In the weekend edition of Counterpunch, Jeremy Scahill reviews Clinton's policy in Iraq and asks,
Where were these Democrats when it was Clinton's bombs raining down on Iraq, when it was Clinton's economic sanctions targeting the most vulnerable?
and answers it: Many of them were right behind him and his deadly policies the same way they were behind Bush when he asked their consent to use force against Iraq. As the veteran Iraq activist and Nobel Prize nominee Kathy Kelly said often during the Clinton years, "It's easy to be a vegetarian between meals." The fact is that one of the great crimes of our times was committed by the Clinton administration with the support of many of the politicians now attacking Bush.
Why these questions now?
Now, says Scahill, several powerful democrats, at the moment of opportunity to join him in opposition to the war, instead denounced Murtha's call for "out now" and backed awayfearing "out now" to be too controversial. I heard about Murtha from my Mom, who had been watching the debate on CSPAN on Friday night, and was very impressed. She said all the Dems were giving their time to him and that the Republicans were a bunch of scary wacko extremists. Absolutely true - so I was shocked, shocked when I read in the LA Times that only three democrats had actually voted for Murtha's/Republicans' version of Murtha's proposal following the debate that she watched. Now, those who voted no on the "Republcan Spin" of the Murtha proposal are in the position of arguing vociferously against "Out Now" as an impossible, "wrecker," "agent provocateur kind of provision, introduced by Repubs. to make dems look bad. Only these three were bold enough to vote for it. The worst thing about this Republican strategy was that it's gotten the Democrats to make the pro-war argument even more than they were already.
Here's how it continues to work. Well-informed anti-war people in the general population, such as my Mom, adopt a position against the war and even go out in the streets in the millions (as on Feb 15th 2003) to express it. Congressional Democrats, whom they believe are the ONLY alternative to the Bush regime, and the best means to oust the Bush regime, then go about convincing the left wing of the constituency that the issues are "more complicated" when they get to the political process and that "compromise" positions are necessary if the Dems are to gain sufficient power to oust the evil Republicans whom they blame for the war.
So, remembering that it was a Democratic president who imposed the sanctions is crucial for breaking the anti-war democrats' loyalty to the party, and I think that doing this is crucial for building a successful anti-war movement, a movement that operates on its own strategy and doesn't defer to the ideas of DNC leadership. What will get us out of the war is not ousting Bush and replacing him with a Democrat. What will get us out of the war is growing, widespread, popular opposition to the war.
Instead of following the spectator model of politics, in which activists put aside their own judgements in deference to "professionals" who understand political strategy, people who want the war to end have to be the leaders who push from below, the way the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party did when they rejected "two seats" at large offered to them by LBJ in 1964 at Atlantic City.
People who are currently self-defined radicals, whether they define themselves as socialists, anarchists, or some other type of revolutionary, had no allegiance to the Democrats and were already protesting US policy toward Iraq in the 1990s. During the Ramadan/Monica bombings, I was in NYC for the holidays and marched with a bunch of people who were probably from IAC, winguts surely, but not as bad - or as dangerous- as the Democratic Party leadership. When Madeline Allbright spoke at Minnesota'a graduation, I was one of the anti-sanctions protesters, and when I asked a bombastic and self-proclaimed radical professor of Chicano studies to wear an armband on the stage in protest he said, "I wouldn't want to offend the lady." Pro-Clinton Democrats defended the sanctions, didn't join the anti-sanctions movement, marginalized those who opposed the policies and contributed to the climate that made Bush's war possible. They contributed to the widespread ignorance among the US population about the situation in Israel and the Middle-East.
The stronghold of Democratic party loyalty in the blogosphere is the Dailykos, and Armando has recently posted a request for discussion of how Democrats should relate to Murtha. There, as to be expected, the goals of "getting out of Iraq" and "getting Democrats into Congress" have been conflated almost completely by all but a few dissidents. Among the comments that appear there are the defense of pro-war votes by Democrats on the basis that the president lied to Congress. Bush is arguing that the Democrats are "flip-flopping" in his attempt to recover from sinking poll numbers. They're responding that their vote was based on the false information given to them by the president. However, I seem to recall KNOWING before the war that the WMD and Bin Laden-Hussein claims were without evidence. So, if I knew, surely the same information was available to congress, and to the mainstream media? The problem is, as Scahill put it, the dems. let it get by and didn't challenge the propaganda....and guess why? Even if they're only FOR the war because they think it's politically expedient, they're still FOR The war.
Get it? When it comes to domestic policy, Democrats are different, but even though the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal is evil, getting Democrats elected does not guarantee a dramatic shift in US foreign policy, so follow Curtis Mayfield's advice and don't rest when the wind starts to shift. The time is now.....Keep on pushing.