(MG) Writing at the Counterpunch web site, John Stauber points out the obvious. The leading Democratic Presidential candidates have NO interest in ending the invasions and occupations of Iraq (and Afghanistan). They are playing politics, falling back on an all too familiar pattern exhibited by US political leaders vis-a-vis failed "wars". (MG) Immanuel Wallerstein made the same point back in early April at the start of his analysis of the situation in Afghanistan:
Everyone knows that the United States has lost the war in Iraq. The politics of Washington, DC today is simply a series of maneuvers between Republicans and Democrats to position themselves so that the other party pays the electoral price for the fiasco.
Stauber delves more deeply into the matter:
After several months of empty posturing against the war in Iraq, politicians in Washington have made what Democratic congressman James P. Moran called a "concession to reality" by agreeing to give President Bush virtually everything he wanted in funding and unrestricted license to continue waging the increasingly detested war that has made Bush the most unpopular president since Richard Nixon.
This is the outcome that we warned against two months ago when we wrote "Why Won't MoveOn Move Forward?" In it, we criticized MoveOn for backpedaling on its previously claimed objective of ending the war in Iraq immediately. Anti-war sentiment was the main factor behind last year's elections that brought Democrats to power in both houses of Congress. Once in power, however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed through a "compromise" bill, supported by MoveOn, that offered $124 billion in supplemental funding for the war. To make it sound like they were voting for peace, the Democrats threw in a few non-binding benchmarks asking Bush to certify progress in Iraq, coupled with language that talked about withdrawing troops next year.
Understanding how legislative processes work, we expected then that even those few nods to anti-war sentiment would be eliminated in due course. Bush had already said he would veto the Pelosi bill and pledged to hold out for funding without restrictions of any kind. Moreover, there was little doubt that the Democratic leadership would eventually cave to his demands. Notwithstanding their stage-managed photo ops and rhetorical flourishes for peace, prominent Democrats signaled early that they would give Bush the funding he wanted. Barack Obama even went so far as to state publicly that once Bush vetoed the original bill, Congress would approve the money because "nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on the ground." (MG) what Obama means is that nobody wants to be ACCUSED of "playing chicken" with the troops, of "not supporting the troops" -- we all remember how any initial criticism of the invasion was cast as virtual treason -- and all the old lies about how badly returning Viet Nam vets were treated by "the hippies" resurfaced ... it's all about politics, and this is much worse than a shame -- this is a crime against humanity ... (Two weeks later, MoveOn announced that it had polled its members, and Obama was their "top choice to lead the country out of Iraq.") In effect, the confrontation between Bush and the Democrats was a high-stakes game of poker in which the Democrats went out of their way to make it clear that they would fold once Bush called their bluff.
A "tactic," as the dictionary explains, is "an expedient for achieving a goal." If the goal is to end the war in Iraq, the Pelosi bill was never a tactic that had any chance of succeeding. Its provisions had no teeth and it was clear that too many Democrats never intended to see the fight through. As this week's betrayal by the Democratic leadership demonstrates, ending the war is simply not their goal. (MG) John Kerry told the U.S. Senate in 1971 how to end the war ... just stop funding it ... tres simple Their goal is to continue the war for the time being, while giving themselves just enough distance from it that they can run as the anti-war party in next year's presidential and congressional elections. (MG) and after that? after the dems sweep the senate, take over an even bigger chunk of the house, win the presidency? THEN WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Will they call the whole thing off? NO WAY in hell is my estimate ... because to do so would subject them (later on down the line) to the criticism that they didn't give the troops a chance to win the invasion / occupation .. and given the short term memory limitations of the U.S. public ... perhaps people will forget that this was ALWAYS dubya's war ... even after all the upcoming Democratic victories (yes, I'm a believer) ... the most likely scenario is MORE OF THE SAME BULL SHIT WAR ... and an increasingly negative perception and ever stronger distrust of politicians and the political process ... setting up conditions for another republican takeover much sooner down the road than many people can imagine ... Stoller seems to have belatedly arrived at this realization himself. Responding to this week's news, he writes:
We're in Iraq because the political system, the public, and all of us became unable to distinguish between truth and falsehood. We're still in Iraq, and will be there until the public is genuinely convinced to leave. Right now, we're not there. I know what the polls say, but I also am watching Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Giuliani, Romney, etc running for President, and not one of them is calling for a full withdrawal. Not one. Clinton, the leading nominee in a supposedly antiwar party, is a hawk and doesn't even think that voting to authorize the war was a mistake.
Amazingly, the conclusion that Stoller draws from these facts is the following non sequitur:
So do not tell me that Pelosi, Reid, and Moveon are doing a bad job. They are not. They are persuading a country and a politics that is used to lazy bullshit that kills a lot of people to think twice about it, and resist.
Here's the point that Stoller seems to have missed: There is a difference between what the public wants and what politicians do. Just because the high and mighty politicians don't get it yet, don't assume that the average American doesn't. It is not "the public" that needs to be persuaded. The politicians, their marketing campaigns, and the bloggers who join them may be "unable to distinguish between truth and falsehood," but the public at large fully understands that we need to get out of Iraq. The question is simply how to translate that public awareness into effective pressure that will force the politicians to change course. As we wrote in March, "When politicians and advocacy groups like MoveOn play anti-war games of political theater while effectively collaborating with the war's continuation, they merely add one more deception to the layers of lies in which this war has been wrapped."
Since 2003 we've co-authored two books on Iraq, and we have been reporting on the war for over five years now, since we began to dissect the Bush administration's propaganda push almost immediately after 9/11. We've been reporting on MoveOn for almost as long. And by the way, we are not "ardent critics" of MoveOn, as Stoller claimed. We are trying to constructively criticize an organization whose leaders mean well, even though they have been selling a flawed strategy. ...
The bottom line, however, is that MoveOn until now has always been a big "D" Democratic Party organization. It began as an online campaign to oppose the impeachment of President Clinton, and its tactical alliances with Democratic politicians have made it part of the party's current power base, which melds together millionaire funders such as George Soros and the Democracy Alliance, liberal unions like SEIU, and the ballyhooed Netroots bloggers like Matt Stoller, Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga of the Daily Kos. At a personal level, we presume the members of this coalition genuinely want the war to end, but their true and primary priority is winning Democratic Party control of both houses of Congress and the White House. Now that the war in Iraq hangs like a rotting albatross around the neck of the Bush administration, it has become the Democrats' best weapon to successfully campaign against Republicans. From a "shrewdly pragmatic" point of view, therefore, they have no reason to want the war to end soon.
Some Democrats (not the top politicians, of course) are saying this openly. Here, for example, is how one blogger at the Daily Kos sees things:
I know, that means more American casualties, more Iraqi casualties, more treasure and lives wasted.
But I think you've got to keep in mind the big picture here. ... [B]y the end of September, people will be beginning to pay real attention to the next election...
I think this does give the Democratic party a tremendous opportunity to crush the Republicans for perhaps a couple of decades to come. Iraq, and the Republican support of it, may well do for the Republicans what Vietnam did for Democrats - make the public suspicious for decades about the party's bona fides on foreign policy.
In this analysis, "more treasure and lives wasted" are the "little picture," while winning elections is "the big picture." Democrats like Russ Feingold who oppose the Iraq supplemental do not share this strategy, and it is never explicitly stated even by the Democratic politicians who are signing on this week to fund the war, but it is implicit in their actions.
MoveOn is expert at marketing, PR and advertising. Their emails to members convey a friendly, informal style and a sense that "they" are just like "us." But there are important differences between the organization and many of the people who sign their petitions and give them money. MoveOn has not been primarily a movement against the war. It has been a movement of Democrats to get the party back into power.
We do not doubt that MoveOn's leadership sincerely believes they are pursuing the most practical and effective course to improve America's political problems by vanquishing the Republicans and getting Democrats elected. However, when given a choice between building a powerful grassroots movement to end the war, versus exploiting the war for the benefit of getting Democrats elected, MoveOn has repeatedly chosen the latter while probably believing there is no difference.
There is an organized anti-war movement in America that is not an adjunct of the Democratic Party. Up until now, it has been weak and divided and unable to organize itself into an effective national movement in its own right. In its place, therefore, MoveOn and its Netroots allies have become identified as the leadership of the anti-war movement. It is vitally important, however, that a genuinely independent anti-war movement organize itself with the ability to speak on its own behalf.
In the 1950s and the 1960s, the civil rights movement was most definitely not an adjunct of the Democratic or Republican Parties. Far from it, it was a grassroots movement that eventually forced both parties to respond to its agenda. (MG) this may not be the greatest example in the world ... actually, it is a MOST informative example ... many of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement have been turned back, because there will always be a virulent strain of white-supremacist racism that abhors the idea of doing anything even remotely fair for black Likewise, the movement against the Vietnam War was not aligned with either the Democratic or Republican parties, both of which claimed to have plans for peace while actually pursuing policies that expanded the war. (MG) and the anti-war movement really accomplished very little .. until the soldiers / sailors themselves turned against the war, and stopped fighting, and mutinied
That's the sort of movement we need again, if we wish to see peace in our lifetime.