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Going Beyond the 'Cindy Sheehan' Stage of Iraq Protest

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Cindy Sheehan performed an important function for us who oppose this Bushite regime: she was the first to be able to get sympathetic coverage by the media for a popular movement to confront the Bushites.

It is time now, however, for us to move beyond the somewhat simple-minded mantra of the anti-war movement that she represents-- the mantra that focuses its agenda on the call for the (perhaps immediate) withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Such a shift is necessary because the "bring the troops home" approach is not great either as policy or as politics.

It's not great policy because it shows no signs of being a well-considered judgment regarding what is the least-worst policy choice for the United States from among its very unattractive options. It seems to be, rather, a gesture of protest against the mess these Bushites have made in Iraq, and against the disgraceful way this mess has come about.

The situation in Iraq is undoubtedly a terrible mess. And the responsibility for this mess falls entirely upon the Bushites --who freely chose this war, arrogantly launched it, and then incompetently bungled it. And the Bushites should be held fully accountable for their sins, their crimes, and their blunders.

But just because it is a mess, it does not necessarily follow that simply pulling out is the best choice, even in moral terms, even for the Iraqis, even for Americans. The United States has both obligations and important interests at stake in this Iraqi mess the Bushites created. As Colin Powell told his president --that guy whose "strength of character" is that he never suffers doubt-- if you break it, you own it.

The fact that it's a disaster for us to be there doesn't preclude the possibility that a hasty American pull-out would be a still greater disaster. This is a conversation that we Americans need to have, and nothing remotely approaching a serious conversation on that subject has taken place. (Of course, in Bushite-ruled America, a truly honest and serious conversation has been impossible on any subject.)

Protesters shouting "bring the troops home" and a president making empty pronouncements about "completing the mission" do not constitute the conversation this country needs to have.

It's also not altogether good politics because it tends to reinforce the image of the opposition as being reflexively against the American use of force in the world. Ever since the Vietnam period, leaders on the right have been able to use this image effectively against their opponents on the left. The more frightened Americans are, the more effective has been this image of the Democratic Party as pacifist or anti-American wimps. And ever since 9/11, thanks in part to the assiduous work of the Bushites in cultivating fear, Americans have been afraid.

So what might be a better approach to this mess in Iraq?

To the extent that the call for the withdrawal of the troops is a way to compel the Bushites to admit what a mess they've made with their arrogance, their misjudgments, their lies, another and more powerful approach may now be available: we have before us displayed the stuff of scandal, and possible grounds for impeachment as well.

The Fitzgerald investigation has helped to bring to the center of the American stage the scandalous way --dishonest, dishonorable-- in which this leadership led the country into war.

These moral issues are what should be stressed. As I wrote in my piece on a "prophetic" social movement, we should wage this struggle not in those political terms that separate right and left but on the basis of those values that are shared by Americans of good will on both sides of the divide. The right and left have been divided for more than a generation on the American use of force in defense of its national interest, and on how much "honor" requires the country to see even its misguided adventures through rather than "cut and run." But on the question of whether it is OK for an American president to deceive and manipulate the American people in order to take the country to war-- on that there will be no difference between good liberals and good conservatives.

The scandal now displayed before us should be told again and again with the power of that prophetic voice that speaks moral truth to amoral power.

But there's more: in this scandal, there seem to be genuine grounds for impeachment. That is the argument of a persuasive piece written this past weekend by the former federal prosecutor, Elizabeth de la Vega.

Elizabeth de la Vega suggests that there is evidence of a crime: "The President's deceit is not only an abuse of power; it is a federal crime. Specifically, it is a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, which prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States."

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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