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Political Capital to End the Iraq Occupation

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Message Ron Fullwood
It's time to set aside politics and focus on the future . . . we can't play politics as usual." -- Bush in remarks after meeting with Cabinet, Jan.3 When Bush assumed office for the second time in 2004, he was one cocky autocrat. Now, he's calling for bi-partisanship and cooperation, but that's not the atmosphere Democrats have been made to endure by his republican enablers during the entirety of his divisive term. Right after the end of his blistering campaign of 'fear and smear' -- a campaign in which he allowed his war hero opponent to be cast by his surrogates as a coward and appeaser -- and in which Bush labeled all critics of his Iraq occupation terrorist sympathizers and defeatists -- Bush claimed the vote was a mandate to escalate his war presidency and ramp up his warmongering. Referring to his 3-point victory over John Kerry, Bush claimed the vote reflected the "will of the people" and gave him "political capital" to "win" his "war on terror." "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, Bush told reporters two days after the presidential election. "Now I intend to spend it. It is my style," he said. "That's what happened in the -- after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I've earned capital in this election -- and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on." What Bush had "told the people" during that campaign was that his Iraq occupation was critical to winning his 'terror war' - the one he had seemingly abandoned in Afghanistan after bin-Laden and his associates were allowed to escape into the mountains. Later that December, Bush told reporters that "life is better now than it was under Saddam Hussein," but that, "bombers are having an effect." To make the Iraqi elections happen without disruption, Bush increased the troop levels to about 160,000, just four or five-thousand more soldiers than are still bogged down there today. These weren't just protection forces to police the polls. This bolstered force - in addition to setting up roadblocks and checkpoints hindering Iraqis freedom of movement around their country - was actively engaged with the Allawi regime in military suppression of the opposition communities; rounding up and incarcerating adult males; spreading violence and intimidation with their search and destroy raids; and causing collateral deaths of innocents from their deliberate bombing of residential neighborhoods in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq. The "political capital" Bush assumed from his re-ascending to office was a license to dig his heels into the Iraqi sand and to refuse to budge from our soldiers' defense of his new junta. The Iraqi 'elections' came and went, as did the adoption of their new constitution. But, our troops were kept in place as the violent opposition to the U.S. satellite government grew around them. Bush insisted they had to stay and fight to defend the unpopular regime. From then on, our soldiers' tour in Iraq became more of a struggle for their own survival performing his murky mission, than a "liberation" of Iraqis or any "defense of democracy" as Bush had boasted about during the campaign. There is no democracy for our soldiers to defend among the chaos in Iraq. That rationale for continuing the bloody occupation is just another in a string of lies that Bush has used to suspend the judgment of the American people about the wisdom of "moving forward" with his occupation. The Maliki regime is a government under siege, hunkered down behind the protection of our escalating forces in Baghdad. It was the inability of the new regime to consolidate enough power to calm the nation and effect any reduction of violence in Iraq which compelled some in the administration to consider allowing "alternatives to democracy" instead of a legitimate, functioning one as Bush claims exists now. It wasn't enough for Bush to accept the grace of Americans in allowing him to dodge blame for apparently allowing terrorists "safe harbor" in New Jersey and elsewhere in America before they committed their devastating attacks. It wasn't enough for Bush to be graced with the tolerance of Americans as he allowed the suspects to gain "safe harbor" in Afghanistan. It wasn't even enough for Bush to accept the grace of Americans as they allowed him to regain office, even as thousands of soldiers had lost their lives in Iraq and whose deaths were increasing at a faster rate. Bush used the "political capital" he assumed out of the election to elevate himself over the rest of Americans - to stand atop the rubble of humanity in Iraq - and posture as the defender of America and the world against the specters of opposition to his own militarism, as defender against the potential backlash brought on by his own incompetency. Instead of helping repair our nation and make it secure after the horror and injustice of the 9-11 attacks, Bush brought us a faltering occupation of Afghanistan, the escape of the perpetrators our government says were the main orchestrators of the 9-11 attacks, and a deepening civil war in Iraq which has claimed the lives of over 3000 of our soldiers. Back when Saddam's WMDs were just an abstraction, and there wasn't a scourge of open warfare and widespread sectarian murder in Iraq, there was room for Bush to claim he was liberating someone there with our military. But, since early last year, his own intelligence agencies had concluded that his continued occupation was, in fact, fueling those elements who were encouraging Jihad and violent resistance to the U.S., our interests, and our allies. Yet, that didn't stop Bush in the November campaign from defending the occupation as the "center" of his "war on terror" as he scrambled to preserve his republican enablers' legislative majority which he had used to send our troops to Iraq and keep them there. The grace of Americans in allowing Bush to continue in office had worn off by the end of the first half of his second term, and now Bush had become a raging zealot, proclaiming Iraq as a major part of his "ideological struggle" as he lashed out at his critics as akin to al-Qaeda for suggesting he abandon his Iraq fiasco. It was Bush, though, who had evoked the words and warnings of bin-Laden through his 'fear and smear' campaign, tainting politicians and average Americans alike as traitors and terrorist enablers for calling for a withdrawal of troops and an end to the occupation. The message from Americans before, during, and after the election -- in polls and in the final result which effectively replaced Bush's enabling legislative majority with Democrats -- was that they rejected, in overwhelming numbers, all of Bush's heated rationalizations for continuing the occupation of Iraq. The American people demanded that troops be brought home as soon as possible, without regard to "fighting terrorists over there" or any other of the justifications Bush had so vehemently threatened them with over the course of nearly a year of bullying speeches. In a guest column WSJ column, Bush tried to put a damper on the coming heat from the energized opposition and co-opt them into blame for the sorry state of affairs he's presented them with. "We can't play politics as usual," Bush wrote, "Democrats will control the House and Senate, and therefore we share the responsibility for what we achieve." This is from a president whose party never allowed Democratic amendments to House legislation, who blocked Democrats' access to committees (refusing at time to even let them speak), and who pushed through the most partisan congressional agenda in modern history. This from a president whose party waved around a "nuclear option" which threatened to shut down Senate debate altogether, to intimidate Democrats from their constitutional right to filibuster objectionable legislation. Americans have been resolute about their intention that their votes in the congressional midterm election translate into a change of course in Iraq. That is the "political capital" the new Congress will bring to town tomorrow. Reports are that the new Democratic majorities will offer republicans the same fat chance they themselves were granted when the GOP had the helm. The Democrats' announced 100 day agenda focusing on the promises made during the election will be enacted by our new House, with or without republican participation and votes. A significant part of that agenda should be a direct response to the clear call from the American people to end the Iraq occupation and bring our soldiers home. Bush hasn't gotten the message. He's set to ignore the American people and push forward in Iraq instead of crafting an exit with the Democratic majority as their constituents demanded. "We now have the opportunity to build a bipartisan consensus to fight and win the war," Bush wrote in his WSJ appeal. Americans have given Congress all of the political capital they need to oppose Bush's intention to "move forward" with his Iraq occupation. Now, on the eve of their own ascendance, Democrats have the "will of the people" behind them, giving cover for their new majority to oppose Bush and pull the plug on his manufactured war; with or without that 'bipartisan consensus' he imagines will somehow materialize out of nowhere to help him win something or another in Iraq. After our Senators and representatives take their oath to support and defend the Constitution, they will share responsibility for Bush's fiasco. Setting a clear, different course will ensure that they will not share Bush's disregard of the will of those who elected them to power.


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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price
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