Congress “Debates” the War — No more empty rhetoric – Bring the troops home now


Like a broken record, Senate Republicans launched another propaganda offensive, accusing Democrats of a “cut and run” strategy in Iraq. In June, they moved a bill to “complete the mission” which passed 96-0. Is it possible they have not seen the polls showing 62% of Americans “disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq”? (ABC News/Washington Post, 6/25/06)

With elections looming, growing public frustration and opposition to the war in Iraq is forcibly placing Iraq at the center of U.S. politics. Realizing they can’t push this unpopular war under the rug, the Republicans are attempting to use the instillation of yet another Iraqi government and the killing of Zarqawi to cut across their collapsing support.

None of this rhetoric bears any relation to the actual events in Iraq, which are spiraling further out of U.S. control. Ironically, the same day the debate opened in congress the 2,500th U.S. casualty was announced.

This grim milestone came just a week after the U.S. embassy in Iraq sent a secret cable marked “sensitive” to Washington, outlining in stark terms the worsening conditions for people living outside the highly fortified Green Zone, and relaying the terror of Green Zone employees who fear their neighbors might find out they work for the U.S. government. The cable, signed by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, was leaked to the Washington Post (6/18/06).

Meanwhile, Iraq is sinking into civil war. The daily death toll keeps growing in escalating tit-for-tat killings. According to the BBC, at least 65,000 Iraqis have fled their homes to avoid ethnic violence. Civil war has been the result of the divide-and-conquer methods of the U.S. occupation.

There is a long list of criminal investigations against U.S. soldiers for murdering Iraqi civilians. Most notorious is the massacre in Haditha, where 24 civilians including 11 women and children were gunned down by U.S. troops last November. Also on the list are the rape and murder of Iraqi women, multiple executions, and prisoner mistreatment cases.

Of course, the military argues that any atrocities are the result of “a few bad apples.” This is more absurd with every new revelation. With incident after incident, cover-up after cover-up, it becomes increasingly clear that this brutality is the inevitable result of an occupying army struggling to maintain control over an overwhelmingly hostile population.

Democrats no Alternative
Meanwhile, the Democrats are playing their own electoral games with Iraq. A section of Senate Democrats, notably John Kerry, moved an amendment requiring combat troops in Iraq be redeployed to other parts of the Middle East by July 2007.

This political summersault by Kerry and other formerly pro-war Democrats has nothing in common with the motivations and goals of most working people who demand an end to the war. Kerry’s “redeployment” plan means keeping troops and bases in the region ready to intervene against future threats to U.S. oil interests, and continuing the air war against insurgents.

This is not an antiwar position. It’s a desperate move to salvage the wrecked position of U.S. imperialism in the region – cut-and-run today, live to invade another day. Many “antiwar” Democrats are also looking to take advantage of the growing public antiwar sentiment by making meaningless speeches on the floor of Congress. John Kerry seems to have realized a Bush-light Iraq policy in 2004 was not a smart electoral strategy.

But despite a war they know is unwinnable and strong public support for troop withdrawal, most Democrats still failed to oppose Bush head-on. Only 13 senators voted for Kerry’s amendment. The Democratic leadership preferred a bill sponsored by Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, which was a nonbinding “sense of the Senate” resolution calling for troops to begin leaving Iraq this year (which failed 39-60 with 6 Democrats voting with the GOP against it).

Tasks Facing the Antiwar Movement
Lasting peace will not come from voting for the more “sober” party of war and imperialism. We cannot let ourselves be fooled by these election-year games in the halls of congress. Where were these “antiwar” Democratic senators over the last three years, while we had to watch the death count rise along with reports of atrocities? Even now, they are not waging a serious battle to bring the troops home now, before the next 2,500 soldiers are killed, before the next Haditha.

Instead of orienting activists toward the election campaigns of unprincipled corporate politicians, the antiwar movement should use the heightened discussion over Iraq to build mass demonstrations to frame the discussion around our demand – bring the troops home now!

Recent developments – in Iraq and the U.S. – only underlines the need for the antiwar movement to step up our struggle for an immediate and complete withdrawal of all armed forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the entire region. This is an opportunity to break out of the stagnation the movement has experienced over the last few months, and energetically mobilize to bring fresh layers of workers and youth into mass demonstrations and community actions against the war.

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