President Bush and Vice President Cheney constantly claim that critics of the war have not offered an alternative to their proposals to surge deeper into the quagmire they have created in Iraq.
Watching the Senate struggle to open a debate on whether to pass even a non-binding resolution criticizing the surge scheme would seem to reinforce the administration's line.
But the truth is that the "there-is-no-alternative" spin is every bit as disingenuous as the claim that Congress saw the same intelligence as the president and vice president and then fully and unquestioningly bendorsed attacking Iraq. In fact, 133 members of the House and 23 members of the Senate saw the "intelligence" that the administration was peddling in 2002 and voted against authorizing the president to attack and occupy Iraq. Dozens of additional members of the House and Senate -- Democrats and Republicans -- expressed reservations about the administration's rush to war.
A substantial number of the House members who were outspoken in their opposition to attacking Iraq were members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
They read the "intelligence" right in 2002, and they have continued to do so by raising their voices in favor of an exit strategy. CPC co-chair Lynn Woolsey, D-California, advanced an amendment seeking a withdrawal plan almost two years ago, while the other co-chair, Barbara Lee, D-California, has led the House in voting for resolutions opposing the construction of permanent US bases in Iraq. Both continue to be in the forefront of congressional efforts to end the occupation and bring U.S. troops safely home.
Now, the 71-member caucus, which is by far the largest and most diverse ideological grouping of House Democrats, has issued a detailed policy statement regarding the war. It reads:
Over the last four years, the insurgency in Iraq has strengthened and sectarian violence has increased. Furthermore, the current situation on the ground in Iraq is grave and rapidly deteriorating. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) has determined accordingly that a predominantly military approach is no longer a viable solution to stabilizing Iraq.
We are committed to bringing all of the US troops and military contractors in Iraq home in a six-month time frame as part of a fully-funded redeployment plan.
More specifically, we oppose sending additional US troops and military contractors to Iraq and favor binding votes to block President Bush's escalation of US military involvement in Iraq.
We believe all appropriations for US military involvement in Iraq must be for the protection of our troops until and during their withdrawal within six months of the date of enactment of this limitation and accelerating the training and equipping of additional Iraqi security forces during that six-month time frame. The President has left the Congress few alternatives other than to use the power of purse spelled out in Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution to curtail U.S. military operations in Iraq.
Finally, we are opposed to establishing any permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, support rescinding the President's Iraq war authority, and support greater diplomatic and political engagement in the region, while ensuring that the Iraqi people have control over their own petroleum resources.
This is the alternative that the administration wants Americans to believe does not exist.
This is, as well, a far sounder and more responsible approach to the Iraq imbroglio than anything proposed by the administration, by its allies in Congress or by the too-cautious Democratic leaders of the House and Senate. The only question now is whether the workable alternative of the Congressional Progressive Caucus will garner as much attention from the media as the failed status quo of the Bush-Cheney White House. If it does, the president and vice president will be forced to acknowledge that there is an alternative, and that the American people favor it.
John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"