Hundreds of thousands of antiwar demonstrators will take to the streets this weekend in a surge for peace that is long overdue.
The message of these demonstrations is not directed at the Bush Administration.
The President has made it clear that he does not intend to listen to anyone outside of his delusional inner circle when it comes to resolving the mess he has created in Iraq. George Bush did not listen in 2003 to the wise counsel of experts on Iraq and the Middle East who warned about the dangers of invading and occupying that country. He has not listened to the cries of anguish from Cindy Sheehan and other Americans who have lost their loved ones in a war that should never have been fought. He has not listened to the Iraqi people, who in poll after poll have indicated their desire for the occupation to end. He has not listened to world opinion, which has turned dramatically against the United States because of his misguided and dangerous military adventuring. And he is not listening to the will of the American people, which was clearly expressed in the antiwar result of the 2006 elections that shifted control of Congress to the Democrats.
It is the prospect that members of the new Congress might listen to the people who elected them that makes this weekend's demonstrations meaningful--not to mention necessary.
Many members of Congress--from veteran Democrats such as Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and California Senator Barbara Boxer to Republican mavericks such as Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel and North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones to newcomers such as Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison and Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen--recognize the need to get this country's troops out of Iraq and to focus its energies on diplomacy and realistic responses to terrorist threats. But the majorities in both the House and Senate have yet to accept that they have a responsibility to check and balance the President. They continue to waste time and energy on essentially meaningless resolutions expressing discomfort with the Administration's latest strategic blunder.
Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, cast his vote for the nonbinding resolution disapproving of President Bush's plan to surge 21,500 more US troops into the Iraq quagmire. But, he bluntly told the committee, the action represented an insufficient Congressional response.
"My fear, Mr. Chairman, is this is slow walking," Feingold told the committee, which approved the resolution 12-9. "This is not a time for legislative nuancing. This is not a time for trying to forge a compromise that everybody can be a part of. This is a time to stop the needless deaths of American troops in Iraq. We have a moral responsibility, as well as a responsibility to the lives of the American people, to start doing it now."
Feingold says, "It's time for Congress to use the power of the purse to end this devastating war and finally bring American troops out of Iraq."
He is right, and antiwar marchers should demand nothing less.It is sad but true that only by telling the current King George that he will no longer have an unlimited credit line to pursue his madness can the occupation be ended.
"As the President made clear (in announcing a plan to 'surge' 21,500 more troops into the quagmire), he has no intention of redeploying our troops from Iraq. Congress cannot continue to accept this. Congress can, by restricting funding for this misguided war, do what the President refuses to do--redeploy from Iraq to refocus on defeating global terrorist networks."
Feingold is not naïve. He understands the spin that will be employed to argue against blocking funding for an endless US presence in Iraq.
"Some will claim that cutting off funding for the war would endanger our brave troops on the ground. Not true. The safety of our service men and women in Iraq is paramount, and we can and should end funding for the war without putting our troops in further danger," the Senator explains. "Congress will continue to give our troops the resources and support they need, but by, for example, specifying a time after which funding for the war would end, it can give the President the time needed to redeploy troops safely from Iraq."
That is the essential message of the moment.
It is the message that this weekend's antiwar demonstrators can and must deliver.
Nonbinding resolutions are a joke.
Congress needs to embrace its constitutional duty to check executive excess and to balance against dangerous exercises of the presidential prerogative.
The first step is to use the power of the purse to force a course correction regarding Iraq.
The second step is to use the full authority afforded the House and Senate by the Constitution to hold the President and the Vice President to account for their deceptions and their abuses of power--so that never again will the Republic be placed in so perilous a circumstance.
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