Grasping at Straws or Organizing for Power?

In November 2006 the U.S. electorate repudiated the Bush regime’s war in Iraq and put the Democrats in control of Congress, with a clear mandate to bring this disastrous adventure to an end. A year later it is clear that Congress under the Democratic leadership could – but won’t – end the war. It’s even becoming apparent that the leading Democratic presidential candidates – for all their Bush-bashing rhetoric – don’t intend to do so after the 2008 election.

Because the Democratic Party depends on the antiwar vote, they have to look like they’re trying to force Bush to begin withdrawing from Iraq. But are they serious? Initially, the Democratic leadership hid behind the pretext that their thin majority could not muster the votes to defeat a Republican filibuster of “timetable for withdrawal” legislation. In fact, Congress could cut off money for the war with a simple majority, simply by not passing Bush’s semi-annual request for hundreds of billions in off-budget “supplemental” funds.

If Congress wants to find a “dysfunctional government and legislature” that can’t meet basic benchmarks, or the most immediate needs of the people, all they need to do is look in the mirror.

Health Care, Social Security, Public Education … Get Real!

The war and occupation of Iraq has only brought chaos to Iraq. And to the U.S. as well, with New Orleans drowned, bridges falling down, 47 million people without health care, jobs lost and unions crumbling. Under the latest spending request, the cost of the war to Vermont taxpayers would rise to $888 million, and to $617 billion for the nation, through fiscal Year 2008!

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of the US’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, together with wider efforts in the “war against terror,” could reach $2,400 billion over the next decade. Think of that the next time your town meeting agonizes over its school budget or whether to fund the local library! We can’t even begin to address issues of inequality at home until we end this cycle of wars for oil and empire.

The actual intentions of the Democratic Party are emerging in Hillary Clinton’s statements. Her line that leaving Iraq will be “very complicated” is a barely disguised admission that the Democratic leadership plans to leave U.S. troops in Iraq and the region for many years. The Clinton strategy is to win the presidential election by campaigning against the Bush regime’s “incompetent handling of the war” and making enough people believe she will end it.

So the real Democratic plan isn’t much different than Bush’s scheme for having the U.S. occupation of Iraq last forever – like U.S. troops and bases in Korea. The Democrats were not deceived by the Bush regime’s “Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction” or the “Saddam Hussein-Osama bin Laden connection” frauds. They are deeply cynical, but not stupid. The Democrats support the strategic goals of the invasion of Iraq, although most have realized that serious tactical errors were made. Nor have leading Democrats spoken out against the Bush administration’s desire for a massive bombing of Iran, which could produce an inconceivable military, humanitarian and economic catastrophe.

The goals of the war are: (a) to ensure U.S. control of Iraqi and Middle East oil resources, and (b) to establish overwhelming U.S. military and political domination of the Middle East against any potential nationalist powers or global rivals. The Democrats’ critique of the war is based on its failure to achieve these objectives.

As people’s hope for action in Congress declines, the sense of powerlessness deepens because no serious answer is on the table for “How do we get out of this mess?”

Taking to the streets

The antiwar movement represents the sentiment of the majority of citizens. Yet, given the realities of power in this country, and our very circumscribed democracy (reflected in the absolute dominance of the two-party system everywhere but Vermont), this could be a very long war with huge costs that will continue to be used to attack essential social programs in the name of balancing the budget.

It should now be clear that this war can only be ended by organizing that addresses the sense of powerlessness that people feel – not by promoting illusions in the Democratic leadership – that can really shift the relationships of power by building an independent mass movement, in the streets, in the military as Iraq Veterans Against the War is doing, on the campuses, and in our unions and workplaces as Vermont Labor Against the War and USLAW is trying to do.

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