One minor quibble

Andrew Sullivan on his intellectual consistency:

I was appalled by the anti-Semitism buried within ANSWER – the left-wing equivalent of the Tea Party peeps – their paranoia and their ad Hitlerum daffiness. I railed against “the intolerant, extremist and reactionary forces behind an unhealthy amount of the anti-war movement.” I argued that they were not offering any serious proposals to address the actual problem – Saddam’s WMDs. In many ways, my critique of the far left then is identical to my critique of the far right today. And the critiques both come from a small-c conservative perspective.

I wasn’t reading Sullivan at the time, but I have no reason to doubt that he readily criticized the far-left (insofar that we even have a “far-left” in this country) for its excesses during the run-up to the Iraq War.  That said, I hope Andrew doesn’t think that there’s any real equivalence between the ANSWER folks in 2003 and the tea partiers today.  I mean, simply put, ANSWER was never embraced by anything more than a fringe of the American left and utterly ignored by most liberals and the entire Democratic Party.  By contrast, the tea partiers are a substantive force in American politics, so much so that Republican leadership is responsive to their concerns and has willingly adopted their frenzied, paranoid rhetoric.

What’s more — and it’s always worth pointing this out — ANSWER (and their fellow-travelers) constituted a trivial portion of the anti-war movement.  The vast majority of the anti-war movement fell well within the mainstream of the Democratic Party and the public at large.  Indeed, anti-war sentiment was not unpopular.  That the movement was treated as a “fifth column” (to use Sullivan’s words) has nothing to do with its actual composition or stance, and everything to do with the war-fever that took hold of the Beltway for the better part of Bush’s presidency, and has yet to relinquish its grip.

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3 thoughts on “One minor quibble

  1. That the movement was treated as a “fifth column” (to use Sullivan’s words) has nothing to do with its actual composition or stance, and everything to do with the war-fever that took hold of the Beltway for the better part of Bush’s presidency, and has yet to relinquish its grip.

    This is my main beef with Sullivan on this. He quotes his treatment of ANSWER Bush=Hitler folks, but if you follow the link you’ll see that he treated domestic war opponents as traitors and foreign ones as being secretly in league with Saddam for economic gain. Anyone who found Powell’s UN presentation unpersuasive was obviously dishonest.

    He didn’t reserve this treatment for ANSWER, but rather heaped the same criticism on individual war critics, the New York Times, and entire countries like France, Germany, and Russia. And he didn’t do it because they hadn’t come up with a genuine argument — indeed he was the one advocating ignoring the UN and going it alone.

    Most war critics, like myself, were either not persuaded that Iraq possessed WMDs (I trusted Blix’s judgement over people who had already been shown to stretch the truth… obviously not a point of view to be taken seriously) or not convinced that deposing Saddam would be a net positive for Iraq, the world, the United States, or some combination of the three. These were real arguments that Sullivan ridiculed with even more vigor than he reserved for ANSWER’s sloganeering.

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  2. The vast majority of the anti-war movement fell well within the mainstream of the Democratic Party and the public at large.

    It must have fallen deep within the two, because I don’t hear so much of the outrage and ‘pull-out now’ rhetoric I heard a little over a year ago. What’s more, the bulk of the anti-War Left has been stunningly silent on the PATRIOT Act renewal–Ackerman and Emptywheel notwithstanding.

    As opposed to principled opposition to two wars and government intrusions into our private lives, the Left seems perfectly fine with the government clumsily creeping further into the realm of civil liberties stopping only to wipe it’s feet on the Fourth Amendment, so long as the Democratic White House and Congress are the ones responsible for it.

    I think it is less a lingering “war-fever” than it was that much of the protests were vehicles for expressing (righteous, mind you) anti-Bush sentiment–much like many of the tea partiers are expressing anti-Obama vitriol (some of it more excusable than others). I anxiously await the time when the anti-war and civil liberties folks actually start holding the Dems accountable. Until then, we’ll have the quietest escalation of 40,000 troops into a war zone in all of American history.

    Shameful.

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  3. Tea parties aren’t really more organised or united than the anti-war movement, and similarly many mainstream Republicans and members of the public broadly sympathize with the anti-tax anti-“big government” message. The equivalent to ANSWER would be some of the fringier groups using these populist protests as a vehicle for their agenda.

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