“We should start now to talk about filibustering for the saving of lives and of our country.”
That is a direct quote from John Kerry. Unfortunately it is from April, 1971. Now Senator Kerry will not go so far as to vote against the supplemental appropriations to end the war. In a conference call with the Smedley Butler Brigade, the Boston Chapter of Veterans for Peace, Kerry refused on Tuesday to vote against the Supplemental Appropriation for the War on Iraq. It is possible with only 41 Senate votes to filibuster the war to an end, as pointed out on February 8 here in CounterPunch. Although there are 51 Democrats in the Senate, not one Senator has stepped forward to fight for such a filibuster. Meanwhile Americans and innocent Iraqis die every day in Iraq.
But John Kerry is simply one of the ugliest examples of the Democrats’ complicity in the war. And that complicity reflects the complicity of much of the “official” peace movement. Let’s look at the facts. In October 2002, the Democrats controlled the Senate when the Iraq resolution came up. 23 Senators, including one Republican, Lincoln Chafee, voted against it. Right there it could have been stopped. 18 more votes would have sustained a filibuster and the resolution would have been dead. But those 18 votes did not emerge. Why? Because every Democratic Senator facing a close election in the very next month or harboring presidential ambitions voted in favor of the resolution. The only exception of which I know was the late Paul Wellstone. Daschle and Cleland voted for the resolution and they lost their races anyway, defeats they richly deserved. And of course John Edwards and John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, all with presidential ambitions, voted for the war. Kerry compounded his criminality by running on a prowar platform in 2004. It is interesting that the polls had a majority turning against the war late in October of 2004 just before the election, but Kerry had locked himself into his bellicose stance and lost. Think about that. John Kerry consciously decided to climb to the presidency atop a mountain of Iraqi and American corpses. To make amends for that crime, a simple apology will never be enough.
So the Democrats gave Bush his war for the sake of their ambitions, precisely what Rove and AIPAC were counting on. And year after year Bush came along with requests for supplemental funding. And each year the Democrats provided the votes. But the Dems were not in the majority, say “Progressive” Democrats of America and some in the leadership of United for Peace and Justice. In fact that is why those folks urged us to vote for Dems in 2006. But in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 the Democrats had 41 votes in the Senate, giving them the power to end the war in any of those years. They never even tried. And now they have 51 votes, a majority and much more than they need to filibuster against the war appropriations. And still they will not so much as raise the issue of the filibuster. It has been the Democrats’ war all along; it was from the start; and it is so in spades today.
The root cause is not spineless Dem politicians but a spineless official peace movement.
Now dear reader, if you are part of the “mainstream” peace movement, represented by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), for example, do not start to mutter to yourself about spineless Democratic politicians. For the fault lies not in our politicians, but in ourselves. Let us remind ourselves that twice in two weeks, the avowedly prowar Senators, mainly Republicans, filibustered against a toothless non-binding anti-war resolution against the war. Why? Their base demands it. Theirs is not a spineless base, and so they are not spineless legislators But in over four years the supposedly antiwar Democratic Senators did not even raise the idea of a filibuster. Why not? In part because their base did not demand it. Not once was it raised to my knowledge. What does the mainstream or “official” antiwar movement, as it more properly should be called, do? Does it demand or does it grovel? Quite frankly it grovels at most. The Dem politicians are spineless in part, because we are.
Whenever a UFPJ group goes to “lobby” the Congressmen or Senators, the unwritten rule (violated by the present writer on many occasions) is to “make nice”.’ Do not risk weakening the “relationships” with legislators and staff is the mantra. It is all carrot and no stick. And what are the results? No filibuster. Continued war. And from first hand experience, when one threatens the legislator with supporting another candidate in the coming election, a pained look comes over the UFPJ “facilitator,” and one can rely on being tut-tutted into silence.
But take this a step farther. The Democratic politicians know full well that there is no stick. “P”DA can be relied on to support the most retrograde of Democratic candidates in the end as can “progressives” like Dennis Kucinich.
In fact without a third party, there is no stick. Ralph Nader is right on this point. The Democrats will never change unless they face an electoral challenge. It is time to build that challenge. And it is time for more of us to get involved in movements like the Occupation Project. We must refuse to leave the offices of Senators until we have obtained written pledges to vote against the war and to join a filibuster. The time is late.
John V. Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
He thanks Nate Goldschlag of Veterans for Peace for digging up the quote from John Kerry. When VFP went to occupy Senator Kerry’s office after their initial conference call with Kerry, they found a large police detail waiting to repulse them. Fort Kerry has not yet been breached.