The message on November 7 was clear. Voters threw out pro-war politicians and sent Democrats to Congress demanding an end to the Iraq war. Since then, voter opposition to the costly US occupation has grown sharper as polls show growing opposition to the war from across the political spectrum 62% among Republicans and 88% of Democrats. Even a majority of Military Times readers oppose the war.
Yet, it took only a few weeks for the Democratic leadership to betray the majority of Americans by quickly pledging to keep the war money flowing. In doing so, Congress is in danger of once again abrogating its responsibility by not using its Constitutional “power of the purse” to control the president’s war-making. This further undermines the checks and balances system of our government.
If an overwhelming referendum by voters against the war is not enough to force a change in policy, what is left to voters in this democracy? If Americans marshal time, money and votes in support of winning candidates come away empty handed, what utility remains in the ballot box? If candidates, once elected, take office and spend vast sums of money against the explicit wishes of the voting public, what does that say of our democracy? Perhaps we must return to the methods of the Boston Tea Party because surely this is Appropriation Without Representation.
Bush, elected under controversial circumstances, is now calling on Congress–and thus the American public–to shoulder an additional $97.7 billion or more in war debt on top of $70 billion already approved for 2007 and $320 billion already spent.
Instead, Bush has whiplashed in the opposite direction foolishly rejecting the moderate Iraq Study Group recommendations to withdraw half of US troops by 2008 and to join Iran and Syria to the negotiating table. After six weeks of deliberation, he now talks of sending an additional 20,000 troops or more.
Support for a ‘troop surge’ is at a puny 11%. This viewpoint is supported by Sen. John McCain, the leading likely Republican candidate for President; it is also supported by Sen. Hillary Clinton, the leading likely Democratic candidate, ‘if it has a purpose.’
If the war is the defining issue of our time, then there need not be talk of political parties. Rather we can talk of the Kucinich-Hagel wing of the Congress and the Clinton-McCain wing. While some Democratic presidential candidates express opposition to the handling of the war, and call for beginning withdrawal in 2007, only one candidate (announced or likely) has actually called for complete withdrawal, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who is treated by the media and his party as a marginal candidate. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who has called for troops out within six months, could be the second if he decides to run.
Now that Peace is the clear political center, Congress should ask, “What do anti-war voters want?” The answer is: end the war. Even James Baker acknowledged on CNN the ‘validity of the argument’ that withdrawing U.S. troops will lessen the violence because the U.S. will “no longer be seen as occupiers.” In fact, the Pentagon reports that the vast majority of attacks in Iraq–over 80%–are directed at the U.S. and the Iraqi military, more than the highly publicized sectarian violence.
And, if we exit responsibly as suggested by Rep. McGovern (D-MA) and put forward by former Senator George McGovern and Dr. William Polk in “Out of Iraq,” we will fund the reconstruction of Iraq by Iraqis and underwrite a peace keeping or stabilization force with an Arab face. This will reduce Iraqi unemployment (estimated at over 50%), and let Iraqis know they are getting their country back, including their oil. All of this will do more to reduce the violence, then the escalation of violence inherent in a stay the course strategy. And, this plan will immediately save the American taxpayer more than $100 billion–money it will not have to borrow from China or other countries.
For voters, this is a call to action. Elected officials must be told that they ignore the American voter at their peril. Voters need to let elected officials know that being pro-war–against the will of the voters – risks losing contributions and elections. It is time for peace voters to get more organized. If you want the war to end show Congress you are serious by signing the voters pledge at VotersForPeace.US that you will not support any candidate who does not support a speedy end to the war in Iraq.
Both the ‘troop surge’ and the upcoming debate on the $97 billion ‘supplemental’ appropriation will be important litmus tests for the health of our democracy. If the will of American voters is trampled again, the peace issue will have transformed into a democracy issue. We need to put the ‘representative’ back in our ‘democracy’ and demand that elected officials do what voters expect regarding Iraq. And if they won’t, patriotic Americans might be looking to our nation’s early years for instruction on how to throw Parties to which the current King George and his loyalists will not be invited.
Linda Schade is executive director of VotersForPeace.US and Kevin Zeese is a co-founder of VotersForPeace.US and Director of DemocracyRising.