All one needs to know about the Democrats’ position on Iraq is that they’ve caught the John Kerry disease: They’ll oppose the war before they vote to continue supporting it.
They oppose the war by calling on Bush to begin a phased withdrawal of troops. But both Democratic congressional bosses, Nancy Pelosi in the House and Harry Reid in the Senate, leave no doubt that the Democrats in fact support the war because they vowed to continue funding it.
In early January, Pelosi and Reid sent Bush a letter calling for an end to the war. They think Bush will heed a mere request the same week his administration asserted it can open U.S. mail without a warrant after Congress passed a law specifically prohibiting it from doing so.
If there’s a firm law in American politics it’s never to underestimate the stupidity or cowardice of the Democrats. The party leadership ran away from the Iraq War for most of last year. Then, realizing they could ride it to victory, they fell back on their sole strategy: “Anybody but Bush.”
From day one of their November victory they have been trying to subvert their mandate to end the war. In the last two months, leading Democrats, including Reid, Carl Levin in the Senate and Silvestre Reyes, the new House Intelligence Committee chair, have spoken in favor of Bush’s proposed escalation.
Sen. Joseph Biden said recently, “This is President Bush’s war.” That’s a big lie. Many Democrats voted for it in 2002 and have voted to fund it for the last four years. Biden is symptomatic of the Democrats’ attempt to dodge responsibility. The real reason for their spinelessness, the “support the troops” nonsense and not wanting to appear weak on national security aside, is that they will not challenge Empire.
There is a contradiction here. The realists – from the Iraq Study Group to John Murtha – want a strategic retreat from Iraq to save Empire. They want to refocus on the “war on terror” and broader interests in the strategic arc from North Africa to South Asia, rather than pissing away America’s military and economic power so Bush can keep acting squinty-eyed tough. But the realists will not confront the imperial presidency and its arrogation of powers to make war anywhere, anytime. So even though this war is against the interests of the elite, the politicians are unable to end it.
Reining in the state can happen only through a broad democratic grassroots surge. Given the failure of the antiwar movement to do much more than organize ritualistic marches (Cindy Sheehan’s persistence is one of the few bright spots), there is no real pressure to end the war.
Antiwar leaders suppressed protests during an election cycle once again in the hopes that the Democrats would deliver us from Iraq. If the antiwar movement is committed to ending the war it needs to act like it. The best route is by making the political lives of the Democrats hell. Only as a result of unrelenting pressure, protests, disruptions, occupations of their offices and more will the Democrats move as a party toward ending this debacle.
Absent that, the Iraq War will go on and will dominate another election two years from now where candidates talk of how much they oppose it even as they remain committed to supporting it.