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Finally, a Populist Antiwar Candidate


Senator Mike Gravel is running a populist anti-war campaign for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. Gravel, who is no novice to Washington, DC politics, is direct and clear in his views on the war. And, he has a long history of fighting unjust wars and seeking to return power to the people.

Gravel was in the U.S. Senate during the Vietnam War where he represented Alaska and aggressively opposed the war. He was well-known for his efforts to stop the draft when in 1971 he waged a successful, five-month, one-man filibuster that forced the Nixon administration to cut a deal that effectively ended the military draft.

He also weighed in heavily on the release of the Pentagon Papers. After The New York Times published portions of the leaked study, the Nixon administration moved to block any further publication of information and to punish any newspaper publisher who revealed the contents. Gravel insisted that his constituents had a right to know the truth behind the war and proceeded to read 4,100 pages of the 7,000 page document into the Congressional Record from the Floor of the U.S. Senate. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Senator Gravel did not have the right and responsibility to share official documents with his constituents. He then published The Senator Gravel Edition, The Pentagon Papers, Beacon Press (1971) with commentaries by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. This publication resulted in a landmark Supreme Court decision, Gravel v. U.S, based on the Speech and Debate Clause (Article 1, Section 6) of the United States Constitution.

In an interview with Sen. Gravel (video link below) he repeated a point he made in his speech to the Democratic National Committee arguing that anyone who voted for the use of force resolution that allowed President Bush to invade Iraq has shown they do not have the judgment to serve as president of the United States. Gravel, during the build-up to the war, publicly opposed the invasion. In an interview on MSNBC he insisted that intelligence showed there were indeed no weapons of mass destruction, Iraq posed no threat to the United States and that invading Iraq was against America’s national interests.

Not only has Gravel opposed the so-called “surge” but has been disheartened and disappointed with the Democratic Party response saying “The democratic majority must decide on a unified policy to get out of Iraq. Non-binding resolutions will not get the job done.” He urges the Democrats “to respond to the will of the American people and demand an end to the Iraq war.”

In our interview Gravel said that the way out of Iraq begins with the Congress passing a law that ends the war. Gravel noted that the Congress has the power to declare war and therefore has the power to end the war. He recognizes that such a law would create a “constitutional confrontation” with President Bush but he sees that as an essential step in ending the war with our government made up of equal branches of government.

He believes the House of Representatives would pass such a bill and that in the Senate the Republicans will attempt a filibuster, but “once the Republicans filibuster in the Senate, it will be clear to the American people and the media that the Republicans are continuing the war.” He urges Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the bill up for cloture every day to build pressure on the Republicans. Gravel expects the Republicans will wither in less than a month.

Of course, Gravel recognizes this is likely to lead to a veto by President Bush but that is the constitutional confrontation that is needed between the Congress and the President to end the war. But, Gravel says, this would be a clear “unambiguous vote to end the war. The eyes of the nation would be riveted on that vote. There would be no place to hide from the judgment of the people in 2008.” He predicts Congress would override the president.

Gravel describes the passing of non-binding resolutions as “meaningless.” Further, the Congress cannot micromanage the war, i.e. they cannot oppose the surge as that is a tactical decision for the president. Similarly the approach being planned by Rep. Jack Murtha is also unconstitutional, according to Gravel: “The President is the Commander-in-Chief whose responsibility under the Constitution is to prosecute military actions. For the Democrats in the Congress to unconstitutionally micromanage the war only plays into the hands of Republicans, who can now raise reasonable constitutional arguments and obfuscate direct action with procedural votes rather than let the Congress end the war now.”

In addition to the war, Gravel puts forward some populist democracy and economic ideas. For example, he advocates for a national voter initiative in order to empower the people to set the course of government. And, he urges an end to the income tax which he describes as corrupt. He would replace the income tax with a national sales tax. Gravel recognizes the uphill nature of his struggle, but believes it is one worth making in order to return power to the people.

For more on Mike Gravel see:

KEVIN ZEESE is director of Democracy Rising and co-founder of VotersForPeace.US.


Kevin Zeese is an organizer at Popular Resistance.

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