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"I Don't Understand These People!"

So You Thought They’d End the War

by DAVID VEST

Welcome to the Show, kid.

The Democrats have "surrendered" on Iraq. Liberals are "shocked." And all the innocents who didn’t know any better, didn’t see it coming, feel "betrayed."

Poor Duncan Black, better known as "Atrios," is nearly at a loss for words: "People hate Bush, hate Republicans, and hate this war," he protests, and yet the Democrats caved!

"I don’t understand these people," he wails.

Precisely.

Keith Olbermann, using the same tone of humorless, near-postal anger he uses in every commentary, no matter the topic, calls the Democratic rollover a "Neville Chamberlain moment."

I prefer to think of it as a teachable moment.

At a time when even conservatives have come to loathe Bush, when people who thought he was going to round up all the "illegal aliens" and deport them are so upset, they think impeachment’s too good for him, the Democrats labor to craft legislation "acceptable" to him.

Liberals have already spent six and a half years loathing Bush — longer if they live in Texas, a state whose statutes are said to recognize two classes of persons: Fuckors and Fuckees.

(Republicans and Democrats, the big shots, belong to the former class. You and I belong to the latter.)

There is nothing particularly wrong with loathing Bush. It only becomes a problem when it prevents progressives from finally figuring out that the people they’re really going to end up having to fight are the Democrats.

As Big Walter the Thunderbird used to say, "Sho’ is tough."

Right now, both major parties are playing dodge ball with the planet, trying to avoid "ownership" of Iraq. The only way at this point to "own" the war is to stop it, and there is no serious move afoot to make that happen.

Having used antiwar sentiment, and disgust over Katrina, to regain control of Congress, the Democrats have no intention of relinquishing power. They all "support the troops," who are being asked to "lay down their lives for America" in far Mesopotamia — but you didn’t expect these people you elected to lay down their political careers for the good of the country … did you?

Of course not. Already Michael Tomasky is praising the Dems for practicing "smart politics," as though winning the White House in 2008 were far more important than "merely" ending the war in Iraq.

How quickly "put us into power and we’ll change things" becomes "put us into power and watch it change us."

For the corporate powers behind the candidates, the rule is as it ever was: from time to time, things have to change in order to stay the same.

But (someone protests), can’t you at least admit that the Democrats are better than the Republicans? And if you love the country, or care about the world, aren’t you obligated to support the lesser of two evils, even if it’s only slightly less evil?

To which I reply: What’s really evil is being forced to choose between people on the one hand who support the war, and accuse anyone who questions it of "helping the terrorists" — and people on the other who oppose the war, criticize the war, pledge to the end the war, and then vote to keep it going.

Or being asked to choose between the village idiot and someone who’s consistently outsmarted by him.

Once upon a time, Bill Clinton filled the Interior Department with "environmentalists." Bush filled it with oil company hacks. Who was more honest?

Lo and behold, when they cut down the old growth forest, it didn’t make much difference to the trees and the rivers and the critters, whether oil company insiders or professional environmentalists were sitting at the desks in Washington. Eight years of Clinton-Gore, two terms of Bush-Cheney: the toxic dumps remain, and only the rhetoric has changed, to protect the naïve.

Demonstrably now, it makes no difference to the war whether Republicans or Democrats control Congress. Do you suppose the shooting will end, on the day when a refined, well-spoken Democrat, who reads poetry perhaps and scorns the religious right, and who doesn’t embarrass us when receiving foreign dignitaries, succeeds the bumbling oaf Bush?

Think so? Or do you suspect people will soon be wailing, "I don’t understand these people! They control Congress, the White house, and the military! Why don’t they stop the war?"

Perhaps apologists will go on CNN to reassure us: "The president wants to stop the war, really. But first she has to form a consensus, and set her legislative agenda in Congress, and build up her political capital. And when, not if, she wins re-election, then in that second term she’ll be free to act, and she’ll have that mandate, and I think you’ll start to see some movement on ending this war."

Sound about right?

Look. Millions of people marched in the streets trying to prevent the invasion of Iraq, long before Bush sent a cruise missile into a Baghdad neighborhood trying to "take out" Saddam Hussein with one wild lunge, like the man who shot Liberty Valance. Without result, in either case.

People marched and listened to speeches and then went home. The opinion of the multitudes counted for nothing. No one in power saw the slightest need to pay attention to them. They’re still not paying attention. Why would they, as long as those bags of money keep coming in through the transom?

The system is broken. It can’t be fixed. As long as the Fuckors run it, it will continue to be utterly unresponsive to the will of the Fuckees.

The system tolerates, even welcomes antiwar people, but it co-opts them if it can. Just as the oil companies co-opted Earth Day, and just as the nuclear power industry hopes to turn global warming into a wholly-owned subsidiary.

In one party, if you’re antiwar, you can get a job as Rudy Giuliani’s foil.

In the other one … well, if you still "don’t understand these people," what’s it going to take?

As the great working class poet Charlie Musselwhite says in "Black Water," the devastating post-Katrina anthem from his CD Delta Hardware:

"Hello America — are you ready for more?"

DAVID VEST can be reached through his web site at www.rebelangel.com. A new CD featuring him, "The Last of the Best: Live Recordings by the Paul deLay Band," will be released on June 12.