As an independent, I have often thought that it would be more fun to attend a Democratic party, rather than one thrown by Republicans. I believed Democrats were more "progressive," creative, more willing to act out, but I’m no longer so sure. Even though voters provided the Democrats with a majority in Congress in the last election, the Democrats have continued politics as usual. Impeachment’s off the table, continue to fund the most idiotic war in history, approve an Attorney General who don’t know his torture from a hole in the ground, etc, etc, etc.
Politically, I’ve withdrawn from both parties because it doesn’t appear that either one really represents me and the vast majority of ordinary voters in this country, and I’m convinced that they’ve both sold out to the same corporate interests, including the defense industry. Which brings me to the subject.
The Democrats are so afraid of being labeled as wimps by the Republicans that they’re afraid to take a risk. Even though they now chair and have a majority in every committee in Congress, they continue to dither away every opportunity to take the political lead and to actually do what they were elected to do: STOP THIS STUPID WAR!!!
As a trial lawyer, I was often required to litigate cases I wished were better, but I always knew that my opponents’ cases were weaker than they appeared, and if I maximized my strengths and exploited their weaknesses, there was always a chance of victory. At least, that’s what trials are all about. My job was to investigate the matter, gather my evidence, learn the law, and line up my witnesses.
We lawyers are trained to put on a good show and, even if the judge sometimes acts like another lawyer for the other side, we can still parade our witnesses and trust that the jury has some commonsense. We just have to lay out our evidence, challenge the other side, and argue the facts and law. Mostly, you have to have the courage, day after day, to walk into court, pick a jury and roll the dice. Timid attorneys never leave their offices; they settle their cases and compromise their clients’ interests. They practice the way congressional democrats have been acting.
Democrats should recognize that their case is far stronger than they think, and that the Republican case is far weaker. It’s just that the Republicans hang together and tend to be bullies. But, nobody likes bullies and that’s a good place to start. Stand up to a bully, punch him in the nose, and he’ll run home, crying. The biggest little bully on the Capitol block likes to dress up in the uniform he once disgraced by refusing to fight and by going AWOL, and to strut around as though he was something more than a mama’s boy who has never personally accomplished anything without his daddy’s help.
We know we are already paying a half million dollars a minute to pay for Bush’s Iraq War, but we have no clue how many trillions it will ultimately cost us, the ordinary people of America, and our children. Nobody knows for sure, but even though the little Republican bully is the "decider," our Democratic Congress is the "payer," and there’s where the trial should be held.
Congress passed a $97.5 billion war spending bill in March 2007 requiring that troop withdrawals from Iraq commence within 120 days and be completed within a year. Calling the bill a political statement, President Bush promptly vetoed it. Congress rolled over and passed an increased $120 billion spending bill, without the withdrawal deadline; however, it did include 18 benchmarks for progress. Iraq failed to meet 15 of the benchmarks, and Bush sent his latest and most compliant commanding general, David Petraeus to explain to Congress why the benchmarks weren’t really all that important and why we should send more, rather than less troops to Iraq.
House Democrats thought that progress really was important and passed a $50 billion "bridge fund" bill last month to continue some military operations. However, the bill did establish a limited withdrawal process, it required Bush to formulate a "regional stability plan," and it required established military readiness requirements to be met for troops between deployments. The Republicans blocked the bill in the Senate, and Bush began to unfurl the "support the troops" banners and to threaten Defense Department layoffs unless the Democrats again roll over and give him the unrestricted $196 billion he has demanded.
The issue to be decided is not whether the surge has worked, or whether the United States should stay in Iraq for five or fifty more years. Inasmuch as the U.S. illegally invaded Iraq and has caused the deaths of as many as a million of its citizens, the destruction of its infrastructure, rampant criminality, and a civil war resulting in millions of refugees, the question is whether we have any legal right or justification to remain in the country? Iraq’s legislature doesn’t want us there, the Iraqi people don’t want us there, a majority of Americans don’t want us there, and the rest of the world thinks we’re a bunch of criminals for breaking in there in the first place.
The primary issue is whether we stay or leave, not for how long or what we should be doing. If we have a right to be there and a legal duty to fix what we’ve broken, then we should stay and work on the problem. But, if we’re like a burglar caught in the upstairs closet, we’d better boggie before the cops arrive.
The Democrats have allowed the Bush administration to define all of the issues and to establish the standard of proof. They allowed General Petraeus to testify without a rigorous cross-examination, and they offered no rebuttal witnesses. The Democrats now have a golden opportunity to show the world how a democratic republic should work and what freedom’s really all about. Democrats can fulfill the will of the people and do what’s right by immediately holding hearings in either the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee or before the full House Appropriations Committee to establish whether Congress should fund an illegal war, and if so how much and under what conditions.
Once there has been a comprehensive hearing on the issues, and if Congress decides that further funding only prolongs an illegal war, there will be no bill for the president to veto and he will have no means to continue his criminal conduct. If, based on all of the evidence, Congress decides upon reasonable levels and limitations on funding, then shame on Bush if he throws a tantrum and vetoes the legislation. He will then have no choice but to withdraw our sons and daughters from harm’s way. The Democrats need have no fear–the people will know who has courage and who’s a coward, and who has done right and who’s wrong.
House Democrats should draw up a witness list and invite the president to send up rebuttal witnesses. The trial should be covered by the news media, not just on C-SPAN. There should be breathless reports from the hallway and instant analysis by legal and political pundits. Ultimately, the American people will decide the matter, but our continued occupation of Iraq is a matter of grave importance and concern to every person on earth. The hearings should be conducted with dignity and the verdict arrived at with wisdom after due deliberation.
Our "war president" Bush keeps saying we should listen to our military officers in deciding what to do in Iraq. So be it. There is no shortage of officers, both active and retired who have something to say about these issues. Perhaps we should also listen to some of the enlisted personnel fighting the war, and some of its veterans. Shouldn’t we also hear from some distinguished Americans, some senior statesmen, perhaps even a former president? A short list of witnesses follows with a summary of their anticipated testimony:
Former President Jimmy Carter would testify that "the invasion of Iraq was unnecessary and unjust, and I think the premises on which it was launched were false."