Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Democrats Lose Spine (Again)- Cave on Iraq Bill


So now, after weeks of telling us to patiently wait…that they had some grand scheme in place to end the Iraq War, that they were going to stand up for the American public, 70% of whom want out of Iraq, the new Democratic Congress—elected on the backs of the Anti-War Movement—has collapsed, folded and conceded to the Bush administrations’ illegal Iraqi colonial adventure.

The Daily Kos sums it up well with a few choice links:

Democrats Concede on Iraq

Democrats Retreat in Funding Showdown

Bush Wins Congressional Battle Over Iraq

From the LA Times:

Scrambling to send President Bush an emergency war spending bill he will sign, Democratic leaders have decided to drop their insistence on a timeline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. The move - which comes just days after senior Democrats insisted that White House officials should support nonbinding timelines - is a significant concession to the president and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill, who steadfastly have rejected any dates for bringing U.S. troops home.

No timeline. Yet Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nevada) insists the President “hasn’t been given a blank check.” Really? Because when a war that was supposed to cost $50 billion dollars, is now well over $400 billion and may reach a trillion whenever it’s done (with no timeline, who knows when that is), sure sounds like the administration is holding the checkbook to me and writing off the treasury that could be used to fight hunger, cure disease, build schools and more to war profiteers and the sucking black hole of despair that is now Iraq. If a war that has gone on longer than it took to defeat Nazi Germany doesn’t require a timeline, what does?

The occupation has gotten worse—if that was possible—since the Democrats took office. The so-called “surge” has done little to control or end the violence in the country. Over 100 U.S. troops were killed this past April alone, the highest of the year. An average of 100 Iraqis are now dying nearly each day! While there has allegedly been a 20% drop of violence in Baghdad, there's been a sharp rise nearly everywhere else in the country. What more exactly does the Congress need to make the case that this debacle needs a definitive time-line mandated end?

MSNBC notes:

Benchmarks, sort of
Reid and other Democrats pointed to a provision that would set standards for the Iraqi government in developing a more democratic society. U.S. reconstruction aid would be conditioned on progress toward meeting the goals, but Bush would have authority to order the money to be spent regardless of how the government in Baghdad performed.

Oh that’s great. So they set benchmarks—but toothless weak benchmarks that the President can just waive when he feels like. So basically they gave him a bill with a built in signing statement, so he wouldn’t have to write one himself.

A few words on benchmarks. This has become the darling term of both Democrats and Republicans—certain achievements placed on the Iraqi government threatening them with an American withdrawal if these goals are not met. Now the Iraqis are the ones who are blamed for the mess in Iraq. They are told to reconcile their differences peacefully, while the U.S. and its so-called “coalition” drop laser-guided bombs and “whiskey pete” to solve their differences. The Iraqis are told to get their government in order and include the Sunnis—when it was the U.S., under its gubernator overlord Paul Bremer, who instituted the inane Baathist purge. The Iraqis have to take back their country from insurgents, when it was the U.S. President who bravely declared from several thousand miles away "bring 'em on," and decided to use their country as a battle ground--"fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here." The Iraqis have to train their new army, when it was the U.S. that disbanded the old one—allowing them to take their guns with them. The Iraqis now have to sign away their oil in imbalanced policies to pay for the rebuilding of their country—the one the U.S. destroyed. The emerging “civil war” that now flares up around the country is the fault of the “ungrateful” Iraqis, and somehow those that unleashed those horrendous forces get to escape responsibility and point out that at least they got rid of their one-time ally Saddam Hussein.

Near 3000 Iraqis die a month. Perhaps over 600,000 have died since the war began. Their country is shattered. Their various ethnic groups have been set against each other. Car-bombings—non-existent before—are now everyday occurrences there. And they remain an occupied state in the midst of an endless war zone. Yet they, who are bearing the brunt of the U.S.’s misguided necon policies, are the ones who are being told to "take some responsibility." There’s something inherently wrongheaded about that entire line of thinking. Basically, after an illegal invasion that broke their country and set it into chaos, the United States is now saying—“hey get your act together or we won’t do you any MORE favors!”

Sorry Iraqis, take it from those of us in the know, America ain't big on owning up to its responsibilities much less implementing "reparations." Expect to be left holding the bag while we engage in bouts of selective amnesia into the role we played in bringing the present into being.

Back to the funding bill. Oh but wait, it gets better! According to The Hill:

Liberal Democrats who have reluctantly backed House leaders on the Iraq war spending bill may defect due to the leadership's decision to eliminate any timeline for withdrawal from the legislation. That could force the leadership to rely on Republican votes to pass the bill, which is expected to come to the floor as early as Thursday.
So a Democratic majority Congress may pass a bill supported greatly by Republicans to support a Republican administration's war that most of their (the Democrats) party base opposes. Oh yeah, that's great. That's exactly why we all marched out to the voting booths in November.

The problem is that the Congress is scared--still scared of the Bush administration, still scared of being painted as "weak on defense" (though what exactly one is "defending" in an aggressive occupation seems unclear) and still so scared of being accused of "not supporting the troops," they're willing to let more troops--and even more Iraqis--die to achieve a political endgame. I understand the strategy. But what the Democratic leadership always fail to take into account, is that the more progressive and liberal base of their party--the ones who helped sweep them into power--are just about tired of being ignored or shafted in order to appease the Joe Lieberman wing of the party.

Kudos to those progressive Democrats (even those who voted to allow for the Iraq War to begin) who at least realize that tucking tail in the face of a bully like the Bush White House is a bad move. Give them an inch, and they'll make you pay in spades for it later.

Presidential candidate John Edwards put it bluntly enough:

Conceding to the president on full funding for the Iraq war is a serious mistake. It is time to force an end to this war, and the only way for Congress to do that is to use its funding power. Any compromise that funds the war through the end of the fiscal year isn't a compromise at all, it's a capitulation. As I have said repeatedly, Congress should send the president the same bill he vetoed again and again until he realizes he has no choice but to start bringing our troops home.

Fact is, the Congress is not going to grow a spine until they are forced into doing so. And it won't come from a corporate news media that is too lazy or too complicit to actually do its job. Listen to the pundit class for the past few months, and they've spent more time nit-picking at the Democrats stance on the Iraq War than they have ever spent in criticizing the administration or the war itself. That means it's up to the American people. That 70% who say they want out of Iraq are going to have to do more than answer a poll inbetween sipping their Starbucks and catching up on American Idol. Going to have to be vocal and act up. And if you can't do that, then at the least support those who do.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will-- Frederick Douglass

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