In the Vietnam War the United States had undertaken to support a dictatorship in South Vietnam on the grounds that the dictatorship was also anti-Communist, and therefore a lesser evil than a unified Communist Vietnam. Some on the left supported the Communist totalitarians. But many “New Leftists” were self-declared “anti-totalitarians” who believed that Communism was a flawed attempt to create just societies. Moreover, they did not believe that the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam was a Communist pawn (as it was) but a quasi independent socialist and/or nationalist force. Their argument for opposing the United States defense of the South Vietnamese regime was that a victory for the NLF would mean the emergence of an independent Vietnam committed to the principles of equality and justice. This was an incentive to see that America was defeated. And this indeed is the delusional vision that motivated people like Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda other anti-war activists, who worked to cut off all aid to the regime in South Vietnam (and Cambodia as well) that was fighting for its life against the Communists..
But in Iraq, America did not set out to defend a dictatorship for whatever reasons. It set out to overthrow one. In Iraq the United States overthrew a monster regime, and liberated women and Iraq’s minorities — and the left did everything in its power to prevent this. The practical actions of the left were to save the regime of Saddam Hussein. But what could saving Saddam Hussein mean but more corpses shoveled into mass graves, more human beings stuffed into plastic shredders, more terror for the Iraqi people, and further deferment of the rights of women and other minorities.
Even after Saddam Hussein was toppled, the left’s agendas were primarily to bring down the Bush Administration, not to help American forces to consolidate the peace or establish an Iraqi democratic state. Many leftists even actively support what they call the Iraqi “resistance,” led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Others like Barbra Streisand and Michael Berube didn’t like Saddam and don’t like Zarqawi but seem to fear George Bush and American power even more. To read the publications of the left which Michael Berube’s perspective since 9/11 – the Nation, the Progressive, Salon.com, the Village Voice — is to read relentless attacks on the Patriot Act, on American military actions and America forces in Iraq, along limitless skepticism about the American goal of establishing a democracy in the Middle East. The sheer volume of this criticism adds up to a political action against American purposes in this war. The impression reinforced by the virtual absence constructive proposals for defeating the Zarqawi terrorists and establishing a democratic regime.
So it’s not really the DiscoverTheNetwork team that has to defend the decision to include Zarqawi and Streisand in the broad networks that link disparate elements of the left. Rather it’s leftists like Michael Berube who have to explain why they are engaging in a political course of action which if successful would strengthen the global Islamic jihad against the West, along with its misogynist, anti-minority and reactionary agendas.
A point that may need reiterating (I have made it before) is that the mere fact that people on the left disagree does not mean that they are not on the left. As I observed in an earlier article on the design of DiscoverTheNetwork, Trotsky and Stalin declared war on each other, which ended with Trotsky’s murder by Stalin’s agents. But a responsible complier of a database on Communism would still be obligated to include both of these mortal enemies in the database.
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