Up The Wrong Tree?

A.K. Gupta Apr 29, 2006

Dems Are Not The Answer

With President Bush’s poll numbers plumbing new lows and two-thirds of Americans having soured on the Iraq War, all the talk is of withdrawal. But that’s all it is: talk.

By constantly intoning “withdrawal,” the Bush administration has lulled many Americans into thinking that the war is winding down. Yet work continues feverishly on the largest U.S. Embassy in the world in the heart of Baghdad, permanent bases are rising all over Iraq, 130,000 U.S. troops remain hunkered down, and the casualty rate has spiked upward once again.

The big question is how to end the Iraq occupation completely and swiftly. For every day that U.S. forces remain, there is a greater chance that the U.S. will widen the war by striking Iran or Syria or some other country.

Wars are like the weather: they don’t respect borders. This war has already spread by car and suicide bomb throughout the Middle East and even into Europe. Bombing Iran will multiply these attacks.

But in the cynical calculus of the White House, attacking Iran, particularly with tactical nuclear weapons, has its benefits. Using nukes would remove the taboo against their use while putting the whole world on notice that the United States is willing to use terror and genocide to enforce its rule.

Any resulting attack on Americans would be used to justify further domestic repression, such as a formal suspension of the Constitution. Decades ago, Hannah Arendt noted that empire abroad means tyranny at home. Thus, the spying, roundups, terror trials, indefinite detention of citizens and the war on immigrants are the logical domestic extensions of the “war on terror.”

That’s why ending the war abroad also requires a strategy for ending it at home. The right effectively beats down any debate, however. If you question the tactics, you give aid and comfort to the enemy; you are weak on terror. There are no easy answers, but not standing up for our convictions and our rights means we forfeit them anyway.


As much as they protest, the Democrats have provided important cover for the Bush administration. One need only look at the brewing war against Iran. The same lies, the same doomsday pronouncements that were deployed against Iraq are being used again, yet the Democrats either remain silent or join in the bomb- Iran chorus.

Even though the Iraq war is three years old and the campaign against Iran has been under way for a similar period, the antiwar movement has no clear idea of how to end the current war and prevent the next one. Any successful movement has to force concessions and gain victories from the formal political structure.

Hany Khalil of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the dominant antiwar coalition, states, “For this war to come to an end Congress has to cut off funding…. The Vietnam War ended after Congress cut off funds.”

The big difference, however, is that the United States had almost completely withdrawn from Vietnam before Congress cut off funding to the government of South Vietnam.

Would the Democrats cut off funding to the Iraq War with troops still in the country?

Unlikely. The base of the Democratic Party is overwhelmingly antiwar, but Democrats in Congress continue to support the war by lopsided margins. On March 16, a majority of Democrats in the House joined in a 348-71 vote in favor of a $92 billion “emergency” spending bill, mainly to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Now the fact that 71 House members opposed the bill is an improvement over previous years, but there is a long way to go. The problem is, the more ambitious the politician, the more s/he is pro-war. John Kerry ran to the right of Bush in 2004 – he wanted to send more troops to Iraq. Positioning herself for 2008, Hillary Clinton is for more war in Iraq and a new one against Iran.

If the Democrats have a position, it’s the Murtha plan, supported both by the House leadership and the Progressive Caucus. It’s just a plan to save empire, however. Like a spoiled rich kid with the keys to Daddy’s sports car, Bush is trashing the U.S. military in his Middle East joyride.

For their part, the Democrats have never met a war they didn’t like. They want to withdraw troops so they can be “rested, reequipped and redeployed” to focus on the “war on terror.” In other words, so they can fight wars in other countries.

The Democrats are afraid of their antiwar base. It’s why leaders in the party forced out Paul Hackett, an antiwar Iraq veteran who was waging an energetic and highly popular campaign in Ohio for a U.S. Senate seat. It’s why the Democrats have reined in MoveOn, which has largely shunned the antiwar movement and can only bring itself to say “Don’t Nuke Iran,” rather than oppose an attack in general.

Relying on the Democrats to end the war is like asking a crack addict to turn in his dealer. The task of ending the war falls to an antiwar movement that is willing to take strategic risks.

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