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Surges and Czars and Bombs, Oh My: How to End the War

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At least 45 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq in the first 11 days of April alone, making it on pace to be one of the most deadly months of the war for U.S. troops. Dozens have been injured. Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed and injured in the ongoing civil war, including two members of parliament INSIDE the heavily fortified "green zone" today (April 12). This despite Bush's troop "surge."

Polls conducted last weekend indicate that only 22% of Americans believe the "surge" has improved the situation in Iraq. And 65% disapprove of Bush's handling of the war. Aside from the obvious question of who makes up the 22% (I suspect they are FOX News viewers with their fingers in their ears humming to themselves to drown out the noise), it is clear that most people understand that Bush's policy on Iraq is a failure. We can't afford to accept Bush's demand to wait for improvements. We've been waiting for more than 4 years.

Whether or not you agree that the war was illegal and immoral from the start and that Bush misled the public and Congress into letting him launch the invasion, you have to agree that it must come to an end. Surveys suggest that Americans are split on the issue of setting timetables and funding, but a large majority agree that we must end our involvement there in a very short period of time.

Bush refuses not only to set a timetable for ending the war, but also refuses to accept that his war isn't going the way he wanted it to, or that it must end at some point. Endless war and open-ended occupation are his policy. Now Bush is demanding longer deployments and further dismantling the National Guard by sending about 13,000 more weekend warriors to Iraq.

So what to do?

People who oppose the war have to talk to Congress. Congress is the only institution of power capable of forcing Bush to change his failed Iraq policy and bring the troops home.

Bush isn't listening to the people. He isn't listening to anybody but Rove, Cheney, and the echo chamber in his head. In fact, his so far failed efforts to hire a "war czar," which is designed to push off the war problem onto some other public figure and to create distance between himself and the unpopularity of the war, is a thinly veiled attempt to set up a fall guy for "failure." Good luck with that.

Congress has already shown itself to be ready to stand up to Bush, but only with the right kind of broad popular support.

A vocal, sizeable minority of people want Congress to use its authority to cut off funding for the war completely and have criticized Democratic leaders for not adopting this position. But is this minority ready to lead the peace movement? Is it ready to be more than a left of center pressure group?

By contrast to the views of this minority, most people who want to bring the war to an end appear to believe, whether mistakenly or not, that funding needs to continue. Many of these people are, unfortunately, also likely to believe dishonest negative ads in October 2008 that will say, "So-and-so refused to provide funding for the troops, and that may have caused the deaths and injuries of people from this district, etc."

Forging divisions in the anti-Iraq war movement that helps reelect Republicans will decidedly reverse whatever progress on the peace front will have been made by November 2008. Pretending that third party activism will accomplish anything other than helping Republicans get elected at this time is another irresponsible option.

Many of the people in broader sections of the population share the ideals of justice and peace held by the peace movement, but do not always share more comprehensive, morally ingrained systematic opposition to war that the committed people in the peace movement hold. They often may disagree with or view as impractical the notion that the pursuit of peace itself is the best route to justice.

But instead of saying, "forget them," we should ask ourselves, how can the whole anti-Iraq war majority be brought into the effort to end the war? What compromises should we in more progressive circles make to bring this war to an end? If we are not ready to build this broadest possible unity, then we are really not ready to see this war end. We aren't ready to lead it to its conclusion.

And as soft as we think the congressional Democratic leadership is, it has shown itself ready to lead the struggle to end this war. The question is, are we going to stay with Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid and give them the support and the backbone they need to do the job?

Are we going to send our e-mails and faxes, make our calls and office visits to ensure the Democrats and the handful of Republicans hold the line? Are we going to help pressure more Republican members of Congress to see that Bush's "stay-the-course" mentality is a failure and won't help them keep their jobs in 2008? Are we going to get them to not only see that truth but also act on it by casting their vote to bring the troops home? Are we participating in the town halls and forums in the districts of vulnerable elected officials?

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, a coalition of veterans groups, labor unions, and civic organizations, is funding an exceptional ad campaign in states where vulnerable Republican Senators may be pressured into parting with the president's Iraq policy, including in Sen. Olympia Snowe's state of Maine and in Minnesota where Sen. Norm Coleman faces a tough reelection battle. TV ads in New Hampshire are highlighting Sen. John Sununu's refusal to talk to reporters about his decision to vote against the Senate bill that tied supplemental funds to a timetable for withdrawal. The organization's spokesperson recently said, "We will not let these Members of Congress forget they put party politics before the public’s wishes and the good of the country.”

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--Joel Wendland is editor of Political Affairs.
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