The war in Iraq is degenerating … a lot. For American troops, Iraqi police, and Iraqi civilians, the last two months have been filled with dread, death, and disfigurement. In spite of around-the-clock spin by the administration and show-dog obedience by the bouzhie-press, the reality of the war is filtering into the public’s consciousness. Certain phrases are haunting us: “weapons of mass destruction”… “yellow-cake uranium”… “al Qaeda connection”… “mission accomplished”… and “bring ’em on”…
The Bush administration carries on with a brave face — being far removed itself from the smell of burning vehicles and bleeding bodies — secure in the knowledge that they cannot and will not have to run for re-election. The polls that show 60 % of Americans now believing the war was wrong have no effect on them, because they are securely situated in power, and they can continue for the next 3.7 years to roll the dice in Iraq with other people’s lives and hope for a miraculous breakthrough.
But there are 435 House and 35 Senate seats that could be contested in 2006, and many of them also staked their futures on this war, and they are watching these poll numbers with very grim faces indeed. Many are beginning to feel a little like the ballroom dancers on the Titanic, and while they praised her virtues yesterday, the icy fingers of self-preservation are clutching at their hearts and vanquishing superficial loyalties.
Nixon, they remember, was elected in a huge landslide in 1972. On August 9, 1974, he resigned in arrant disgrace and had to rely on the newly ascendent President Gerald Ford to pardon him on September 28 from all future criminal charges.
Some people’s eyesight is better than others, and they can read the signs along the road from further away. Representative Walter Jones, Jr., a North Carolina conservative Republican, has his driving glasses on. He is working with some Democrats and other Republicans on a resolution to name a departure date from Iraq. This is the same man who re-named oily fast-food potatoes “freedom fries,” after the French refused to co-sign the Bush war in the UN Security Council. He has two major military installations in his district, and his constituents, along with those troublesome poll numbers, are telling him enough is enough.
Like the white Southern segregationist politicians who had religious epiphanies after the Voting Rights Act passed, and abandoned their racial ideologies in exchange for those big pools of Black Belt votes, Jones has undergone a miraculous conversion on Iraq.
He may the first of many. In the same way that Democrats developed a public allergy to their own commander in chief, when the DNA was extracted from the blue dress and the presidential cigar… well… As the USS Bush begins to take on water in earnest, you can bet that more Republicans will be looking to the lifeboats.
This should also send a quiver of distress up the spines of the most Machiavellian Democrats.
In 2004, they could have their war and their anti-war voters, too. They had that special power to say, “We are all you’ve got.”
But what happens if Republicans begin to oppose the war? That is to say, what happens when the pressure of the American masses, slowly waking to the reality of the war “over there,” is such that the war becomes an issue? With two pro-war candidates, there was nothing left to the confused masses but Roe v. Wade on the one hand and the cherished homophobia of the right on the other. What if, these most guileful of Dems must ask themselves, there are more Walter Joneses, and antiwar voters can turn away from their Democrat-dependency to register their opposition to the war?
The polls that are increasing Maalox sales along Constitution Avenue not only showed that the Republican position of maintaining current troop levels in Iraq was unpopular, but that the most unpopular position was the very one articulated by the John-John Democratic Party ticket for 2004 — that is, send MORE troops. Ain’t life funny?
Suddenly, the masses have this period when a window of power, however small, has opened. Given the herd behavior of Congress generally, and the political poopie-on-the-shoe that Iraq is now becoming, a flood of demands from the public to these intrepid politicos to end the war has what I like to call stampede potential.
I’m not talking about lobbying. Don’t think so. I’ve done lobbying before. That’s when you dress up in something “respectful,” due deference to their positions and all that, and ask them nicely to “please, sir” support my little pet-bill. They need a flood of emails, letters, telephone calls, and visits from people wearing shower shoes and cutoff jeans (hey, it’s hot, dammit!) demanding that they do everything in their power to get the US out of Iraq… yesterday! Lobbying gives them the power. They need to be harassed like stray cats caught in a schoolyard.
I’ll personally contact my jellyfish Democrat, David Price, and tell him that I’ll vote a Republican out of sheer delicious spite if he doesn’t overcome his issue-aversion. If he were a Republican, I’d tell him the same thing about a Democrat challenger. This is the year of the anti-war tidal shift, so it is the year to stoke the terrors of incumbency.
Republicans have their own fears to deal with. Bush is still in the White House, and none of his cabinet seem to be getting any smarter.
That’s my suggestion, just a starter suggestion. Every week from now on, write your Congress-hack (there are a few who don’t deserve this) and tell him (or her) that you are extremely disappointed in them for not having stopped the war. Get as many people as you can to do the same thing. Call them on the phone until they sign out a restraining order against you for stalking. Take delegations to her (or his) office.
Warning: This stuff is harder than whining, and requires a certain amount of time and effort.
Then organize at least two public events — one in July and one in September, no matter how small, in your local community — that explain why the war is wrong. If you want to know how to answer that business of “we broke it, we own it,” I have talking points listed at http://stangoff.com/index.php?p=134. That’s the next layer we have to win over — the people who didn’t want the war, who don’t want the war, but can’t conceive of how the US can simply leave.
Contact Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, September 11 Families for a Peaceful Tomorrow, and Iraq Veterans Against the War, and have them contact local reps to attend these events. They have immunity from pro-war, patriot-baiting nonsense. At each of these events, badger people unmercifully to come to Washington DC on September 24-26 for a mass mobilization against the war. Information is available at http://www.unitedforpeace.org/. Don’t just badger them to come, badger them to get others to come. Badger them to pay for at least one person to come that can’t afford to come.
Because when a poll makes Walter Jones, Jr. abandon his “freedom fries” chauvinism in a district where the 2nd Marine Division lives, there is fear stalking the halls of the federal legislature, and we should exploit it without shame. It is now mid-June. We have over three months, around 95 days, in fact, in which to drown out the air conditioners droning in the offices of Wall Street’s political representatives. We have 95 days to pre-Nixonize George W. Bush, before we show up on their doorsteps and tell them, “Enough!”
Or we escalate…
STAN GOFF is the author of “Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti” (Soft Skull Press, 2000), “Full Spectrum Disorder” (Soft Skull Press, 2003) and “Sex & War” which will be released approximately December, 2005. He is retired from the United States Army. His blog is at www.stangoff.com.
Goff can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org