This situation was created by Bush, who ignored the greater danger in Iran and North Korea and Al Qaida at home to do it. This was a mistake, this war. And the president’s gotten into it, now we’re going to have to get out of it. But if we leave Iraq to chaos, Al Qaida may move in, if we leave Iraq to a fundamentalist Shiite regime with Iranian influence, we will be in both circumstances worse off than we were when Saddam Hussein was president.
Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Saddam Hussein was a dreadful man. What we should have done is tried to focus on establishing a democracy in a Palestinian state and bring peace to the Middle East instead of invading Iraq and causing more complications and more death and more pain for our American families.
DEAN: Of course I don’t mean any such thing, that we’re going to take a stance that belies our historic relationship with Israel. We’ve had a special relationship with Israel since 1948 when we were the first country to recognize Israel. What I do mean is we need to be a credible negotiator, a facilitator for peace in the Middle East. And that means we have to be trusted by both sides.
If we want peace in the Middle East, we need to focus intensely on it, [unlike Bush,] who has taken an 18-month holiday on the whole matter. We also need a renewable energy policy in this country, so we stop sending all our oil money to where they recycle it back into terror. And we ought to stand up to the Saudis, who are teaching small children in the Islamic world to hate Americans.
LIEBERMAN: All of us have quite correctly criticized Bush for breaking our most critical alliances. That is exactly what Howard Dean’s comments over the last week about the Middle East have done. We have had a unique relationship with Israel. Based on values of democracy, and based on mutual military strategic interests. We do not gain strength as a negotiator if we compromise our support of Israel. Dean has said he wouldn’t take sides, but then he has said Israel ought to get out of the West Bank.
DEAN: My position on Israel is exactly the same as Bill Clinton’s. I want to be an honest broker. We desperately need peace in the Middle East. It doesn’t help to demagogue this issue.
LIEBERMAN: Dean’s statements break a 50-year record of supporting our relationship with Israel.
DEAN: I believed from the beginning that we should not go into Iraq without the UN as our partner. We cannot do this by ourselves. We have to have a reconstruction of Iraq with the United Nations, with NATO, and preferably with Muslim troops, particularly Arabic-speaking troops from our allies such as Egypt and Morocco.
We cannot have American troops serving under UN command. We have never done that before. But we can have American troops serving under American command, and it’s very clear to me that in order to get the UN and NATO into Iraq, this president is going to have to go back to the very people he humiliated, our allies, on the way into Iraq, and hope that that they will now agree with us that we need their help there. We were wrong to go in without the United Nations, now we need their help, and that’s not a surprise.
But in the case of Iraq, the president told us that Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein were about to make a deal. The president told us that Iraq was buying uranium from Africa. That wasn’t true. They told us that the Iraqis were about to get atomic weapons. That turned out not to be true. They told us they knew exactly where the weapons of mass destruction were, right around Tikrit and Baghdad. That turned out to be false as well.
As commander in chief of the US military, I will never hesitate to send troops anywhere in the world to defend the US. But I will never send our sons and daughters to a foreign country in harm’s way without telling the truth to the American people about why they’re going there. And that judgment needs to be made first, not afterwards.
DEAN: We need more troops. But they’re going to be foreign troops, as they should have been in the first place, not American troops. Ours need to come home.
A: The Bush doctrine of preemptive war is wrong for America, and sets a dangerous precedent. So many who supported the war now say that they are opposed to the doctrine of preemption. Then why did they vote for this preemptive war? I opposed the President’s war on Iraq, I continue to stand against his policy of preemption, and on my first day in office I will tear up the Bush doctrine and rebuild a foreign policy consistent with American values.
KERRY: I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity, but I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein, and when the president made the decision, I supported him, and I support the fact that we did disarm him.
Q: Gov. Dean, you’ve criticized Sen. Kerry on the campaign trail saying he’s tried to have it both ways on the issue of Iraq.
DEAN: I’m delighted to see Saddam Hussein gone. I appreciate that we have a strong military in this country, and I’d keep a strong military in this country. But this was the wrong war at the wrong time because we have set a new policy of preventive war in this country. Sooner or later we’re going to see another country copy [that policy].
Q: But do you believe Kerry is still trying to have it both ways?
DEAN: That’s not up to me to judge that. That’s up to the voters to judge that, and I’m sure they will.
|Other candidates on War & Peace:||Howard Dean on other issues:|
George W. Bush (R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton (D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr. (R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan (R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter (D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford (R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon (R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson (D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy (D,1961-1963)