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Monday, March 26, 2007

Democrats Fund More War, Set Timetable for Withdrawal

"Mother, mother, there's too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother, there's far too many of you dying,
You know we've got to find a way to bring some lovin' here today

Father, father, we don't need to escalate,
See, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we've got to find a way to bring some loving here today..."
-Marvin Gaye, What's Going On

Gaye and his masterful work emerged from the fabulous musical period of the mid-60's. To this day our nation bears the brand of Sixties counterculture; alongside the Civil Rights movement, the continuation of Vietnam War generated energy for a popular mandate for change which in turn gave birth to an unprecendented cultural renaissance.

As the US participation in Iraq wears on, the country finds itself at war with itself over how to end the conflict.

The war's popularity has sagged now to the point well over half of Americans want us out now or in the near future. Vietnam, while inciting venomous dissent, was opposed by fewer than 50% of the total American population at the end of US military involvement. Iraq is thereby less popular a war.

It was in 1968 that the Vietnam War had lost its popular support, not unlike the American public's support for Iraq by 2006. In both cases, the media was slow to act, and the editors of its leading newspapers and magazines continued to foster confidence in a positive outcome in Vietnam.

During the Cold War the CIA ran Operation Mockingbird, a covert story-planting and misinformation service serving the State and War Party. Journalists and editors were enlisted in the cause of defeating communism, a purpose which apparently justified violating the public trust.

Infiltration of media is nothing new--during previous wars, all friendly, democratic governments have through the control of media and information directly bent the truth, hid facts, or even lied. Why would Iraq be different?

Governments and have a vested interest in keeping wars running. The bureaucracy overseeing the war, the Pentagon, has seen massive increases in funding. A vast interlocking web of business contractors selling to the military has grown fat on the blood shed in Iraq.

Budgeting public monies to the defense sector reflects the political priorities of the Party in power. Unfortunately Republicans are not alone in supporting the status quo--many in the Democratic party profit from corporate campaign contributions. Too much patronage led some Republicans (Ney and Cunningham) and a Congressmen Jefferson (D-La.) down a slippery ethical slope into legal trouble.

Arguably the Executive helped shield its Republicans from a full venting of legal authority by the Department of Justice. The chief issue of whether the firings of federal prosecutors were politically motivated. One prosecutor, Carol Lam, was investigating former Vietnam fighter jock "Duke" Cunningham, who was sufficiently audacious (or stupid) to live in a contractor's yacht (sources).

Earlier, in 2000, a federal prosecutor in Guam was terminated while investigating disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff (link), which kept secret dealings hidden. The firing may have slowed but failed to prevent the eventual prosecution of corrupt Republicans in Congress connected to Abramoff and his web of illicit dealings.

The White House's control over the DOJ and its possible direct meddling for political purposes appears to be a natural evolution of an Executive charged with policing itself and infatuated in its own power and uncontested authority over federal prosecutions.

Traditionally, politicians have been careful to avoid partisanship in military conflicts. Internal division during times of war is avoided for good reason: no one party should exploit its hold on power and steal the nationalism for itself. Iraq may be a Republican invention, but the invasion was supported by prominent Democratic leaders, who are now increasingly responsible for the ongoing occupation.

As our national leaders, Democrats are responsible now for the war. Now in control, Democratic leaders may see it as their duty not to abandon the war in order to save pride and avoid tacitly admitting that their support for Iraq was a mistake.

Bush and his neocon warcrafters succeed in alienating Congress by asserting, contentiously, the power of the Executive Branch over the Congressional. The War on Terror has served as a vehicle to strengthen the Presidency; by signing statements the President has made Congress irrelevant. As long as Bush loyalists like Tom DeLay and Hastert controlled Congress and quashed internal dissent, the White House could count on continued complicity and unconditional loyalty.

Broken System

Americans need blowback on Iraq to be severe if the executive branch is to be held responsible for abusing its power. Our system of government is designed to work by a system of checks and balances. The Iraq war was not the sole product of Presidential decision-making, but without a vocal and persuasive crowd pushing the war from the White House, it wouldn't have come.

It's only now with a Democratic Congress that the pendulum can begin to swing back towards moderation in our policy. The changes that need to be made--escalation is not viable in my opinion--have to be forced, due to the sheer size and momentum of the American war machine once it begins to roll.

While Congress was run by Republicans, the President got what he and his neocons wanted, including the precipitation of an unnecessary war sold under false pretenses. Without any practical external constraints on Presidential authority, and with Congress and President of the same party, our checks and balances broke down, boundaries were crossed, and bade decisions made on falsified information.

Would a Democratic Congress have prevented a war in Iraq? Probably not--they would have likely been swayed by the same falsehoods that convinced so many Iraq was a threat. Still, Democrats in Congress must now fix the system, if not by finding a middle ground with the President then by precipitating a stalemate on Iraq by cutting funding. Control over the budget is a tool given to the Congress by the Constitution part to balance the power of the Executive.

With no veto to fear from a President of their own party, the Republican Congress has abused this authority by spending wildly and recklessly. Like the power to defund, the veto is a Presidential tool meant to control Congress' authority.

New Bill, Same as the Old Bill?

Bush is faced with having to veto new spending for Iraq, or accept a timetable. The veto would put at risk billions needed to fund the continued occupation of Iraq.

Democrats voted in a massive spending bill "to make the Democrats look good without terminating the war. In this way the Democrats could satisfy their real constituencies, AIPAC and other pro-war forces, while posturing for peace. Look good to the people, bash Bush and satisfy the real constituency..." according to John V. Walsh in "The Democrats' War Funding Debacle."

Walsh acknowledges the insertion of "poison pills" into the legislation, which establish a timeline from withdrawal. Suspiciously, the additions to the bill come alongside a torrent of pork, some 20 billion dollars' worth. There's something unspeakably callous about making funding of our troops' body armor and equipment contingent upon the granting of millions for spinach farmers hurt by their own failure to prevent E-coli contamination of their products.

{Private firms should not be offered public subsidies to offset the fiscal consequences of their incompetence. This is the opposite of how free markets should work. Instead of seeing unsafe and less efficient producers punished by the market, as a natural consequence of consumer choices, they are subsidized by the government and thus discouraged from reforming, except by lawsuit.}

Walsh determines that "...If but a handful, literally, of the "anti-war" Democrats voted against the bill, there would be no war funding. A crisis would be precipitated and a real debate over the war would have to begin in the Congress." Criticism of the bill was shared by a wide range of anti-war activists, although the now controversial organization Move On capitulated to the bill.

I think the narrow passage does reflect the strength of Administration loyalists and war apologists (whether believers in victory--relentless optimists--or pragmatists who fear abandoning the US occupation.) While a vote against the bill did represent a cessation of war funding, its passage made odd bedfellows, combining war supporters with anti-war factionalists within the Democratic party.

On one level, the bill represented the willingness of the Democrats to do battle with the President, based on its poison pill, which would set a date certain for a US withdrawal, coming no later than September, 2008. Bush has railed against setting any target dates for withdrawal, arguing that the insurgents would simply wait them out. Still, the bill sets the stage for a battle between Bush and the Democrats on the war. And the Democrats may have been able to move debate over the Iraq war away from the "support the troops" stranglehold dominating the political side of the debate.

The debate on the war stretches on--closetted war supporters may be able to suit their belief in victory in procrastinations for inaction going forward. It's not coincidental that the neo-con supports forming the core of Republican leadership are the most patient waiting for their policies to work--sitting on their policies and nursing possibilities of victory masks the scope of utter failure in their policy designs for the Mideast.

And the Democratic leadership isn't advocating an immediate end to the war either. Now while the House have at least tried to force a timetable upon Bush--and some like Murtha have spoken strongly--antagonistically--towards the President (see the CNN video), it seems the War Party is well represented on both sides of the aisle.

Vietnam--The Turning of the Tide

Where were we in this stage of the Vietnam War? The papers had turned on the war, a phenomena not unlike the MSM stalwart support of the President and his war on terror, which morphed into an invasion of Iraq in time to secure a second term for the President.

Johnson, like Bush a President from Texas, turned down a second term in 1968, which would have been the second election he'd faced--the first coming a year after Kennedy's assassination. He saw the Vietnam War as a divisive force in American society. Perhaps more sensitive--or aware of--the criticisms of his policies, Johnson couldn't take the heat. Precisely timed, and engineered for political not military purposes, the Tet Offensive dispelled any misperceptions that the US could win without a fight. Like we see with the War on Terror, the limitations of the use of military force were made clear; the inability of the US war machine to produce a decisive victory was justified by the need for more time, to see things through.

Proponents of invading Iraq are reluctant to see the basket case they created. Removing the nonsensical idea that "supporting the troops" from the political dialogue is an important first step to dialogue and cooperation. By continuing the occupation, we condemn our troops to an open-ended occupation in a place they are not welcome.

The here and now is the sum of our past achievements. The future will be the accumulated result of what we do now; if we are making no progress with our current strategy--which is based on the belief that a surge will stabilize the situation--the future will reflect the results of our present failure.

At some point LBJ was able to evaluate the situation in Vietnam and determine that he wasn't the person who was capable of leading the US to victory. Rather that spend another four years managing the unpopular war, he declined to seek the nomination.

Having done all he could to achieve victory, Johnson had the humility to step down and leave management of the war effort to others. Perhaps this was the way he assumed responsibility for creating the mess he had.

A tumultuous Democratic National Convention was the result of the leadership vaccuum created by Johnson's exit. By 1968, the challenge had become one posed by how the US could get out--Nixon's "peace with honor." Ending Vietnam became the problem once the military reality of no easy victory became apparent, and the political costs of continuation became too high.

Unlike the scenario had Johnson run, Bush faces no election is is therefore completely unaccountable for the Iraq War. Republicans in Congress haven't been so lucky and paid a price for supporting Iraq in 2006; will Democrats face a similar reckoning? Unfortunately our two party system offers the moribund choice of selecting no one other than the Republicans in order to punish the Democrats. So ultimately Americans have a choice between candidates who support the war more, and those that the support the war less. In other words, the War Party has corrupted the political system to the point that meaningful change will not occur in the short-term.

Gradually, the politicians who have been supporting the war by financing it will be able to distance themselves politically from their votes on the war. Quite simply, Edwards, Obama, and Clinton simply have a lot of political liability in admitting their role in supporting the war. Still, AIPAC and other narrow constituencies aligned with the War Party shape American foreign policy--and their increasingly unjustified stance on prolongation of the war brings with it extreme political risk as the expenditure of American lives and benefits few other than the benefactors of war--the mil-ind complex, big Oil, and ostensibly Israel.

Moving On

This blog shows how the War on Terror has become a failure. Iraq has become the central focus of the terror war, a connection between the two the White House fabricated and fanned in the Media. To the Administration's chagrin, present conditions in Iraq reflect of the status of the War against Terror.

While goals in the war on terror imagery (terrorery) may be illusional--the rhetoric better suits idealism--, results are undeniable and obvious though they may not be widely broadcast. Like all our self-generated "wars"--on poverty, drugs, etc.--the war on terror has yet to be won. Unless we slave our present state of happiness to the eventuality and presumption of victory, we gain nothing in the present but hardship and the continued loss of lives. Placing victory in faroff terms and time frames excuses the present situation indefinitely, and trivializes our immediate losses as nothing more than a state of transience which must be endured in order to achieve victory at some point in the future.

I bring to the forefront inadequacies in our policies for two reasons. First, I hope that recognizing the errors in our policy will lead to their improvement. Like most writers, I grossly overestimate my own reach; while serving the ego, this self-centeredness is perhaps for the good the reader as it does make me more sensitive to what I write. Honestly how can I--a single blogger--really make a difference in the halls of power and authority? While I'm not expecting to make a difference, I blog instead out of the somewhat naive and utterly irrational belief that I can make a difference.

Secondly, I see it as my task to help the public see the truth where our Media--the caretakers of the public interest--have chosen to abuse the trust vested in them by the public. I believe that the Mainstream Media has abandoned its most vital responsibilities keeping the American people informed.

I am also a pragmatist. While the Democratic proposal may not be ideal, I believe it forces some level of compromise upon the Administration.

Inwardly, I confess that like the idea that no one man can control our nation. I like Jack Murtha huffing pointblack criticism straight at the Administration. I also find myself attracted to seeing ultimate authority for our country in a single man, by vesting him with unlimited power, utterly fail. But as we saw with Johnson, the President has a responsibility to lead, and we've certainly gotten ourselves into a heap of trouble.

Our legal system failed to hold the Executive accountable for the outing of a secret agent in a time of war by those responsible for protecting her identity and defending our nation. If the Courts cannot provide relief from the power grab by the Executive, the task must fall to Congress.

The electoral process has spoken against the war party. The MSM has gradually conceded to the unpopularity of the war. Many misperceptions remain among Americans who still don't receive the information necessary to fully participate in the political process--up to a point. As we saw in Vietnam, no illusion can be maintained forever; even in Orwell's 1984 information which contradicted the official story worked itself through the propaganda and information suppression cordon. No society can be detached from the consequences of war forever.

Like Vietnam, Iraq is a war fought on false pretense, one where initial falsehoods--that Iraq had WMD and was connected to terrorism--lead to more falsehoods, namely the claim that victory is forthcoming. Both wars were politicial liabilities; their grounding in false logic is no different from most wars, whose enemy is the truth and the truth its first victim. Iraq has been allowed to ride along with the colonial concept that the US only fights good wars and is thus a good cause. The second theory--that the US always wins--was disproven in Vietnam-the Right would says it was because the war didn't continue.

Vietnam did continue, though, and it took many more lives even after politicians realized it had become unwinnable, a loss of confidence in the war that only came after most Americans had seen the light.

Iraq is not over, not by a long shot. The commitment that we (yes we, even those unsupportive of Bush's wars) have made to Afghanistan will make us intimate and unwilling participants in the geopolitical games played the Middle East and Central Asia perhaps for decades more--which is what the War Party and AIPAC must want, despite the costs and consequences to the security of the United States.

To stop the bleeding, Congress must oppose open-ended war and work towards closure. If Congress is unable to mollify antiwar dissent--dissent which will only fully subside once troops are withdrawn--US society will become embroiled in divisiveness akin to Vietnam, especially if troop shortages, Taliban successes, and war with Iran force a draft.

The Democrats must close the war. Yet they may at the same time be aware of the absence of any alternative to their rule--the only other choice, the Republicans were largely supporters of the war--and thus not feel any sense of immediate urgency in ending the war. Yet even now, antiwar Republicans may be coming forward; like Nixon in 1968 they may offer a more effective solution for ending the war if the the Democrats, and particularly their leadership, are incapable of ending the war by the next elections.

I hope to keep the Democrats accountable for their results of their leadership on ending the war. A lame duck, Bush is becoming an increasingly irrelevant target. I can poke holes in any number of realities imposed on the war on terror, but it won't hold the Bush Administration accountable--in many ways they are beyond that now. The Executive does however need to be contained, so where acute policy failures make themselves clear, this blog serves a valuable function to make the truth known, a vital duty which has been abandoned by a corporate and servile Mainstream Media that serves a War Party to the detriment of the American people.



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