IRAQ: Why Won't MoveOn Move Forward?
By Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber
For full article see: http://www.prwatch.org/node/5865
This week marks the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
To commemorate the occasion, the online advocacy group MoveOn.org is
helping organize more than 1,000 candlelight vigils throughout the
United States. "We’ll solemnly honor the sacrifice made by more than
3,000 servicemen and women, and we'll contemplate the path ahead of
us," states MoveOn's website. "We cannot send tens of thousands of
exhausted, under-equipped, and unprepared troops into the middle of
an Iraqi civil war. ... Honor the sacrifice. Stop the escalation.
Bring the troops home."
MoveOn's 3.2 million members strongly oppose any continuation of the
war, and the language above seems to suggest that MoveOn's leadership
agrees. But MoveOn's organizing around Iraq has become notably
ambiguous lately. (Continue reading at: http://www.prwatch.org/node/5865)
Four Years Too Many
By Medea Benjamin
This weekend, in hundreds of cities throughout the country, Americans commemorated the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq by participating in marches, rallies and vigils. And it wasn’t long ago, in November 2006, that Americans expressed their anti-war sentiment at the ballot box. So what have our elected officials done to comply with the cry of the American people to end this war?
President Bush so totally disregarded the voters’ mandate that instead of withdrawing troops, he called for sending more. Most Republicans in Congress are backing the President’s troop surge, despite the public’s opposition. But perhaps even more disturbing is the lack of leadership on the part of the Democrats, who seem more interested in party unity and criticizing the president than truly putting a quick end to this war.
The convoluted, inside-the-beltway approach of the Democrats is evident in the supplement defense funding bill that will be voted on this week. A simple, straightforward approach to this new request for $95 billion more for war would have been to posit, as Congresswoman Barbara Lee proposed but her party rejected, that funds can only be used for a full withdrawal under a set timetable, no later than December 2007. This would have used the only real power that the Constitution grants Congress to stop war: the “power of the purse.” It’s a power it has used in the case of Cambodia (1970), Vietnam (1973), Somalia (1993) and Bosnia (1998).
This approach would have also been in line with the public sentiment that consistently shows that a majority of Americans want a swift timetable for the troops to come home. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released March 6 showed 60% of Americans want a timetable for withdrawal by the end of the year. This sentiment is even more pronounced among Democratic voters. And let’s not forget that back in February 2006, a Zogby poll found that 72% of the troops themselves thought they should be out of Iraq by the end of 2006.
Instead, the Democrats submitted a bill so convoluted that even they start stammering when they try to explain it.. It mandates that the President only send troops that have been properly trained, equipped and given adequate rest periods between deployments, but then allows him, on national security grounds, to waive all those requirements. In a fit of twisted logic, it sets a series of benchmarks for the Iraqi government, and says that if they don’t meet the benchmarks we will punish them by leaving early; if they do meet the benchmarks we’ll reward them by staying longer. Given that the majority of Iraqis want our troops out of their country, it’s a perverse kind of reward! Whether or not the benchmarks are met, the war would drag on into 2008, instead of a year-end cut-off preferred by most Americans. And even then, U.S. military could stay on by the tens of thousands to fight terrorism, train Iraqis and provide security to American diplomats and citizens.
To make matters worse, the Democrats are well aware that prospects of this bill becoming law are dim. Even is it passes with the opposition of the Republicans and some of the strong anti-war Democrats, the legislation is unlikely to survive in the Senate, where Democrats have been even more reluctant to adopt a firm timetable to end the war. And the President has already threatened to veto it. So the entire exercise is symbolic, designed more to show a unified Democratic opposition than a real withdrawal plan. Some pundits say that Democrat leaders are content to let the war rage on until 2008 so Bush’s popularity will continue to plummet and they will win the White House. But life and death issues must trump party politics.
It’s true that Congress does not yet have enough votes to block the war funding this time around. But the only way to build momentum to stop the next funding request and bring the troops home by year’s end is stake out, right now, the courageous position of funding the withdrawal, not the war. .
How can they build that momentum? They have to reframe the debate. Right now, the common refrain is that cutting funds for the war is abandoning the troops. The Democrats must proclaim, loudly and clearly, that the best way to support the troops is get them out of harm’s way and back into the arms of their loved ones. As a group of military families and veterans wrote in an open letter to Congress, “Voting more funds for this war would be abandoning our troops. It would leave them with the possibility of joining the over 3,160 who have died, or the tens of thousands who have been wounded, physically, psychologically, or both.” And with the present scandal about the dreadful treatment of returning soldiers at our nation’s Veterans Hospitals, Congress would do well to argue that the money for war would be better spent on taking care of the soldiers we have abandoned here at home.
Four years of this senseless, unwinnable war is four years too many. We need Congress to boldly challenge the President and boldly stand with the majority of Americans whose voices were represented in the marches all over the country this weekend calling for an end to this dreadful war.
Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace (www.codepinkalert.org) and Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org).
The Pragmatism of Prolonged War
By Norman Solomon
Published on Tuesday, March 13, 2007 by www.CommonDreams.org
The days are getting longer, but the media shadows are no shorter as they cover the war in Iraq through American eyes, squinting in Washington's pallid sun.
Debated as an issue of politics, the actual war keeps being drained of life. Abstractions thrive inside the Beltway, while the war effort continues: funded by the U.S. Treasury every day, as the original crime of invasion is replicated with occupation.
More than ever, in the aftermath of the Scooter Libby verdict, the country's major news outlets are willing to acknowledge that the political road to war in Iraq was paved with deceptions. But the same media outlets were integral to laying the flagstones along the path to war -- and they're now integral to prolonging the war.
With the same logic of one, two, and three years ago, the conformist media wisdom is that a cutoff of funds for the war is not practical. Likewise, on Capitol Hill, there's a lot of huffing and puffing about how the war must wind down -- but the money for it, we're told, must keep moving. Like two rails along the same track, the dispensers of conventional media and political wisdom carry us along to more and more and more war.
The antiwar movement is now coming to terms with measures being promoted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi and Reid have a job to do. The antiwar movement has a job to do. The jobs are not the same.
This should be obvious -- but, judging from public and private debates now fiercely underway among progressive activists and organizations, there's a lot of confusion in the air.
No amount of savvy Capitol-speak can change the fact that "benchmarks" are euphemisms for more war. And when activists pretend otherwise, they play into the hands of those who want the war to go on... and on... and on.
Deferring to the Democratic leadership means endorsing loopholes that leave the door wide open for continued U.S. military actions inside Iraq -- whether justified as attacks on fighters designated as Al Qaeda in Iraq, or with reclassification of U.S. forces as "trainers" rather than "combat troops." And an escalating U.S. air war could continue to bomb Iraqi neighborhoods for years.
The position being articulated by Reps. Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey and others in Congress is the one that the antiwar movement should unite behind -- to fully fund bringing the troops home in a safe and orderly way, while ending the entire U.S. occupation and war effort, by the end of 2007.
We're urged to take solace from the fact that Washington's debate has shifted to "when" -- rather than "whether" -- the war should end. But the end of the U.S. war effort could be deferred for many more years while debates over "when" flourish and fester. This happened during the Vietnam War, year after year, while death came to tens of thousands more American soldiers and perhaps a million more Vietnamese people.
Pelosi is speaker of the House, and Reid is majority leader of the Senate. But neither speaks for, much less leads, the antiwar movement that we need.
When you look at the practicalities of the situation, Pelosi and Reid could be more accurately described as speaker and leader for the war-management movement.
A historic tragedy is that the most hefty progressive organization, MoveOn, seems to have wrapped itself around the political sensibilities of Reid, Pelosi and others at the top of Capitol Hill leadership. Deference to that leadership is a big mistake. We already have a Democratic Party. Over time, a vibrant progressive group loses vibrance by forfeiting independence and becoming a virtual appendage of party leaders.
Last week, while MoveOn was sending out a mass e-mail to its 3.2 million members offering free bumper stickers urging "End This War," the MoveOn leadership was continuing its failure to back the efforts of the Congressional Progressive Caucus for "a fully funded, and systematic, withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and military contractors from Iraq."
There are rationales for uniting behind practical measures, and sometimes they make sense. But the MoveOn pattern has been unsettling and recurring. Power brokerage is not antiwar leadership.
The U.S. Constitution and the federal courts are clear: Only through the "power of the purse" can Congress end a war. It's good to see MoveOn churning out bumper stickers that advocate an end to the Iraq war -- but sad to see its handful of decision-makers failing to support a measure to fund an orderly and prompt withdrawal from the war.
On Capitol Hill, most Democrats seem to have settled on a tactical approach of simultaneously ratifying and deploring the continuation of the war. The approach may or may not be savvy politics in a narrow sense of gaining temporary partisan political advantage. But it is ultimately destructive to refuse to do the one thing that the Constitution empowers Congress to do to halt a U.S. war -- stop appropriating taxpayer money for it.
In retrospect, such congressional behavior during the Vietnam War -- while attracting sober approval from much of the era's punditocracy -- ended up prolonging a horrific war that could have ended years sooner. Now, as then, pandering to the news media and other powerful pressures, most politicians are busy trying to pick "low-hanging fruit" that turns out to be poisonous.
"Somehow this madness must cease," Martin Luther King Jr. said 40 years ago about the Vietnam War. "We must stop now."
Was the situation then essentially different from today? No.
"We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy," King said. And: "We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late."
When King denounced "the madness of militarism," he wasn't trying to cozy up to the majority leader of the Senate or impress the House speaker with how he could deliver support. He was speaking truthfully, and he was opposing a war forthrightly. That was imperative in 1967. It is imperative in 2007.
Norman Solomon's latest book is "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." For information, go to: www.WarMadeEasy.com