At the time of the 2004 presidential election, the country was almost evenly split on the question of the Iraq war, but sentiment was moving steadily and irreversibly against the war. And yet neither major candidate opposed the war in 2004. Republican George Bush was calling for us to fight on, and Democrat John Kerry was calling–well, for us to fight on. If anything, Kerry was the more belligerent of the two, demanding an additional 40,000 troops. Now a clear and ever growing majority is opposed to the war. In the light of that do we want to have a repeat of the 2004 spectacle in 2008? Do we want another presidential campaign in which a hawk runs against another hawk, with the view of the majority of voters represented by neither major party candidate?
That is precisely what will happen if we allow the Democratic establishment to field presidential candidates who are pro-war, who call for fighting on and for “staying the course” in Iraq. To allow such an electoral development once again would be politically inexcusable and morally reprehensible. It would mean that we are acquiescing in what former President Jimmy Carter has correctly called “an unnecessary and unjust war.”
We must remember that the Iraq war is a bipartisan one. The Senate was controlled by the Democrats in October, 2002, when the vote on war was taken. And no political figure is more symbolic of the Democrats’ support for the Iraqi war than John Kerry. In 2002 he voted for the War on Iraq, in the form of an “authorization” which itself was an unconstitutional transfer of power to the executive. And he says he would do the same today, knowing what he knows now! His campaign in 2004 angered many in his own party and it brought him to defeat. It was pro-war and it was a loser.
In fact the Democratic establishment has disgraced itself as an opposition force on the war. Not only is it unwilling to represent the majority of voters on this issue, but it delivers a slap in the face to the 72% of rank and file Democrats who want the U.S. out of Iraq at once. These “leaders” are obviously marching to different drummers, apparently to the same drummers to which Bush marches.
What are we to do? A number of people of all political hues and colors, Libertarians, Greens, Democrats, Independents, religious activists, and those with family members among the troops in Iraq, have joined together to picket John Kerry’s office at One Bowdoin Place every Friday at 4:30 pm to oppose the war. (We hope that the non-neocon members of the Republican Party who oppose the war will soon join us.)
We call ourselves “Not One More,” Cindy Sheehan’s memorable phrase for opposing the war. And we are not alone. In other states, antiwar activists are appearing at events where leading establishment Democratic hawks appear. In New York, Hillary Clinton, another pro-war Dem, faces demonstrations. In California, Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi have been the target of protests, which finally forced Pelosi to alter her pro-war position and back Congressman Jack Murtha’s call for total withdrawal from Iraq in no less than six months time. So such protests can and do work. (And we are not forgetting “W” in all this. Most of us have gone to Washington to protest the war, most recently last September.)
Some would argue that only Bush and not his Democratic collaborators in this unjust war should be targeted. Nothing could be more wrong-headed. Congressman Dennis Kucinich in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 warned us that the election of candidates like Kerry (or H. Clinton in 2008) would merely serve to substitute a Democratic version of the war on Iraq for the Republican one. Similarly, the late Eugene McCarthy in opposing the Vietnam war, which of course was backed by his fellow Democrats Johnson and Humphrey, identified blind partisan loyalty as the sentiment which made the war possible. His message was Daniel Webster’s maxim “to never give up to party what was meant for mankind.”
So let us follow Cindy Sheehan’s example and do what we can. It may be that a new political party, perhaps a Green/Libertarian fusion candidate, will emerge by 2008. Or it may be that the Democratic establishment (or perhaps even the Republican one) will change its ways. In either event our Friday anti-war picket calls on everyone “to never give up to party what was meant for mankind.”
JOHN WALSH and NOM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He welcomes inquiries and suggestions about the Friday anti-war pickets at John Kerry’s office.