Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader stepped back into the public spotlight yesterday to deliver a scathing critique of the Bush administration's Iraq policies, demand a quick end to the American occupation there and call on antiwar activists to take their case to their representatives in Congress.
Nader, the longtime consumer activist who has kept a low profile since the November election, accused the White House of a number of missteps in Iraq, including tolerating corruption in the occupation's administration.
He also reiterated his long-standing call for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within six months. Nader proposed substituting soldiers from neighboring Arab countries, invalidating the recent elections there -- which he dismissed as a "farce" -- and holding a new round of balloting monitored by international observers.
"It's really not a very complicated withdrawal strategy. It has a lot of common sense behind it. I think the American people would overwhelmingly support this six-month withdrawal strategy," Nader said. "It's very important to also note the Iraqis resent enormously the takeover of their economy."
It was similar to the message he delivered around the country for much of last year, during what was his third presidential campaign. His independent bid netted just 463,647 votes, which amounted to less than 1 percent of the more than 122 million ballots casts. Moreover, while recent polls suggest that a majority of Americans believe the Iraq war was not worth the costs, they also indicate that the public is divided over whether the Bush administration ought to bring home the troops before Iraq is stabilized. Nader expressed confidence, though, that his views would find a much broader audience.
"The organized antiwar movement took the year off in 2004 out of deference to John Kerry. It didn't want to upset his freedom to mimic Bush, as he became more of a hawk on the Iraq war. We'd go around the country, hammering on the war, with a withdrawal strategy, and there was no resonance," he said. "The whole antiwar movement is [now] coming back into action."
Nader's attempt to jump-start a movement comes as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have turned their attention to Bush's proposed Social Security revision. Nader mocked the president's plan, saying it stands little chance of becoming law and amounts to little more than a distraction from Iraq.
"This is part of Bush's tactics," Nader said. "If he can't shift attention from domestic issues by starting a war, another war, he does it by pushing for changes which will never see the light of day."
Nader also blasted newly elected Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for not pressing the Iraq issue more forcefully. "The Democrats have not learned anything from the campaign," he said. "They have not learned to stand on their own feet and to speak their own mind. They have not learned to make public their private criticisms of the war, which pour out like Niagara Falls when you talk to them privately."
"So the difference between the private opinions of these Democrats and their public opinions is a measure of their political cowardliness and a measure of how they're going to continue to lose in the future to the Republicans," Nader said.
"With all due respect to Mr. Nader, Democrats vigorously criticized Bush's foreign policy during 2004 and came within 60,000 votes of winning the White House," DNC spokesman Jano Cabrera said. "Mr. Nader, on the other hand, made his case and garnered slightly more than one-third of 1 percent of the vote."
Nader's antiwar organization, Democracy Rising, released a report accusing members of the president's immediate family of profiteering from the Iraq occupation.