Monday, May 28, 2007

War Funding, Democrats and the Next Step

For the past few weeks, I've been aware of, but not closely following the funding bill's passage through congress and to the president. I knew enough to know that the Democrats had finally voted to approve war funds with no withdrawal time-table on Wednesday. You can imagine my scorn then, when on Thursday, as I was walking down 42nd street at lunchtime, someone from the DNC stopped me and asked me for money. I said, I wouldn't give them any money since they hadn't done anything to end the war. "Yes we have!" the man protested. Looking like a crazy person, or just an irate voter, I shook my head and walked away from him, shouting over my shoulder, "you rolled over!"
Maybe others knew exactly how I felt. With hopes in the power of a Democratic congress dashed, the public's perception that support for the Democratic party is the best way to beat Bush may be changing. Markos Moulitsas, a longtime faithful Democrat, has written several entries at Daily Kos
criticizing the recent "capitulation bill." In one, he declares:
Democrats have lined up to announce that this isn't the endgame, that this is just the first round. They are promising to keep putting pressure on the administration and using other legislative vehicles to impose withdrawal deadlines and other accountability provisions.
They let us down this time. But the opportunities for them to make amends still exist. If Democrats take advantage of them, as they promise they will, then all might be forgiven. They can prove to us that they in fact know what they are doing, and that they, in fact, do plan on honoring their most sacred promise to the 2006 electorate. And if they don't? Well, no one, not even the most rabid partisans, have an endless supply of patience.

David Sirota, who used to be a regular on DNC-friendly Al Franken's Air America show, is calling the Democrats' attempt to spin their vote last week "Orwellian." He was in favor of the "benchmark" funding bill in contrast to what he called the blank checkfor the war that the Republicans and the president wanted (and got).
Meanwhile, Josh Frank's piece on Hillary Clinton's historic hawkishness has been making the internet rounds. On the other side of the political spectrum, Trent Lott's old buddy, Dick Morris is now calling her a hypocrite for responding to the clear demands of voters and changing her vote to oppose the "blank check." I was heartened myself that she and Obama both voted against it, but....I hadn't been following the news very closely over the last few weeks, so I didn't know much more than what they said on NPR about the entire battle.
In all the discussions about linking funding to the achievement of "benchmarks," I did not hear, until I was busy calculating final grades while listening to a week-old Counterspin interview with David Swanson, that the first benchmark is the passage of the infamous "oil law" - a privatization bill promoted by the US administration and opposed by most Iraqis. Truthout's Ann Wright has an article about it today.
I also hadn't heard, in all the talk of Bush's veto and congress's response, that if congress had just let the veto stand, and not brought forth any new legislation, Bush wouldn't have gotten his money for the war. A short comment from FAIR puts it this way:
In order to force the Bush administration to accept a bill with a withdrawal timeline, the Democratic Congress didn't have to pass the bill over Bush's veto--it just had to make clear that no other Iraq War spending bill would be forthcoming. Democrats may not have wanted to pay the supposed political costs of such a strategy, but news coverage should have made clear that this was a choice, not something forced on them by the lack of a veto-proof majority.

Finally, John Stauber, whose article on the Democrats and their supporters is the first one I linked to, has this to say about moving forward following this vote.

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. 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.

It's the point that those of us to the left of the Democratic party have been making for a long time. However, I wonder what you think. Has the time come when Americans will join a mass movement to end the war? Or is that just a leftover fantasy based on the experiences of the 60s generation? What is the next step?
Maybe the place to get it all together is Atlanta??


reb said...

I just checked my email and found this, published in Counterpunch today:
Counterpunch, May 28, 2007
An Open Letter to the Democratic Congress
Why I Am Leaving the Democratic Party


Dublin, Ireland

Dear Democratic Congress,

Hello, my name is Cindy Sheehan and my son Casey Sheehan was killed on
April 04, 2004 in Sadr City , Baghdad , Iraq . He was killed when the
Republicans still were in control of Congress. Naively, I set off on my
tireless campaign calling on Congress to rescind George's authority to
wage his war of terror while asking him "for what noble cause" did Casey
and thousands of other have to die. Now, with Democrats in control of
Congress, I have lost my optimistic naiveté and have become cynically
pessimistic as I see you all caving into "Mr. 28%"

There is absolutely no sane or defensible reason for you to hand Bloody
King George more money to condemn more of our brave, tired, and damaged
soldiers and the people of Iraq to more death and carnage. You think
giving him more money is politically expedient, but it is a moral
abomination and every second the occupation of Iraq endures, you all
have more blood on your hands.

Ms. Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said after George signed the new weak
as a newborn baby funding authorization bill: "Now, I think the
president's policy will begin to unravel." Begin to unravel? How many
more of our children will have to be killed and how much more of Iraq
will have to be demolished before you all think enough unraveling has
occurred? How many more crimes will BushCo be allowed to commit while
their poll numbers are crumbling before you all gain the political
"courage" to hold them accountable. If Iraq hasn't unraveled in Ms.
Pelosi's mind, what will it take? With almost 700,000 Iraqis dead and
four million refugees (which the US refuses to admit) how could it get
worse? Well, it is getting worse and it can get much worse thanks to
your complicity.

Being cynically pessimistic, it seems to me that this new vote to extend
the war until the end of September, (and let's face it, on October 1st,
you will give him more money after some more theatrics, which you think
are fooling the anti-war faction of your party) will feed right into the
presidential primary season and you believe that if you just hang on
until then, the Democrats will be able to re-take the White House.
Didn't you see how "well" that worked for John Kerry in 2004 when
played the politics of careful fence sitting and pandering? The American
electorate are getting disgusted with weaklings who blow where the wind
takes them while frittering away our precious lifeblood and borrowing
money from our new owners, the Chinese.

I knew having a Democratic Congress would make no difference in
grassroots action. That's why we went to DC when you all were sworn in
to tell you that we wanted the troops back from Iraq and BushCo held
accountable while you pushed for ethics reform which is quite a
hoot...don't' you think? We all know that it is affordable for you all
to play this game of political mayhem because you have no children in
harm's way...let me tell you what it is like:

You watch your reluctant soldier march off to a war that neither you nor
he agrees with. Once your soldier leaves the country all you can do is
worry. You lie awake at night staring at the moon wondering if today
will be the day that you get that dreaded knock on your door. You can't
concentrate, you can't eat, and your entire life becomes consumed with
apprehension while you are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Then, when your worst fears are realized, you begin a life of constant
pain, regret, and longing. Everyday is hard, but then you come up on
"special" upcoming Memorial Day. Memorial Day holds double
pain for me because, not only are we supposed to honor our fallen
troops, but Casey was born on Memorial Day in 1979. It used to be a day
of celebration for us and now it is a day of despair. Our needlessly
killed soldiers of this war and the past conflict in Vietnam have all
left an unnecessary trail of sorrow and deep holes of absence that will
never be filled.

So, Democratic Congress, with the current daily death toll of 3.72
troops per day, you have condemned 473 more to these early graves. 473
more lives wasted for your political greed: Thousands of broken hearts
because of your cowardice and avarice. How can you even go to sleep at
night or look at yourselves in a mirror? How do you put behind you the
screaming mothers on both sides of the conflict? How does the agony you
have created escape you? It will never escape me...I can't run far
enough or hide well enough to get away from it.

By the end of September, we will be about 80 troops short of another
bloody milestone: 4000, and will hold nationwide candlelight
vigils and you all will be busy passing legislation that will snuff the
lights out of thousands more human beings.

Congratulations Congress, you have bought yourself a few more months of
an illegal and immoral bloodbath. And you know you mean to continue it
indefinitely so "other presidents" can solve the horrid problem BushCo
forced our world into.

It used to be George Bush's war. You could have ended it honorably. Now
it is yours and you all will descend into calumnious history with BushCo.

The Camp Casey Peace Institute is calling all citizens who are as
disgusted as we are with you all to join us in Philadelphia on July 4th
to try and figure a way out of this "two" party system that is bought
and paid for by the war machine which has a stranglehold on every aspect
of our lives. As for myself, I am leaving the Democratic Party. You have
completely failed those who put you in power to change the direction our
country is heading. We did not elect you to help sink our ship of state
but to guide it to safe harbor.

We do not condone our government's violent meddling in sovereign
countries and we condemn the continued murderous occupation of Iraq .

We gave you a chance, you betrayed us.

Cindy Sheehan
Founder and President of
Gold Star Families for Peace.

Founder and Director of
The Camp Casey Peace Institute

Eternally grieving mother of Casey Sheehan

ge said...

reb asks "Has the time come when Americans will join a mass movement to end the war?"

I'm afraid the answer is "No". Without the draft, trickily ended by Dick, not enough Americans care that much about other people's children.