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Rallying Around Our Democratic Leadership On Iraq

By       Message Ron Fullwood       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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"The bright old day now dawns again; the cry runs through the the land . . . So, rally round the rulers with the gentle iron hand."-- Dickens


One of the most gratifying results of the Democrat's advancement of legislation requiring Bush to withdraw from Iraq by a date certain has been the re-emergence of the chorus of support for our party leaders from the public which had dwindled as our new majority deliberated and moved cautiously to craft withdrawal legislation which would reach the president's desk.

Very little of that support was forthcoming right after the House passed their compromise bill with all of its conditions and exceptions. But sometime after the Senate vote to include withdrawal language in their upcoming bill, and Majority Leader Reid's decision to co-sponsor Russ Feingold's withdrawal plan as a hedge against the expected veto of the final, unseen and yet-unrealized reconciliation of the Senate and House bills, our party regulars began to rally around our leadership and use the legislative effort as a hammer against Bush and his obstinance.

Perhaps Bush made it irresistible to pile on as he launched his predictable demagogic campaign against a bill, not yet passed, which he complained would not allow him to continue his bloody occupation with the impunity he's enjoyed for most of his term under the supervision of his republican enablers. Interestingly enough, Bush has repeatedly claimed that the legislation - whose final version hasn't been debated or voted on - doesn't 'fund' the troops, would 'tie his hands', and would create a 'safe haven' for the al-Qaeda he says told him that Iraq was to be the 'center' of their assault on U.S. interests, thus, making Iraq the 'center' of Bush's own 'terror war'.

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However, the legislation passed by the House, and the less strident bill which is expected to pass the Senate, is not what many in our party would consider the clear demand for a immediate, unconditional withdrawal many had been arguing Congress should pass on to Bush. Indeed, many of those opposed to the occupation have been arguing for a simple 'no' vote on Bush's budget requests for Iraq which they intended would force Bush to abandon his Iraq prize because of his insistence that the troops wouldn't be able to continue without another infusion of money.

That effort, and other proposals for immediate, unconditional withdrawal didn't achieve the necessary amount of support in Congress to make them a reality. Most legislators opted, instead, to craft legislation which had a chance of making it to Bush's desk, despite his vow to veto. The decision was also made by the majority to include the money which Bush insisted was needed to 'fully-fund' the troops, in the legislation; with strings. But Bush, in his rhetoric opposing the efforts for withdrawal, has framed the legislation as a refusal by Congress to provide money for the troops he insists on keeping in harms way.

It's an interesting dynamic between those in our party who didn't think the House effort went far enough, and between those in the republican opposition who are claiming that it provides no money for Bush to continue his assault on Iraqis.

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It can be successfully argued that the legislation is not the immediate, unconditional withdrawal Democratic critics had demanded from their leaders. The House legislation and the upcoming Senate bill contain points of accountability which are in the form of reporting requirements for Bush and the prospect that he could 'waive' the withdrawal provisions for a limited time and mission in the name of national security or a threat from al-Qaeda in Iraq. But the 'waivers' are actually levers of accountability and action from our new majority; designed to preempt and undercut any claim from Bush that he has any of the unilateral authority he's been using to place troops in the middle of Iraq's civil war because of his responsibility to 'protect' us. There is nothing in the legislation which prevents Congress from coming back and challenging any claims of a need to continue the occupation beyond the end dates they provided. Indeed the legislation references their responsibility to continue holding the Executive accountable.

Moreover, the Democratic legislation is not the abandonment of responsibility Bush is left to complain about. Instead of merely sitting on their hands and voting 'no' on some budget request or another, Congress has stepped up and asserted their demands for withdrawal in legislation which has an excellent chance of actually reaching Bush's desk. In that legislation, Congress amended Bush's transparent Iraq stall to provide money for our soldiers in Iraq, and for those in support positions in the region and here at home which hadn't been included in the WH/Pentagon requests.

Either Bush had to accept the will of Congress that he begin to end his occupation, or reject the majority effort. He chose to reject Congress' withdrawal effort, and, as a result, he also threw away the money he'd been claiming he needed to continue. Instead of accepting a congressional effort which reflected the apparent will of the majority of Americans polled - withdrawal without 'cutting funds for the 'troops' - Bush chose to present the legislation as everything Americans said they wanted from the new Congress who they elected as a repudiation of his Iraq policy. In polls last month, Americans said they wanted a withdrawal by 2008 and that funds to the troops should not be cut off. By railing against the Democratic legislation with such strident rhetoric, Bush actually boosted support for their effort and made it appear that, despite his complaints to the contrary, it was a result of his own opposition to the Democratic funding bill that troops would be denied the money he claimed they needed.

Amazingly, Bush went on to assert yesterday that, if Congress sends him their legislation which would fund the troops as they withdrawal, he would veto it, his occupation would falter, and, "the price of that failure (would) be paid by our troops and their loved ones."

So, Bush has effectively set up a dynamic where our party's withdrawal legislation will serve as a catalyst for him to turn his back (again) on the American people as he 'decides' to ignore a fully-funded withdrawal bill and push our admittedly beleaguered forces beyond the breaking point his own generals have cautioned against. As Bush insists on sending even more troops into Iraq; "five additional U.S. Army brigades" - two already in Baghdad, a third coming from Kuwait, and an additional two to be deployed by April of May - he is actively and spectacularly flouting the will of Americans and that of the new Congress as well that he stand down and bring the troops home. In his rejection of the Democratic initiatives, Bush and his handpicked generals stand alone in their zeal to escalate the occupation. When he vetoes the Democratic legislation, the quagmire in Iraq will truly become 'Bush's war'.

Whatever differences some members of our Democratic party may have had with the leadership's compromise withdrawal legislation have been set aside so they can effectively rally against Bush's obstinance and arrogance. For the moment, a perfect storm of opposition to Bush's occupation is forming around the Potomac, and threatening to wash away any notion that Democrats would continue his bloody occupation out of some fear of confrontation.

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For the moment, Bush has waded into his own river of deceit, and has unintentionally defined the Democratic withdrawal effort as significant by his strident opposition alone. Americans opposed to the four-year old conflict now have their lever of Democratic action to rally behind against the occupation. That's what they demanded with their votes in November as they replaced his republican enablers with Democrats pledged to end the occupation.

For the moment, our party members are correctly heralding the transformation of those pledges into reality. For the moment, our Democratic response to 'Bush's war', and his defensive response, have brought forward a revived spirit of opposition to his militarism which has transcended most of the critic's complaints of 'weakness' or 'timidity' from our Democratic leaders. It has been said however that, "in history, the moments during which reason and reconciliation prevail are short and fleeting." I hold out a fervent hope, though, that the 'new-found' respect and admiration for the efforts of our party and leadership in confronting Bush will last until we succeed together in uprooting the lame-duck loser from his bloody occupation and begin to bring our nation's defenders safely home.

 

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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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