Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Iraq Quagmire: Democrats Offer No Way Out

Senator Boxer After Hearings on Rice Nomination Feb 2005

…20, 50, even 100 years from now, another group will gather in this spot to discuss issues of war and peace. And,when they do, I hope they look back and say that the summer of 2005 is when Americans brought credibility, accountability, and responsibility to a very tough situation.

I hope they say that we finally began to level with the American people. That we articulated a winnable mission and adetailed plan to fulfill it. And that we gave our troops the support they needed and deserved in Iraq and upon their returnto our beloved shores.—Senator Barbara Boxer email "major speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco about Iraq."

Why such ambiguity from a liberal senator with a broad mandate to lead on issues of peace?

Having just returned from DC, it is clear to me that the culture of the Senate Democrats is a factor. With presidential candidates like Senators Clinton and Biden pushing for more US troops in Iraq, the Senate Democratic caucus is stuck in militaristic thinking and options, and unable to unify around an anti-war position. –Tom Hayden on Boxer email exchange, Huffington Post, July 26, 2005

“Anti-War” position! “More US troops in Iraq?” Ahhh the good old days—unpopular, immoral, incomprehensible Vietnam War. Hayden, the radicals, the anti-war “movement.” We were scoffed at, and we were right, and everyone knows it now. There weren’t the “homeland” terror events in the heady days of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Nixon and Watergate were our terror, and that was bad enough.

Now we’ve seen middle-American apple-pie Timothy McVeigh blow up the
Federal Building as a statement of anti-government and anti-America bias. And the terrorism of Israel and the Middle East came home to Manhattan and took away our sense of isolation and security from the lesser-fortunate of the world.

Where’s that anti-war movement now? Are we too afraid to mount one? Where are the 500,000 strong flocking to the Washington Monument to let George W and his cronies know they're on the wrong track? The US incursion into Iraq is growing more unpopular, and it has no more real basis than the baseless Vietnam War. But Americans are still not that sure that Iraq is like Vietnam—there’s still not that huge commitment of ½ million troops, and ten years. And there’s those terrorists—they come from the Iraq area, don’t they?

The common man—everyday American average guy/gal—they’re not paying THAT close attention to all this news. They’re not selfish, just not that personally affected yet. The majority may be skeptical of the Iraq business, but they don’t want, as George Carlin explains in one of his best anti-immigrant routines, any of this stuff in THEIR BACKYARD!

I was a young, 19-year old idealistic college kid, with a lot better to do on a hot May afternoon than put on a jacket and tie and knock with shaky knees on the big forbidding doors of my congressman’s office in Washington DC. But I was on a mission. I had been told, and believed, that one man could make a difference, and that every major accomplishment started with the first small step. So 35 years ago I hesitantly called on my representatives in Washington to sign their guest book and to leave the message that the Vietnam War was wrong—it was immoral, the worst thing I could imagine.

The legislative aide who greeted me was in fact an upperclassman from my high school days in Connecticut. He said in a friendly way, “What message do you have for the congressman?” I thought, “Isn’t this obvious?” Tens of thousands of college kids like me have been massing here on Capitol Hill with the same message about the stupid War in Vietnam—“what do you think I want to tell him?” I thought?

“Tell him the War in Vietnam is an immoral war, and the US needs to get out right away.” I was serious! I remembered from some high school English course on essays to get to the point, let all the bullshit flowery speech come later. I was kind of embarrassed because I thought what I said was obvious and my upper-class chum would just nod, toss it off and say, “Yeah, OK I’ll let him know…”

I’m writing 35 years later to tell you that what this fellow who worked in my congressman-from-Connecticut’s office had to say was jarring to me then, if not just as obvious in hindsight:

“You can’t talk about morality here—this is Capitol Hill.”

He must have seen my quizzical look—the one that dogs get when they tilt their heads due to a high-pitched sound. He elaborated, “If you have an argument about money, expenses, votes, that kind of thing—these people will listen. But they don’t talk, legislate, or vote about morality. It’s not an issue.” I was put in my place. Oh, these guys were the adults, and I was still a child of hope and love and what--freedom from pain? I was a sheltered, insulated, untutored college kid who didn't understand reality--politics or otherwise.

I figured I blew it, but I still felt good about signing the guest book. I hoped that numbers mattered, and that there were enough of “me” to make a point. Five years later, the US slid out of Vietnam with no change in its government, and leaving behind a decimated country.

Recently sent a survey feeler about how its membership felt about what to focus on about the Iraq War:

Should we work together to begin bringing the troops home, by supporting the Jones-Abercrombie resolution? (The resolution would require the president to put together a plan by the end of the year for bringing home all U.S. forces from Iraq with troop withdrawal beginning no later than October 1, 2006.) –

I voted no—October 2006 is over a year from now. Blood and money, and policy, are at stake.

Last month, I co-sponsored Senator Feingold’s resolution asking the President to submit to Congress the remaining mission in Iraq, the time frame needed to achieve that mission, and a timeframe for the subsequent withdrawal of our troops. Why?

Because after two and a half years at war, the American people finally need to hear what our mission is and a detailed plan to accomplish it. That will give our soldiers and citizens hopeand confidence.—Boxer email major speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco about Iraq.

At the risk of sounding trite, Barbara—Spare me the platitudes. Senator Boxer, you are a beacon of truth amidst the darkness of churning Washington politics. You must not drop the torch. Where is my Barbara Boxer who got all those bouquets for fighting the good fight and asking the tough questions for Condi’s nomination in February?

Tom Hayden—you are erudite, intelligent, and very unfortunately, right. Leadership is missing; opposition to the party line is not there. Hayden, you write well, and you leave us really frustrated.

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