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Biggest Ever March on Washington Needed

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By Lawrence Velvel and Sherwood Ross

Even though Democrats rolled up a 7-million vote victory margin Nov. 7th in protest of the war in Iraq, President Bush's intransigent response January 10th was to call for the escalation of U.S. troops rather than for their withdrawal. Senator Christopher Dodd (D.-Conn.) termed Iraq policy "a fool's paradise" and Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb.) dubbed the escalation call "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam." Yet there is no sign from the timorous Democratic leaders in Congress to cut-off all funding for this deceitful war, not merely for the added 21,500 so-called "surge" troop buildup. The sooner the withdrawal the better, as there is not now, and never will be, an "honorable" way Mr. Bush to withdraw from a dishonorable war.

The bipartisan sense of urgency Americans (much less Iraqis!) feel about ending the unwanted war President Bush brought into their lives does not seem to have communicated itself to the Congress. If an equivalent six-million Americans had been killed and 10-million wounded and 18-million had fled the country, and 50% were jobless, and the streets and schools unsafe, and the electricity reduced to a flicker, and the hospitals overwhelmed with the untreated, and the morgues overflowing with the dead, Congress might have acted a bit quicker.

But since it isn't happening here, Congressional leaders temporized. They looked the other way when the president made unsubstantiated charges Saddam Hussein had WMD. Later, they took at face value the president's claim of "mission accomplished," then his claim we were winning, then his claim the capture of Saddam Hussein marked the beginning of the end, and so forth. Time after time, Congress gave Mr. Bush the benefit of the doubt. Congress waited patiently for the Iraq Study Group to make its report, and patiently for President Bush to consider its alternatives, all to no avail as far as responding to the war-weary wishes of the American people, who have, incidentally, been parted from $400-billion in taxes with zero to show for it---and who may yet get a final invoice of anywhere from $1- to $3-trillion.

Some Democrats who refuse to consider a fund cut-off, have bought the Bush Justice Department line that a war-time commander-in-chief is supreme; that, as a military man, he can override Congress. Yet history shows the C-in-C power was enacted to ensure the military remains subordinate to civilian control, just as George Washington, when C-in-C of the Continental Army, was subordinate to the civilian authority of the Continental Congress. The supremacy of civilian authority over the military was further cemented by two Supreme Court decisions, Bas v. Tingy in 1800, and Talbot v. Seeman, in 1801.

So there is no merit to the claim that Bush as C-in-C can prolong the war as he pleases even if Congress votes to cut off funds. For Bush to ignore Congress in this way would be both illegal and precisely the type of "high crime and misdemeanor" intended by Ben Franklin who fought for the impeachment provision in the Constitution. To rationalize that Bush can rule with kingly suzerainty is merely a false attempt by timid Democrats to seek political cover for cowardice that places their misperceived political interest over their morality.

If past performance is prologue, Mr. Bush will continue the war until his very last day in office, leaving the job of finding a way out to his successors and the bill for his reckless borrowing to fund the war to future generations. Unless Congress can be motivated to put an immediate end to the war, the Iraqi people will be consigned to at least two more years of hell on earth.

House Speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi talks of "compromise" with hawkish Republicans when there can be no compromise with the making of an unjust war. If the American people are tired of having their youth killed for no honest reason, they will respond by sending Congress a message with a new and mighty "March on Washington," one even greater than the August 28, 1963 march. In that year, aggrieved African-Americans and their white allies set the moral tone for the civil rights movement. The March was a victory celebration in the name of morality and social justice. It was an appeal to Congress to enact the civil rights legislation that, eventually, galvanized Congress to enact laws that profoundly changed this nation for the better.

The American people need to have an even grander march today in the name of the aggrieved people of Iraq, upon whom we have worked a terrible injustice, worse than segregation, worse than an occasional lynching, worse than slum housing, worse even than restricting their educational and vocational opportunities. Our president has made a dishonest and deceitful war upon them, killing them by the hundreds of thousands, disrupting their lives, tearing apart the very civil fabric of their society, forcing them to flee their homes, and we, in the name of humanity, must put an end to it now. And if Congress did not get the message on November 7th, we, the American people, will have to go to Washington and shout.

(Lawrence Velvel is Dean and cofounder of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Sherwood Ross is a Miami, Fla.-based reporter.)

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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)
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