In late March, heavy fighting broke out between rival Shi’a factions in Iraq’s cities of Basra and Baghdad. Both Republican and Democratic candidates have exploited the relative ebb in violence to tout that Bush’s troop “surge” was a success and that U.S. forces were making “progress” in Iraq. But the street battles destroyed this myth of stability and exposed the extreme ethnic and political tensions that remain unresolved.

Rather than making “progress” towards a peaceful, democratic Iraq, Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq has merely shifted the balance of power. Former Sunni insurgents have been armed by the U.S., but are still extremely distrustful of the Shi’a-dominated government, with many Sunnis citing it as a greater enemy than Al Qaeda. Iraq’s military and police are still heavily infiltrated by Shi’a militias which regularly carry out executions, kidnappings and torture against the Sunni population.

Public services such as electricity, running water, sewage systems and garbage collection are infrequent to nonexistent. Four million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes, with two million seeking refuge abroad, a state of affairs that translates to anything but progress.

On the home front, Democrats and Republicans together are trying to approve $178 billion more in war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. This is the largest war funding bill yet! The Democrats want to appear to be anti-war, but they have already approved hundreds of billions of dollars to subsidize Bush’s war in Iraq. They hope to avoid having to vote on another funding bill in the fall, during the height of the presidential election campaign, which would cut through Clinton, Obama, and Congressional Democrats’ hollow antiwar rhetoric as they would openly be supporting the war.

This bill would push the total cost for both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a staggering $874 billion. And when all is said and done, economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the total bill will be over $3 trillion.

This is especially criminal given that the Democrats were swept to power in Congress on a wave of antiwar sentiment in the fall of 2006, with voters hoping they would finally end the war. Democrats do have the power to use their majority to end the war by simply voting down Bush’s war funding bills. Instead, they’re showing their loyalty to big business by continuing to fund the war.

A senior Obama advisor recently wrote a paper calling for leaving 60-80,000 troops in Iraq at least through 2010. Obama has called for expanding the already bloated U.S. military (over 700 bases in over 100 countries!) by 92,000 troops and adding more troops to U.S. imperialism’s other quagmire in Afghanistan. Both Obama and Clinton are cynically exploiting the massive unpopularity of the war in hopes of clinching the White House.

The antiwar movement cannot afford to continue writing the Democrats blank checks of support while they collaborate with Bush in the continued prosecution of the war. Many question whether left-wing independents like Nader or Sheehan deserve their votes, given that it is unlikely that they will win. But, supporting either Democratic Party candidate diverts crucial energy away from the essential task of building the anti-war movement.

On May 1, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) strike shut down all the West Coast ports from San Diego to Alaska. For eight hours, no freight moved on the docks. The ILWU’s antiwar strike represents an historic marker and a magnificent example of the type of strike action necessary to force the politicians to withdraw all the troops. Antiwar unionists should move resolutions calling for mass demonstrations and strike action to end the war and for the war budget to be used for universal health care, fighting poverty and other domestic needs.

We can’t rely on Democratic politicians to end this war for us. We need to break with them and continue organizing in our workplaces, schools and communities to build a massive movement in the streets, including workers’ strikes, to stop the war. We must also break with them at the ballot box and vote for real antiwar candidates like Ralph Nader and Cindy Sheehan.

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