Michael Moore, McGovern Surrender to Clark
by Matthew Rothschild

January 22, 2004
First Published in The Progressive

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In a sign of abject and anyone-but-Bush desperation, leftie filmmaker Michael Moore and George McGovern, the dove of the Democrats in 1972, have both come out for General Wesley Clark.

Moore, in a January 14 posting on his website, wrote, "I believe that Wesley Clark will end this war. He will make the rich pay their fair share of taxes. He will stand up for the rights of women, African Americans, and the working people of this country. And he will cream George Bush."

Why Moore thinks Clark will get the United States out of Iraq and end that war is beyond me. I've listened to Clark in almost every debate, and he has no plan for ending the war. Unlike Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton, he is against pulling the troops out. He tends to say much the same thing as Howard Dean or John Kerry or John Edwards or Dick Gephardt: internationalize the effort, get the U.N. more involved, and bring more troops in from other countries. Clark wants to hand over much of the task to NATO, which has long outlived its original mission and is now, essentially, a U.S. interventionary force around the world. That's fine for Clark. But should that be fine for Michael Moore and George McGovern?

Moore claims that Clark "will insist that trade agreements do not cost Americans their jobs and do not exploit the workers or environment of Third World countries." How is he going to do that? In the debates, Clark is one of the more avidly pro-free trade among all the Democrats, perhaps second only to Joe Lieberman (the sole Democrat Moore says he would not back). Unlike Gephardt or Dennis Kucinich, Clark is not for abandoning NAFTA or the FTAA or the China deal. He utters the obligatory phrases about protecting jobs and the environment, but he doesn't back that up with anything. And sometimes, he is just plain pro-business.

"I think that American business is the source of jobs and opportunity in this country," Clark said in the September 25th debate. "We need to look very carefully at how we create positive incentives for business."

Clark has come out with a relatively progressive tax proposal, and he now parrots the Democratic line on abortion, affirmative action (to his credit, he filed an amicus brief in support of the Michigan case, Moore notes), education, health care, and the environment. But here is a guy who voted for Nixon and Reagan and praised George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney early in the Administration.

Moore deflects this by saying Clark is "the best candidate to bring millions of other former Reagan supporters to our side." But Moore refuses to acknowledge another way to win, and that is by turning out new voters: progressive young people, poor and working class people who don't believe either party delivers for them, and an increased percentage of the black and Latino vote. Instead, Moore focuses on what he calls "the fence sitters."

Like Moore, McGovern has one overwhelming concern. "I wanted to figure out which of these Democrats has the best chance of defeating Bush. [Clark] is the one," he said on Sunday in New Hampshire, according to The New York Times.

But both Moore and McGovern, who are known as peaceniks, need to explain a few things.

First, there's the war in Yugoslavia. As Supreme Commander of NATO during the Kosovo war, Clark was ultimately responsible for targeting the bridges and electrical grids of Yugoslavia and for using cluster bombs and depleted uranium. (I asked him at a press conference in Madison, Wisconsin, this fall about depleted uranium. He said: "There is no indication it causes any trouble," except perhaps if you put something in your mouth that is covered with it.). During the Kosovo war, Clark also repeatedly targeted Yugoslavia's TV headquarters, killing twenty people there.

"At least 1,200 civilians have died in NATO accidents," Steven Erlanger of The New York Times reported at the end of the war.

On May 27, 1999, The Wall Street Journal ran an article that said: "On the sensitive topic of civilian casualties, Gen. Clark emphasized that no air war was perfect and that, to prevail, the (NATO) ambassadors should brace themselves for more collateral damage."

During the war, Clark also fobbed off the problems facing the hundreds of thousands of refugees in Kosovo whom the Serbs predictably forced out after NATO started the bombing. Refusing to drop relief supplies to the refugees, Clark said, "Our view on this is that, frankly, this is a problem that's caused by President Milosevic. He needs to address this problem."

Second, there is Clark's support for the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, which has trained some of the most notorious human rights abusers in the hemisphere. On the campaign trail, as Joanna Weiss of the Boston Globe noted on January 17, Clark "vigorously defends" the School of the Americas, which now goes by the name of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Weiss also found a quote from Clark's 1997 testimony before the Senate Armed Services on the School of the Americas: "This school is the best means available to ensure that the armed forces in Latin America and the armies in Latin America understand U.S. values and adopt those values as their own."

Clark gave a graduation speech at the school in 1996, Weiss added. I found a copy of that speech on the web. "I have met School of the Americas' graduates who are aides to the highest military leaders, and I have met School of the Americas' graduates who are highest military leaders," Clark said. "I think you know in your command structures who the School of the Americas' graduates are, and you know that they are respected."

Many progressives are going to find Clark's support for the School of the Americas very difficult to swallow, just as they are troubled by his past support for Nixon, Reagan, and the Bush team.

But it is the inexorable logic of the anybody-but-Bush position that even a nominal, newly minted Democrat who favors business and lauds the School of the Americas is acceptable.

For Michael Moore, who endorsed Ralph Nader last time, and for George McGovern, who so courageously opposed the Vietnam War, to enlist behind General Clark now is tantamount to waving a white flag on some basic progressive issues.

Matthew Rothschild is editor of The Progressive, where this article first appeared (www.progressive.org).







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