Your Netroots Are Showing

by , June 13, 2006

The news that Bush has given Iran "weeks, not months" to ditch its nuclear power program and essentially surrender its sovereignty comes as no surprise to veteran War Party-watchers, such as this guy at DailyKos.com, who recalls that the same template was used back in 2003. Déjà vu, anyone?

Oh, but don’t you worry, folks – Sen. Harry Reid just told the yearly conference held by DailyKos – a virtual community of left-liberal Democrats – that in the run-up to this war, intelligence-verification is going to be "transparent." Now doesn’t that make you feel much much better?

No?

How can you say that, when the good senator assures us his proposed legislation – aside from conjuring a brand-spanking-new national intelligence estimate for Iran – will somehow "require" intelligence czar John "Death Squad" Negroponte to put in place a review board devoted to examining public statements made by administration officials regarding Iran?

Some people are just so hard to please.

Reid told the mostly antiwar Democratic bloggers just what they wanted to hear:

"What we need to know – and still don’t know today – is whether the White House intentionally cherry-picked and politicized intelligence to sell the war."

Or, rather, what he thought they wanted to hear. I imagine all too many of them were scratching their heads instead of applauding (or, more likely, even as they gave him a standing ovation), and wondering what world the senator inhabits: everybody knows the War Party cherry-picked intelligence, as documented here, here, and here. Not only that, but they fabricated "intelligence" wholesale, with the invaluable aid and assistance of Ahmed "Hero in Error" Chalabi – who was feeding lies to the White House (and Judith Miller) while on the U.S. payroll (to the tune of some $350,000 a month).

We "still don’t know today"? Hogwash!

Yes, the Kossacks (as they call themselves) had a convention, and what a wingding it was. Reid, Howard Dean, and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, the ostensible anti-Hillary, topped the bill, with panels on everything from foreign policy to special-interest group concerns. Arianna met with all the Dem bigshots, including Reid, who, in response to the Airhead’s query about Iraq, intoned:

"We passed a law in the senate, by 79 votes, that 2006 will be a year of significant transition in Iraq."

Yes, but a transition to what? To this? Or this? Or, maybe, this?

Arianna is kissing up to the same Harry Reid who didn’t even read the intelligence estimate that justified his yes vote for war. Let her whisper all the sweet nothings she can muster in the senatorial ear, it just goes in and then right out the other side.

The YearlyKos, as it’s called, culled a generous swath of newsprint and online coverage, all of it breathlessly reporting the rise of this "netroots" trend. I suspect that was because the event reinforced the MSM myth that opposition to the war – the real motivating issue behind the netroots phenom – is a partisan affair. Yet the Democratic politicians who pandered to the crowd all supported the war – with presidential wannabe Warner even raising the "threat" posed by Iran. This is nothing new for Warner, who, at a Democratic Leadership Council event, told the neocon wing of the party of Jefferson it’s time to get tough with Tehran:

"What makes me particularly so frustrated right now is we have used up American military and our world credibility on Iraq when the real deal is happening right next door in Iran. Whether it is a jihadist leader, the potential for weapons of mass destruction, state-sponsored terror, we absolutely must rally the world in a concerted effort to stop Iranian expansionism. I think it is a threat to the whole region, not only our troops in Iraq, but Israel, to the west and to the world, as well as to states all across the region. At the same time, I think in the next six to nine months you will see what happens in Iran, whether the world can come together. I do think – and I’ll give the administration credit on this – I’m glad they’ve engaged with Iran."

This is a somewhat more reasonable position than that taken by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who openly threatens Iran with war, but not much more.

I don’t mean to disdain or downplay the sincerely held antiwar views – and activism – of many Kossacks, but this New York Times Magazine profile puts the Democratic "netroots" movement in the proper perspective:

"For all the philosophizing about the meaning of online campaigns and the passing of the 20th-century political model, this next iteration of American politics won’t really look so dissimilar from the ones that came before. Just as the liberal social activists of the first television generation overthrew the urban bosses who had ruled the Democratic Party, so, too, the [Kossacks] of the world, a decade from now, may very well be running for Congress, managing campaigns, and lobbying for legislation. This is as it should be. Technologies change and movements flourish, but the essential process of American politics endures. And those who lead the most consequential revolts against the status quo never really vanquish the party’s insider establishment. They simply take its place."

The Democratic leadership is eager to use the "netroots" to facilitate the party’s ascension to power – and the acquisition of power is what the leaders of this movement desire most of all. As such, it can never lead to a fundamental reevaluation and reform of American foreign policy.

Which is not to say, however, that this upsurge of Democratic dissent is to be ignored as worthless or attacked as pernicious: quite the opposite. The leadership of this movement may be after power for its own sake, but the rank-and-file is motivated, for the most part, by a sincere desire to stand up to the War Party and take back our foreign policy from the neocons – of both parties – who have hijacked it.

Insofar as there is any meaningful opposition to the crazed foreign policy of this administration, it is coming from the Left – a trend I anticipated in a speech to the second annual Antiwar.com conference, held six years ago, and also in the title of a column written in the summer of 2002, "Go Left, Young Man."

The ferment represented by the "netroots" upsurge is a symptom of a broader crisis of confidence in the ruling elites in government, in the "mainstream" media, and in the two political parties. The War Party has dragged us to the edge of wrack and ruin: the looming disaster in Iraq threatens to metastasize into a much larger conflict, one drawing in the major regional rival for American hegemony in the Middle East, Iran. And the Democratic Party leadership has hopped right on board, despite Reid’s assurance that, this time, the intelligence-gathering process is going to be "transparent."

What’s transparent, however, is the attempt to divert the energy and earnestness of the "netroots" movement into the gaping maw of the Democratic Party Establishment – or, at the very least, a new Establishment, waiting in the wings to take the place of the older version.

Reid is a co-sponsor – along with Sens. George Allen (R-Va.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). – of the new Iran sanctions legislation, which is opposed by the Bush administration as too radical and warmongering. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), not any Democrat, is leading the opposition to the draconian bill drafted by wingnuts Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). The imposition of strict economic sanctions on Iran would be, in itself, an act just short of war – and would send out an unmistakable signal to the Iranians and the rest of the world: the shooting is about to start.

The one Democratic presidential aspirant who might reflect the antiwar and pro-civil liberties views of the archetypal Kossack, Sen. Russ Feingold, did not attend the YearlyKos confab. However one explains his absence, one can only hope that the true voice of the "netroots" – not Harry Reid’s – is waiting to be heard.

Read more by Justin Raimondo