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WHAT WE THINK
Two-thirds of people around the U.S. do...
Why can't Congress oppose the war?

February 23, 2007 | Page 3

LAST NOVEMBER, the congressional elections sent a clear message that a majority of people wanted to see an end to the U.S. war on Iraq. Four months later, and the new Democrat-controlled Congress hasn't managed to get all its members to cast a vote about the most pressing political issue of the day.

The House of Representatives at least managed to pass a nonbinding resolution disapproving of the Bush administration's plans to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq.

But last weekend, with the Senate called into a special Saturday session, Republicans used undemocratic procedural tactics--the same ones they railed against the former Democratic minority for even mentioning, much less using--to block a vote on a similar measure.

In October 2002, within hours of the House approving a resolution giving Bush the authority to declare war on Iraq, the Senate took no time whipping up a resounding yes vote. Four years later, with Iraq occupation spiraling into ever-deeper crisis, the "world's greatest deliberative body" can't muster enough votes to bring a nonbinding resolution to the floor.

But even if the Senate could manage a vote on the nonbinding resolution passed by the House, there's another problem with it. It's nonbinding.

The question now is if the Democrats who talk a good game when it comes to criticizing Bush's escalation in Iraq will do something concrete to challenge the administration's war policy.

A good place to start would be the almost $100 billion in emergency supplemental funding for the war in Iraq that Bush needs Congress to approve in the coming months.

But weak-in-the-knees Democrats have already been bowing before the complaints of Republicans accusing them of "not supporting our troops." "They've denounced the surge," accused Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "The question is, are they going to fund the troops?"

As if the goal of those who want to end the occupation is to withdraw all the bombs and warplanes and supplies from Iraq--but leave U.S. soldiers. If any of the politicians really cared about "supporting our troops," they would fight to bring them home right now.

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SOME DEMOCRATS are putting forward proposals on Iraq that go beyond nonbinding resolutions.

One from House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chair Rep. John Murtha would add provisions to the supplemental funding bill that, he claims, would make it harder for Bush to go through with his troop surge.

The Murtha plan is favored by many Democrats because it doesn't actually call for cutting off funds for the war. "We're going to make sure people understand we're supporting the troops and protecting the troops," Murtha said in an interview posted on the Web by the antiwar group Win Without War.

Liberal lobbying groups are joining right in. "What we have staked out is a campaign to stop the war without cutting off funding" for the troops, said Tom Mazzie of Americans Against Escalation of the War in Iraq. "We call it the 'readiness strategy.'"

But a "campaign to stop the war without cutting off funding" is in reality a campaign to stop the war without stopping the war. It makes about as much sense as an antiwar group calling itself "Win Without War"--especially four years after the war has started.

Resolutions like Murtha's could give Democrats cover on the Iraq issue, but they don't do anything to stop the Iraq war.

The toughest proposal on Iraq from a Democrat--House Resolution 508, introduced by Reps. Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters and Lynne Woolsey--would set a six-month deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops within six months.

The bill isn't unconditional. It calls for an "international stabilization force" to stay in Iraq for up to two years after the end of the U.S. occupation--if "requested" by an Iraqi government.

But the worst thing about this legislation is that it doesn't stand a chance of passing--and its liberal sponsors know it. It amounts to an attempt to show that antiwar forces have a voice in the halls of Congress--while the "real" debate takes place among "pragmatic" Democrats whose concern isn't ending the occupation, but deciding how best to manage it.

The Democrats are interested in saving the war on Iraq from the Bush administration's disastrous mistakes, not ending it.

The possibility of galvanizing support for immediate withdrawal in Iraq is plain.

Take a recent petition issued by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Cindy Sheehan and others, which argued, "We call on the U.S. to get out of Iraq--not in six months, not in a year, but now." Or Vermont, where the state Senate and House passed a resolution calling for U.S. forces to "immediately withdraw" from Iraq,

Antiwar activists can set their sights on demonstrations called around the country for the weekend of March 17--the fourth anniversary of the invasion--to keep up the demand for immediate withdrawal.

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