In his Tuesday press conference, President Bush delivered the good news:
But I believe -- I believe the Iraqis -- this is a moment where the Iraqis had a chance to fall apart, and they didn't. And that's a positive development.
Not falling apart. That's hardly the prewar view of post-invasion Iraq Bush sold the American public three years ago. But "positive" has become a rather relative term regarding Iraq.
When asked whether he was concerned by the growing number of Americans who, according to the polls, are "questioning the trustworthiness of you and this White House," Bush replied,
I believe that my job is to go out and explain to people what's on my mind. That's why I'm having this press conference, see. I'm telling you what's on my mind. And what's on my mind is winning the war on terror.
Is that supposed to reassure Americans--or Iraqis? Such a remark prompts a larger question: why does Bush and the White House believe that sending him out to give a seemingly endless series of speeches on Iraq--and his plan for victory there--is going to change anything at this stage? This is the guy who said the war was about WMDs and who said virtually nothing when senior members of his administration before the war made it sound as if the post-invasion period would be a breeze. With that history, is sharing what's on Bush's mind about Iraq an effective strategy?
Asked about Senator Russ Feingold's bill to censure him for approving warrantless wiretapping conducted by the National Security Agency, Bush replied,
I think during these difficult times -- and they are difficult when we're at war -- the American people expect there to be an honest and open debate without needless partisanship. And that's how I view it. I did notice that nobody from the Democrat Party has actually stood up and called for getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. You know, if that's what they believe, if people in the party believe that, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ought to stand up and say the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, vote for me, I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program.
No needless partisanship? It's not needless partisanship to accuse the Democrats of being opposed to a "terrorist surveillance program"? This was a good example of the White House's Rove-ian response to criticism of the wiretapping program: equate the controversial (if not illegal) wiretapping with all surveillance conducted of terrorist suspects, including that which occurs lawfully under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and is monitored by the FISA court established by that law. No Democrat puts forward the "message" that "we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program." The only issue is whether wiretapping can be done outside of the FISA law--which Bush claims is permissible and which others (including assorted legal scholars) argue is illegal.
Dick Cheney took this counteroffensive one step further the day before Bush's press conference. Speaking at a GOP fundraiser at the Spread Eagle Tavern and Inn in Hanoverton, Ohio--pop. 388--he blasted Feingold and other critics of the warrantless wiretapping, by saying, "This outrageous proposition that we ought to protect al Qaeda's ability to communicate as it plots against America poses a key test for the Democratic leaders."
So here Cheney was not only whacking Democratic critics for being opposed to what Bush calls "a terrorist surveillance program." He assailed these Democrats for protecting al Qaeda's "ability to communicate."
Is not such rhetoric a tad partisan--and demagogic? He is accusing Dems of helping the mass murderers of 9/11. But since the Bush administration decided not to extend its "terrorist surveillance program" to domestic communications of terrorism suspects (and limited the warrant-free wiretapping to communications involving at least one overseas party), couldn't the same be said of the Bush-Cheney administration--that the president and the vice president are protecting the ability of al Qaeda suspects to communicate within the United States? It certainly could--if you were willing to engage in needless partisanship.
As for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, Bush did set something of a negative timetable. "Will there come a day--and I'm not asking you when, not asking for a timetable--will there come a day," a reporter asked, "when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?" Bush answered:
That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future Presidents and future governments of Iraq.
In other words, three more years of US troops in Iraq--at least. Now that sounds like a no-spin-answer.
Tossed a softball question during Tuesday morning's press conference about whether he should be censured for ordering warrantless wiretapping of phone conversations "during a time of war," President Bush fell back on the lie that Americans must surrender liberties -- and the rule of law, itself -- in order to be made safe from terrorism.
The question, a virtually verbatim repeat of talking points circulated by the Republican National Committee, was about as generous a set-up as a president has ever gotten in a press conference.
"Thank you, sir," began Carl Cameron, who serves as Fox News' always-on-bended-knee chief correspondent in the court of King George. "On the subject of the terrorist surveillance program -- not to change the tone from all this emphasis on bipartisanship -- but there have been now three sponsors to a measure to censure you for the implementation of that program. The primary sponsor, Russ Feingold, has suggested that impeachment is not out of the question. And on Sunday, the number two Democrat in the Senate refused to rule that out pending an investigation. What, sir, do you think the impact of the discussion of impeachment and censure does to you and this office, and to the nation during a time of war, and in the context of the election?"
Bush was, needless to say, ready for the Cameron's inquiry.Grabbing hold of the "time-of-war" reference as the lifesaver it was intended to be, the president said, "I think during these difficult times -- and they are difficult when we're at war -- the American people expect there to be a honest and open debate without needless partisanship. And that's how I view it. I did notice that nobody from the Democrat Party has actually stood up and called for getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. You know, if that's what they believe, if people in the party believe that, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ought to stand up and say the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, vote for me, I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program. That's what they ought to be doing. That's part of what is an open and honest debate. "
Of course, no prominent Democrat has ever suggested publicly or -- to the extent that reporting has revealed -- privately that it would be wise to do away with surveillance programs that are designed to thwart terrorism. What Democrats and Republicans have suggested is that the president ought to obey the law when ordering federal agencies to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens.
As Feingold, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin who raised the issue of censure last week, noted on Monday: "At his press conference today, the President once again failed to tell the American people why he decided to break the law by authorizing a program to spy on Americans on American soil without court orders. Instead of offering any defense of the program's legality, the President shamelessly played partisan politics by implying that Democrats don't want to wiretap terrorists. That is flat-out wrong, and the President knows it. Of course we should wiretap suspected terrorists, and under current law, we can. The question is why the President believes he needs to break the law to do so."
If Bush had acknowledged the legitimate bipartisan concerns about his spying program, and if he had pledged to obey the law in the future, it is doubtful that the issue of censure would ever have arisen.Bush knows this. Yet, despite his pronouncements Monday, he is doing everything he can to prevent an "open and honest debate" by murking things up with false charges and claims regarding his critics.
The prepped president used Cameron's question as a jumping off point for an even more surreal assault on the truth when he attempted to confuse Americans with regard to the recent Patriot Act debate.
"I did notice that, at one point in time, they didn't think the Patriot Act ought to be reauthorized -- 'they' being at least the Minority Leader in the Senate. He openly said, as I understand -- I don't want to misquote him -- something along the lines that, 'We killed the Patriot Act,'" said Bush. "And if that's what the party believes, they ought to go around the country saying we shouldn't give the people on the front line of protecting us the tools necessary to do so. That's a debate I think the country ought to have."
What the president conveniently failed to mention is that the Senate Minority Leader, Nevada's Harry Reid, voted with the vast majority of Senate Democrats this month to reauthorize the Patriot Act in the form favored by the administration.
While Reid and a number of Republican senators had earlier expressed support for efforts to temper some of the Patriot Act's most clearly unconstitutional components, they fell in line with the president when the votes were counted.
To their credit, a bipartisan coalition of House and Senate members refused to do back the Patriot Act in that final version, not because they want to take away the tools that fight terrorism but because they believe, as did Benjamin Franklin, that: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
What Bush, in a call for "open and honest debate" that was really a carefully choreographed attempt to create a false divide between supposedly tough-on-terror Republicans and supposedly soft-on-terror Democrats, is the fact that some of the most conservative Republicans in Congress -- including California Representative Dana Dohrabacher, the chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, and Alaska Representative Don Young, the 3rd ranking Republican in the House who serves as a key member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security -- sided with Feingold in opposing reauthorization of the Patriot Act in the form promoted by the Bush White House.
Arguing that "there are enough laws already enacted on our books today that we don't need to create further laws that infringe upon the constitutional rights of every Alaskan," Young said in announcing his opposition to the Patriot Act that, "I still feel this legislation was never fully thought out. We rushed to put together legislation that we thought would safeguard us from another terrorist attack. In the process we have created a bill that I feel takes away our constitutional freedom. Over four years have past and there have only been a few essential elements added to this bill. However, overall this is still a bad piece of legislation."
Those are the words of a prominent member of the president's own party. If George Bush was genuinely interested in "open and honest" debate," he would acknowledge that the issue is not whether Republicans or Democrats want to fight terrorism. The issue is whether it is necessary to disregard the Constitution in that fight. If Bush believes that his is the appropriate course then, to paraphrase the president himself, he ought to take that message to the people and say, "I promise that I won't be bothered by the Bill of Rights."
That, not his attempts to create a false discourse, would make George Bush a part of the "open and honest debate" he so disingenuously claims to desire.
Last Thursday the Pentagon launched "Operation Swarmer"--described as the largest air assault in Iraq since March 2003. I was at a conference on Iraq at the Center for American Progress and saw the news flashing repeatedly on CNN, MSNBC and Fox. The timing, a few days before the war's 3rd anniversary and amidst a torrent of negative opinion polling for the Bush Administration--seemed highly suspicious.
Well, this Operation, like so much of what the Administration has told us about the war, turned out to be a lie. According to reporters on the ground from Time magazine:
There were no air strikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What's more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the US and Iraqi commanders.
Moreover, former AP correspondent Christopher Albritton writes that the targeted area north of Samarra has been "swept/contained/pacified/cleared five or six times since 2004." Operation Swarmer "was designed to show off the new Iraqi Army--although there was no enemy for them to fight." There were as many troops, fifteen hundred, as residents in the desolate area. No wonder Albritton termed the mission "Operation Overblown."
It's reassuring to know where our $300 billion are going. Aren't there enough threats in Iraq that we don't need to fight nonexistent ones?
There is not a lot of debate anymore about the fact that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is the loosest cannon in the arsenal. Consider his claim, made in a Sunday oped piece in the Washington Post that, "Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis."
So who agrees with the Don's attempt at analogy?
Er, well, no one -- at least, no one in their right mind.
It is a measure of how out of touch Rumsfeld is not just with contemporary reality but also with well-established history that he has united both Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, foreign and defense policy veterans who are not often on the same page.
Kissinger, the former Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, rejected Rumsfeld's Germany-Iraq comparison as absurd. "In Germany, the opposition was completely crushed; there was no significant resistance movement," the German-born diplomat who served with U.S. forces in his native land after World War II, told CNN's "Late Edition."
Kissinger, a sympathizer with the administration's Iraq policies, made a game effort of trying to reinterpret Rumsfeld's remarks in a form that might make sense. But it was to no avail, as Brzezinski shredded Rumsfeld's rewrite of history.
"You know, that is really absolutely crazy to anyone who knows history. When we occupied Germany in '45, there was no alternative to our presence. There was no resistance. The Germans were totally crushed. There was no resistance. And a great many Germans realized that they had to go back to the democracy that they had before Hitler came to power. And many people don't know that Germany was a thriving democracy for decades before Hitler came to power," the man who served as national security adviser under President Carter said of Rumsfeld's rant.
"The situation in Iraq is totally different. And for Secretary Rumsfeld to be talking this way suggests either he doesn't know history or he's simply demagoguing."
At this late date, it really is not worth the time of energy that would be required to figure out whether Rumsfeld's historical education is deficient, whether he is "simply demagoguing" or whether, as his words and actions so frequently suggest, he is "absolutely crazy."
It is better simply to accept the assessment offered by Paul D. Eaton, the retired Army major general who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004. Writing in Sunday's New York Times with regard to Rumsfeld, Eaton argued that, "He has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq."
"Mr. Rumsfeld must step down," added Eaton, whose stance was echoed on CNN by U.S. Senator Joe Biden, the Delaware Democrat who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."Imagine what would happen if it were announced tomorrow in the headlines of the papers of America and throughout the world that Rumsfeld was fired," explained Biden. "It would energize, energize the rest of the world, to be willing to help us. It would energize American forces, it would energize the political environment. Yes, he should step down. I agree with every single statement made by the former general training Iraqi forces in Iraq."
In addition to imagining all of the possibilities that Biden suggests, a Rumsfeld resignation would also do something else: It would create an opening in the Bush Cabinet for a Secretary of Defense who has a grounding in reality -- rather than in the phantasmagoria that defines Donald Rumsfeld's warped worldview.
In the March 27 issue of The Nation, Ari Berman writes of top Democratic consultants' strategy to either completely avoid discussing Iraq or support the war while criticizing George Bush's handling of it.
As if to prove Berman's point, two days ago Hillary Clinton sent a fundraising email on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) under the bold subject heading, "Changing the Senate."
Clinton opens with the pronouncement, "You and I both know America needs a change of direction--and the American people know it too."
Yes, it's true that the American people know it. And, as Berman points out, "Asked what should be the highest priority for America this year, the largest number of respondents in the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll chose bringing most of the troops home."
But in her 672 word email (hint to Dems: your emails are too long) calling for "change," how many times did Senator Clinton mention Iraq? You guessed it--not a mention.
Healthcare costs, education, energy, and New Orleans–-all critical issues--are each mentioned in the NY Senator's appeal, along with this assertion: "I know that Democrats like you are ready to stand up and take on these tough challenges."
Hillary's right on this. But Democrats and independents are also taking a stand on changing course in Iraq while leading Democrats run for cover. Where is their passion and attention on an issue that is paramount in voters' concerns?
Three years, 20,000 U.S. casualties, up to $300 billion in direct war expenditures and close to $1 trillion in estimated total costs--and still no position? If not now, when?
Here's an idea: contact Hillary, the DSCC, and the DCCC--tell them until they take a stand for you, you won't take a stand for them either. The bank is closed. Because while they might not listen to the people, we know that money still talks in Washington.
How many Americans would pledge to cast their votes in November only for candidates who want to end the war in Iraq?
According to a poll conducted for the new group Vote for Peace, 46 percent of likely voters agree with the pledge the group will be promoting in advance of the November, 2006, congressional elections: "I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign."
One in every five voters surveyed expressed strong agreement, while 26 percent said they were at least somewhat in agreement with the statement.
Among Democrats, agreement with the pledge rises to 67 percent (33 percent strongly). Fifty-nine percent (25 percent strongly) of Independents agree, while and 26 percent (5.5 percent strongly) of Republicans are on board.
"This poll demonstrates that anti-war voters are significant enough in size to effect the outcome of elections -- if they become organized. Just like pro-gun groups have organized, pro-choice and pro-life groups have organized -- now the anti-war constituency has been identified and the peace movement is ready to organize them. This will ensure that the anti-war movement will no longer be one that can be ignored," argues Kevin Zeese, an organizer of the nonpartisan Voters for Peace initiative that launched Friday.
Starting with grants of $1 million for the 2006 election season, Voters for Peace run a national campaign that will encourage voters to pledge to cast their ballots for anti-war candidates as part of a broader effort to educate the electorate about how to make the war an issue this fall. The pledge, which was inspired by a Nation magazine editorial that committed the publication to endorse only candidates who seek a rapid end to the war, can be found at the new group's website: www.VotersForPeace.US.
Already endorsed by many of the country's largest and most active anti-war organizations, including United for Peace and Justice, Peace Action, Not In Our Name, Democracy Rising, Code Pink, AfterDowningStreet and Peace Majority, the Voters for Peace initiative will reach across partisan and ideological lines.
Zeese says the initiative will seek to organize two million voters in 2006 and five million by 2008. And makes a convincing case that such organization could have a profound impact on both elections by putting more focused pressure on both major political parties.
"Organized anti-war voters who pledge not to vote for pro-war candidates may force the Democrats in particular to develop a stronger position against the war. The Democrats may now realize that if they fail to represent the anti-war community voters will stay home or vote for alternative party and independent candidates," explains Zeese, the president of the national group Common Sense for Drug Policy who is seeking Maryland's open U.S. Senate seat as an "independent unity" candidate in November.
"Republicans are not free to ignore the anti-war constituency either," adds Zeese. "Not only do more that 25 percent of Republican voters oppose candidates who support the war, but the fastest growing group of voters -- independents -- overwhelmingly support the pledge. So, that all important swing voter can cause Republicans to lose elections - and could become a new source of support for Democrats -- or if both parties fail to support voters wishes then candidates running independent of the two parties may find a new foundation on which to build an independent political movement."
Payments to ghost employees. Contractors overcharging by hundreds of millions of dollars on no-bid contracts. And billions in reconstruction money gone missing. The list of reasons for an Independent War Profiteering Commission just keeps on growing.
The Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) disputed $263 million in charges from Halliburton subsidiary Kellog, Brown and Root for its $2.41 billion no-bid contract. Normally, the Army withholds between 55 to 75 percent of the monies flagged by the auditors.
So what did the Army do in this case? It withheld 3.8 percent of the payments. Yes, you read that correctly, 3.8 percent – meaning it paid all but $10 million of the charges in question despite the alleged corruption.
A spokesman for the DCAA told the New York Times that the decision was based on "broader business considerations" than the audits alone. A senior manager in the Defense Department translated this ambiguous statement, saying, "That's as close as DCAA can get to saying, ‘We're not happy with it either.' "
Could it be that "Sure Shot" Cheney was once again right on target when it comes to helping his Halliburton friends? Never mind that the company was charging three times more than its competitors for fuel transportation costs. It was a no-bid contract, after all, so who cares about the competition?
A few weeks ago I called for an independent war profiteering commission composed of current and former public servants drawn from across the political spectrum. Frankly, the Halliburton travesties alone justify such a commission. But the problems go well beyond Dick Cheney's former company.
Custer Battles, ordered on March 9 by a federal jury to pay $10 million in damages, is accused of bilking the government out of $50 million. Bechtel has hired three subcontractors who were fined more than $86 million in the past four years but are still somehow eligible for new contracts. And 60 Minutes revealed that $50 billion of taxpayer money – more than the entire annual budget of the Department of Homeland Security – "has gone to private contractors hired to guard bases, drive trucks, feed and shelter the troops, and rebuild the country…with little or no oversight."
And let's not forget that $9 billion was simply lost – that's right, lost, gone, nowhere – by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Stuart Bowen, the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, reported the possibility that thousands of "ghost employees" were funded and that the CPA "failed to establish financial controls and transparency."
Sen. Patrick Leahy seems to understand why this is such an affront to all Americans. "[It's] clear that the Bush-Cheney Administration's approach to reconstruction in Iraq has been a formula for mischief," Leahy said. "Waste, fraud and abuse in the name of defense is doubly destructive and doubly offensive, and it should never be tolerated. It saps resources needed by our troops and it plays the taxpayers for fools, all the while hiding under the cover of national defense."
Leahy recently introduced the War Profiteering Prevention Act that would make these overcharges a felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment and fines of $1 million or twice the gross proceeds of the crime – whichever is greater. Furthermore, any person who makes false statements about these contracts could be sentenced to 10 years in prison and the same aforementioned fines.
It's well worth supporting this legislation. But don't hold your breath that this bill will pass. Similar legislation introduced by Leahy was already killed in 2003 by the Halliburton White House and Republican House leadership.
And while the Custer Battles verdict is encouraging, it is unrealistic to think that whistleblower action alone will uncover the extent of the war profiteering. There is one way – and one way only – to get to the bottom of this: through a War Profiteering Commission led by public servants of all stripes -- Republicans, Democrats, and Independents--and let's include former veterans and members of military families.
At this moment of great division in our nation, let's unite against the kind of criminal and moral corruption that all decent citizens agree has no place in our nation.
Doesn't the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee read? In a Washington Post article by Walter Pincus in Friday's edition, Representative Peter Hoekstra, who has succeeded in pushing the Bush administration to start releasing some of the 2 million documents captured in Iraq, said,
Whether Saddam Hussein destroyed Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or hid or transferred them, the most important thing is that we discover the truth of what was happening in the country prior to the war.
Conservatives and war-backers have been howling for the release of all these documents because they believe--or hope--that they will contain a smoking-gun memo showing that Saddam had oodles of WMDs or was buddy-buddy with bin Laden. But so far, no soap. At least not from the first nine documents posted by the military. One actually shows that Iraqi intelligence in August 2002 was looking for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. This suggests Zarqawi was not given office space in Baghdad by Saddam, which is what some war supporters practically have claimed.
Back to Hoekstra. He's suggesting that that wily ol' Saddam destroyed his WMDs or sent them to Syria minutes before the US invaded. But if Hoekstra had bothered to read either the report from David Kay or the one from Charles Duelfer--the two pro-war fellows who headed the postwar search for WMDs--he would know that both concluded there were no significant amounts of WMDs in Iraq before the war and that Iraq's WMDs program were moribund. So there was nothing to hide or destroy. But let's wish Hoekstra well as he looks at each and every one of the two million documents for killer evidence to support the discredited prewar case for war.
With the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq approaching, Congress rejected reality once more and provided another infusion of funding to continue the open-ended occupation of that increasing disordered and volatile land. Nothing, not even the Bush administration's deception and intransigence, has done so much to continue the quagmire as the failure of Congress to check and balance the madness of President George.
Even as Iraq has become the "Bloody Kansas" of the Middle East, with a horrific explosion of sectarian violence that even some of the administration's most ardent apologists admit could well be a precursor to civil war, Congress remains the rubberstamp that it has always been – a fact confirmed Thursday by the lopsided House vote to meet another of the president's demands for more money to pay for his military misadventure.
By a vote of 348-71, the House approved a $91.9 billion supplemental spending bill, with the lion's share of the new funding earmarked for Iraq. Three years into a war that 60 percent of Americans now tell pollsters has not been worth the cost in lives and dollars that it has extracted from the United States, overwhelming majorities of both the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the House backed a measure that demands no real accountability of the administration – and that perpetuates a war that, according to a new Gallup Poll, 58 percent of Americans believe has had a generally negative effect on life in the United States generally.
The new money for the Iraq occupation comes on top of the $50 billion in supplemental war funding that the Congress had already approved for the current fiscal year, after spending $100 billion last year. And the administration says it will be back soon seeking another $50 billion for the coming fiscal year. All of this spending is in addition to the record $439.3 billion defense budget the president submitted to Congress.
This additional spending will push the federal budget deficit to a record $423 billion in fiscal year 2006, up more than $100 billion over the past year. That fact, along with concerns about the attachment of $19 billion for Hurricane Katrina relief to what started as a military supplemental, led roughly a dozen Republican fiscal hawks to oppose the measure – including Judiciary Committee chair James Sensenbrenner and Budget Committee stalwart Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. It was also opposed by several Republicans who have rejected past war supplementals, such as Texan Ron Paul and Wisconsin's Tom Petri.
But the bulk of the opposition votes came from 52 Democrats, most of them members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who believe as Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich said before the vote: "After three years arrogance and incompetence, contempt and lies, death and destruction, Congress should say enough is enough and provide not one more dime for this Administration's ill-conceived, ill-advised, misguided and failed Iraq policy. Iraq has held three elections and is now a sovereign nation. Meanwhile, our troops are caught in the middle of a civil war that our own generals say cannot be won by military force. To funnel more money into this failed misadventure would serve only to throw good money after bad. Congress should not serve as a rubber stamp of this Administration's failed policies. Congress should reject this Supplemental request, along with the Administration's failed policy in Iraq, and work to bring all our troops home."
Missing from the list of those calling the administration to account were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California; House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland; and, of course, the militantly pro-war chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Illinoisan Rahm Emanuel.
Most voters won't have a chance to send a signal to Emanuel anytime soon. But, in Illinois's 6th Congressional District, Democratic primary voters will have a chance to choose on Tuesday between the DCCC chair's handpicked candidate, Tammy Duckworth, who does not live in the district, and grassroots Democrat Christine Cegelis, who lives in the district and who stunned analysts by winning almost 45 percent of the vote as the Democratic nominee in 2004.
Duckworth, an Iraq veteran, has a compelling personal story, but she has refused to endorse a clear timetable for bringing the troops home. Cegalis supports a timetable, saying, "I have opposed this war from the start. But revisiting what brought us to this disastrous point does not solve the problem. It is time for us to bring our troops home." Cegalis explains that: "The failures of this war must prevent the United States from making similar mistakes in the future. And the only way we can make sure that lesson is learned is to elect leaders who understand that lesson."
After Thursday night's vote in the House, it is more evident than ever that the inability to understand that lesson is not merely a Republican infirmity. And it is equally evident that the appropriate response to the crisis will require voters, not just in Illinois but nationwide, to follow their own good judgment – as opposed to the dictates of Democratic "leaders" in Washington.
That's the message of the new group Vote for Peace, which is asking voters to take a pledge before they go to the polls: "I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign."
Visit the Vote for Peace website at www.votersforpeace.us and learn more about this nonpartisan anti-war campaign.
Last week, Katrina vanden Heuvel and Sam Graham-Felsen pointed to the wave of antiwar resolutions coming from America's cities, labor organizations, and religious groups as a sign of the mainstreaming of antiwar sentiment.
The local character of the more than 500 antiwar events planned nationally this weekend to mark the third anniversary of the invasion is yet another example of the widening of dissatisfaction with the president's war. From potlucks in Fairbanks to a rally by a recruitment station in Tucson to Barbara Lee's Iraq Town Hall in Oakland to interfaith peace prayers in Denver to a march to Rep. Katherine Harris' office in Sarasota to Congressional office visits in Boise to a peace march in Tulsa, there are far too many signs of popular unrest with Bush's Iraq policy for, hopefully, even the politicians to ignore. (Read Ari Berman's new Notion post for more on that.) Check the United for Peace & Justice website for a good calendar of events nationwide organized by state. And click here to sign UFPJ's petition to Congress to vote to stop funding the war.
One of the glitzier events on the slate--the Bring 'Em Home Now! concert--takes place Monday, March 20, at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. Speakers, including RadioNation's Laura Flanders, Cindy Sheehan, Susan Sarandon, Margaret Cho, Chuck D and Anthony Arnove will join musical guests Michael Stipe, Rufus Wainwright, Peaches, Steve Earle, Devendra Banhart, Bright Eyes and Fischerspooner in what should be a long but entertaining (and certainly worthwhile) evening. Doors open at 7:00 for the 8:00 show. For ticket info go to TICKETMASTER.COM or call 212-807-7171. The gate will be split by Gold Star Families, Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War.