Taking over the Congress on a wave of popular revulsion at the twin catastrophes in Iraq and Afghanistan, Democrats could have issued immediate calls for an end to those wars, a return of the troops, and investigations into the criminal causes of those costly fiascos. They could have initiated efforts to halt funding for further war and foreign occupation. Of course, taking such stands and actions would have opened them to charges of being "soft on terror," but the public clearly isn't buying that crap any more. With a little courage and leadership they could have handled it, and come out winners.
Instead, they took what they thought was the easy road, condemning not the criminal policies themselves, but only the administration's handling of the wars. This led some to call not for an end to the wars, but for more troops.
Now, Bush has called their bluff by proposing just that: more troops for Iraq (the so-called "surge" option), and a major expansion of the army over the longer term--the better to allow the president to invade other countries even as the nation is already mired in two losing wars.
And what are the Democrats in Congress going to do? Devoid of any principles, their chance to demand an end to reckless imperialist military adventures squandered, they are likely to fall in line and vote to fund both an escalation of the Iraq War and an expansion of the military.
It's a double win for Bush. He gets the funding for more war right through the end of his second term of office, allowing him to hand the Iraq quagmire to the next president, making it someone else's job to take the blame for the eventually unavoidable loss. And he gets a bigger defense budget and more troops to play with--perhaps as much as a 10 percent increase in total combat troops.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the allegedly liberal, allegedly anti-war incoming speaker of the House, and incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry "send-in-the-cavalry" Reid can kiss their much touted "First 100 Hours" progressive agenda goodbye. With all the new money that will have to be thrown into the Pentagon sinkhole, there won't be a dime for domestic spending.
The Pentagon budgeters claim deceptively that every increase of 10,000 new troops adds another $1.5 billion in defense costs, which makes a 50,000 increase in troop strength sound like a manageable $7.5 billion extra--a drop in the bucket of a $500-billion defense budget. But this figure is grossly misleading. First of all it doesn't include the back-end costs of pensions, benefits and support costs, and the interest on the debt, which taken together at least double the figure to over $15 billion a year. But more importantly, it doesn't factor in the costs when those extra troops are actually sent into battle, where the costs of support, equipment, equipment replacement, medical and long-term care can explode. And make no mistake, the purpose of adding troops to the U.S. active-duty roster is to use them for further war-mongering and further imperial adventurism.
Singer John Fogerty had it right: this is déjà vu all over again.
When President Lyndon Johnson saw that the Vietnam War was being lost, he over-rode the best advice he was getting that the war was a lost cause, and escalated the fighting with a massive infusion of troops and an expansion of the U.S. military. The only result was more killing of Vietnamese and Laotians, and more dying of American troops. President Nixon did the same thing. Instead of ending the war when he took over the presidency in 1968, he upped the ante again, eventually raising the number of US troops in Indochina to over half a million, doubling the number of Southeast Asians killed to over two million, and more than doubling U.S. casualties to an eventual 58,000 before the U.S. finally had to admit defeat.
"Surge" is the new escalation, and we're set to repeat this tragedy, with Democrats (the new "sucker"), who had a chance to call a halt to the nonsense, instead stupidly joining the mad charge.
The end result of this betrayal of the electorate, which has made it clear it wants an end to the Iraq War, will be a collapse of the Democrats in 2008, with the party losing both houses of Congress and probably the White House too. It will be a richly deserved collapse.
While the hour is late, there is yet a slim chance for the public to rescue the Democrats from this course of political suicide and the nation from disaster. If masses of committed people from all walks of life take to the streets on January 27, when United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and Impeach for Change are planning a major demonstration against war and against the crimes of the Bush administration, maybe enough Democrats in Congress will realize the intensity of public opposition to further pointless mayhem and slaughter in the Middle East, and will realize the only option is to pull the plug on the president's imperialist megalomania--and to initiate impeachment hearings against the president.
I realize counting on Democrats to do the right thing, even in their own self-interest, is a thin reed on which to rest hopes for a return to national sanity, but we need to grasp it.