Democrats in Full Battle Cry

“As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.” George W. Bush, Fort Bragg, NC, June 28, 2005.

“We can begin drawing down American forces to coincide with the number of trained Iraqi forces.” Former Senator George McGovern and Congressman James McGovern (no relation), Boston Globe Op-ed, June 6, 2005.

” We cannot afford to lose”(1). “There’s not enough force on the ground now to mount a real counterinsurgency”(2). Senator Joseph Biden, Senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, commenting on Bush’s speech at Fort Bragg.

“We don’t have enough troops” there (2). Failed Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry on Bush’s speech.

Last week George W. Bush delivered himself of a speech gorged with stale and rotten lies, calling for the U.S. to fight on against an increasingly effective Iraqi Resistance to a criminal war and occupation. The speech, designed to rally Americans behind a path of ever more death and destruction, was delivered at the urging of Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. And after the speech, Democratic Senator Chris Dodd was bursting with praise for Bush, saying: “The president needs to do more of what he did last evening. This is a beginning”(2). If there were any doubt where leading Democrats stand on the war in Iraq, it was totally dispelled by their reaction to Bush’s speech. The war may or may not have been a mistake in the first place; that the Dems can debate ­ at least now that their support for the war lies safely in the past where no amount of debate can reverse it. But for the present and future, the Democratic elites are resolved as one to continue the killing and even to escalate it. The Democratic Party has emerged beyond any doubt as “the other war party.”

The Democrats’ response to Bush’s lies was so strikingly at odds with the role of an opposition party that it drew attention even in some quarters of the mass media. Joan Vennochi, for one, ordinarily a mild-mannered columnist for the Boston Globe, took note in a column, “Democrats Buy into Bush’s War”(1). Vennochi was right on target when she concluded that: “If you listen carefully, you realize Democrats like Kerry and Biden are saying that this war is being fought the wrong way, not that this is the wrong war. They have bought into the Karl Rove argument that might makes right.” Vennochi focuses a lot of attention on John Kerry who continues to press for more troops as he has since before the election. But Kerry goes even further now, responding to a TV interviewer as Vennochi reports: ”’Is Bush getting an unfair shake?’ (asked the interviewer). Kerry answered: ‘To some degree, I think that’s true. And I’ve said that publicly. We’ve made progress (in Iraq).’ Kerry also rejected Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s labeling of Iraq as ‘an intractable quaqmire.’ Said Kerry: ‘No, I don’t believe it is that today. But it could become that if we don’t make the right choices.'” So there Kerry is, calling for more troops and dissociating himself from Ted Kennedy who has been the only Democratic Senator calling for disengagement now and properly labeling the whole sordid adventure as a “quaqmire” (1).

Nor has Hillary Clinton been a silent member of this pro-war chorus, saying: ”We have many disagreements about how to engage in [Iraq] and how to win it, but I never want to live through that (the struggle to end the war in Vietnam) again”(4). Here Hillary defines the limits of the debate, i.e. “how to engage,” not whether to engage, and “how to win,” not how to withdraw. But Clinton stoops even further and repudiates the entire Vietnam era of struggle, which produced not only a strong anti-war consciousness, the so-called “Vietnam syndrome,” but also great advances for civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, voting rights and strides against racism. So too, out of the struggle forced upon us now to end the war in Iraq, great good may come. But Hillary Clinton would prefer that the blood continue to flow in Iraq rather than a political struggle over the war take place in the U.S.

One could go on and cite the ravings of Howard Dean and Joseph Lieberman which are the same or worse than those of Kerry, Dodd, Clinton and Biden. But the bottom line can be discerned from the quotes at the beginning of this piece. “Iraqization” is the policy of George Bush and some prominent and powerless “left-wing” Democrats like George McGovern. But the Democratic Party bosses are calling for sending even more troops. It is no exaggeration to say that these Democrats are more hawkish than Bush. Why is this, one might ask. After all, the war is highly unpopular, with 60% of Americans favoring withdrawal of some or all troops, and 56% saying they would be “upset” if more troops were sent. Why then do the Democrats not take up this issue? The reason is that they do not respond to their progressive and activist base, for which they have a barely concealed contempt. They answer to the same masters as Bush: the oil barons, AIPAC and the tycoons of the military-industrial complex.

I have asked several times in this space why the anti-war movement is not making more headway given the popular hostility to the Iraq disaster. One reason, but not the only one, is that too many progressives and “liberals” blindly follow the Democrats who wish us to see the issue of the war as a partisan one. It is “lesser evil politics” in part which guarantees that the war will grind on. So what is to be done? These Democrats respect only power and cringe only at the prospect of losing elections. There is no reason for any of us to give them one dime or one minute of time in 2006. And we have a moral obligation to deny them both. If some Democrats take an unequivocal and strong position to get out of Iraq at once and completely, then they can claim our support. But not otherwise.

John V. Walsh can be reached at



















John V. Walsh, until recently a Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, has written on issues of peace and health care for the San Francisco Chronicle, EastBayTimes/San Jose Mercury News, Asia Times, LA Progressive,, CounterPunch and others.