Star Democrats and the Prolongation of the Iraq War

As Congressional Republicans dove in approval rating from 57% to 37% in May, some liberal Democrats wonder why their Party has not correspondingly leaped in opinion polls. One answer lies in Senator Hillary Clinton (NY), the Democrats’ high profiler. She and a few other presidential aspirants have accepted Karl Rove’s Orwellian axiom. By labeling irresponsible behavior as “responsible,” Bush spinners have disabled their opponents.

A mid June poll, for example, indicated that the public wants a withdrawal plan for Iraq. Bush calls this majority sentiment “irresponsible” and “cut and run” behavior when Democrats call for it. Leading Democratic candidates should scoff at such White House language. After all, they can point to Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who went to prison for taking payoffs from Jack Abramoff. The Republican lobbyist also bought favors from other key Republicans, in return for fancy golf trips and other perks. Even supposedly conservative Republican voters see their Representatives irresponsibly violating tradition: encouraging the growth of debt and deficit.

Instead of convincing voters to turn toward them with a unified platform, including withdrawal from Iraq, Democrats face eternal division. Clinton, Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Virginia Governor Mark Warner, for examples, fell into Rove’s “responsible” trap. They accept illogic: US military presence “stabilizes” rather than de-stabilizes. Facts stare at them. The US occupation of Iraq created chaos. The White House claims withdrawal rewards the enemy, although the US controlled Iraqi government has asked for a withdrawal by 2007 and the definition of “enemy” has become ambiguous. On June 20, the Pentagon admitted that Iraqi troops killed two of their own US trainers.

Traditionally hawkish House Democrats, like Vietnam veteran John Murtha (PA), call for immediate withdrawal. Hillary sneers. While she does not “think it’s a smart strategy for the president to continue with his open ended commitment,” because the Iraqi government feels no pressure, she also refuses to “set a date certain.” She simply said: “I do not think it is in our best interests.”

She offered no explanation of how US troops could restore security to a population 47% of whom justify attacks on Americans. 82% of Iraqis polled want the US out now. Hillary had no plan to regenerate electricity, create jobs, or restore order. Rove’s “responsibility” means open-ended occupation of Iraq. This means more aberrant US military behavior.

Does “responsible” describe” US troops’behavior in Haditha, where they massacred civilians on November 19, 2005, or murdered a man in Hamdaniya on April 26, 2006, who refused to become an informer?

A sizeable section of the Party, led by Senators Russ Feingold (WI), John Edwards (SC) and John Kerry (MA), regaining his courage after waffling in 2004, demands immediate pullout. But Hillary’s star casts an opportunistic shadow over such enlightened views.

Hillary has taught her “responsible” (euphemism for vague?) language to another presidential aspirant. Virginia Governor Mark Warner “doesn’t think we need to re-fight how we got into (the Iraq war). I think we need to focus more on how to finish it To set an arbitrary deadline or specific date is not appropriate.” Warner’s “morality” does not ask about Bush’s original sin (or lie): “Regardless of whether we like how we got there, we need to finish the task. (Jim Geraghty National Review on Line Jan 19, 2006)

If US troops leave precipitously ­whatever that means — Iraq will descend into chaos and civil war, warn the “responsibles.” The daily media reports widespread killing and chaos. Shi’ites kill Sunnis and vice versa; Shi’ites kill each other and Kurds fight both. God forbid Iraq breaks out into civil war! The US invasion and occupation caused this havoc. US troop presence exacerbates the suffering; yet “responsible” Democrats demand that “we don’t cut and run.”

All Senators should read Gabriel Kolko’s The Age of War. Wars don’t turn out the way their initiators intended, Kolko explains. German, Austrian, French and British “statesmen” who started World War I did not foresee that poison gas and bombs dropped by airplanes would kill millions. Nor did they hope that Russians would overthrow the Czar and launch a communist revolution.

Similarly, Hitler and Tojo saw war as a way to expand rather than reduce the power of their empires, not get Tokyo and Dresden firebombed and, in the case of Japan, fall victim to nuclear weapons.

When Truman intervened in Korea, he believed his military experts who promised that superior US air power would quickly dispatch the lower technology foe. Similarly, the high tech military proponents did not conceive that the Vietnamese would “grab the Americans by the belt,” (close range combat) as General Giap described his method for neutralizing US superior technology.

These “responsible” military chiefs did not count on the sheer grit, discipline and determination of the Vietnamese resistance. Nor did they anticipate that a sizeable US public would mobilize for anti war activities inside the United States, leading to the building of a movement that would divide the country and sap the will of the military and political leadership ­ and leave scars for decades.

Kolko points out that “The Vietnam War was but one major milestone in humankind’s repeated, futile experience in the twentieth century of making wars that profoundly shaped global political and social development in ways ultimately much more dangerous for the war-makers.”

US intervention in Southeast Asia had a profound and long-term effect on the United States ­ one that is far from over. Indeed, the 2004 presidential election featured major supposed “scandals” involving Bush’s service or non-service on the National Guard and Kerry’s heroism or cowardice as a swift boat commander in Vietnam.

Vietnam, too, became transformed by the American War. Not only did it lose 3 million people and suffer 4 million wounded, but the nature of US tactics provoked the urbanization of the country. By dropping Agent Orange to defoliate the countryside and by forcing peasants to leave their villages en masse, US war strategists helped shape an industrial Vietnam from an agricultural one ­ a result of war that was totally unforeseen by either side.

“After over a half century of surprises,” wrote Kolko, “the ignorance and myopia of the men and women who embarked upon wars was as great as ever.” No reporter has yet identified anyone who might have provided for Bush a worst case scenario, before or after the President decided to invade Iraq.

Why then does Hillary think US troops, who can barely secure the narrow Green Zone territory in Baghdad, will magically restore national integrity to Iraq? US firepower and bombing technology killed Zarqawi of Al-Qaeda, but high tech US violence does not cure low tech violence in Iraq.

The Democrats have failed to show courage and unity to win voters’ support. They call for propping up social security and Medicare and increasing the minimum wage. Do they see these old saws as examples of political backbone?

As divided and phlegmatic as the Party appeared on Iraq in its early June “Take Back America” conference, it is still crucial that they win at least one House. If corrupt, deceitful and incompetent Republicans regain control of the Senate and the House, it will show that American voters don’t care how much they get screwed and they don’t see the Democrats as a viable opposition.

Each Democrat could point to Bush’s initial lie and say: “The Administration lied then and now. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned on September 19, 2002: “No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.” Three weeks later, Bush said: “This man poses a much graver threat than anybody could have possibly imagined.” (Sept. 26, 2002) A week later, he added: “The Iraqi regimehas developed weapons of mass death.” (October 2, 2002)

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who was a member of the National Security Council, indicated that “[i]n the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would characterize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction.”

In September 2002, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency concluded “there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or whether Iraq has ­ or will ­ establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities.”

Instead of exposing the lie that led to the tangled web, Hillary and other “responsible” Senators like Lieberman perpetuate Rove’s Orwellian notion of “responsibility.” Like the White House, they defy logic by pushing an open ended death policy in Iraq. What a way to win back both Houses and the Presidency!

SAUL LANDAU is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. His forthcoming book, A Bush and Botox World, will be published by CounterPunch Press this fall.



SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.