Why There’s No Strategy to End This War

Why There’s No Strategy to End This War

Why There’s No Strategy to End This War

When Democrats ignored Russ Feingold’s motion to censure the President, they provided more evidence that there is no visible national strategy to end the war and bring the troops home.


My local town of Eureka in northwest California had a pretty good peace rally on March 18, to mark the third anniversary of the US attack on Iraq. They’ve put them on every year, including a big one just before the war started. An ad hoc local group called Communities for Peace worked for eight weeks and, with the help of Veterans for Peace, pulled 2,000 people into the municipal auditorium on F Street. There were plenty of young people, and the crowd sat a bit restlessly through three speeches before hitting the streets. There were four marching bands.

They headed down to the square in Old Town, next to the rehabbed waterfront, where I was the designated final speaker. I cheered them all up by telling them no one present should ever look in the mirror and tell themselves they’re not smart enough to run the country. The country is being run by morons.

I read out some of the more spectacular moron predictions from 2003, finishing up with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, “We’re all neocons now,” and Vanity Fair‘s answer to Clausewitz, Christopher Hitchens: “This will be no war–there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention…. The president will give an order. [The attack] will be rapid, accurate and dazzling…. It will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation. And I say, bring it on.”

I told them that two out of three Americans now oppose the war. The problem is not in the heartland. The problem is at the national level. There is no visible national strategy to end the war and bring the troops home. I attribute this in considerable part to the disastrous fealty to the Democrats of the leadership of some of the big organizations. This explains why United for Peace and Justice, for example, was missing in action for most of 2004. It didn’t want to rock the Kerry boat, even as Capt. Kerry was drilling holes in its hull.

Then I read to the crowd Dana Milbank’s account in the Washington Post of how Russ Feingold’s Senate colleagues have reacted to his motion of censure of a President who has used the Bill of Rights to clean up after his dog.

Barack Obama of Illinois: “I haven’t read it.”

John Kerry of Massachusetts: “I really can’t [comment] right now.”

Hillary Clinton of New York rushed past reporters shaking her head, then trying to hide behind the 4’11” Barbara Mikulski.

Charles Schumer of New York, who would normally run over his grandmother to get to a microphone: “I’m not going to comment.”

Chris Dodd of Connecticut: “Most of us feel at best it’s premature. I don’t think anyone can say with any certainty at this juncture that what happened [the NSA’s eavesdropping] is illegal.”

Even while I was speaking, the weekend news shows were detailing the latest campaign plan of the Congressional Democrats. It’s called “Real Security.” And no, “security” here doesn’t mean a living wage, a pension, a health plan and no stop-loss order for your kid to stay in Iraq. It means guns and cops and lots of flag-wagging.

“Real Security” calls for Democrats to hinge the 2006 campaign on how the Republicans have failed us on the issue of national security. Harry Reid says Democrats should wrap themselves in the flag, have tanks as backdrop and then try to outflank the GOP from the right with demands for increased military funding, a better-fought war, tighter borders and ports run by white, American-born Christians, preferably free of radical organizers from the ILWU.

As reported in the Washington Times, Reid’s strategy memo advises: “Ensure that you have the proper U.S. and state flags at the event, and consider finding someone to sing the national anthem and lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the event.” Next up was Joe Biden, standing between two gold-fringed flags, and probably with Old Glory underwear, telling the press that “to the extent that Bush fails in Iraq, American interests are seriously damaged, and I’m rooting for his success, not his failure.” This is the man who explained his twenty-minute opening speech at the Alito hearings by saying he wanted to put the nominee at ease.

So what are we looking at down the road in the next year or two? A bunch of national Democrats like Hillary Clinton screaming about illegal immigrants and voting to fund a wall running from Corpus Christi to San Diego, staffed by Israeli death squads. If the war gets mentioned at all, it’ll be back to the old winning Kerry formula: We’ll fight it better. They’ll be drawing up Patriot Act III, plus new national ID cards and cameras on every street corner, just like the ones they’re installing in Britain.

Feingold will make a great showing in the early primaries, then get creamed by the Democratic machine. He’ll give a powerful speech at the convention, pledging allegiance to the candidate.

The Republicans will probably win again. Good luck to them. Who wants Democrats to get in, just to run a better police state, the way Blair and New Labour have in Britain, where, last time I looked, the government was planning to gas every badger from Lands End to Cape Wrath?

Who wants Democrats to get in to run a better Empire? In the Bush years Latin America is seeing a new dawn, with Hugo Chavez publicly deriding our Commander in Chief as a drunkard and sending cheap heating oil to the poor in the Northeast. In the Bush years two professors, from Harvard and the University of Chicago, have published an eighty-three-page paper outlining exactly why slavish deference to the Israel lobby is hurting America. I don’t think that would have happened in Clinton’s time. At some level, there’s a lot to be said for having morons in charge–at least until the sort of people I was talking to last Saturday can organize a party to take over, and start the long business of returning the country to sanity. Feingold should make a break for it now, split like La Follette and really stir things up. God knows, we need it.

Dear reader,

I hope you enjoyed the article you just read. It’s just one of the many deeply reported and boundary-pushing stories we publish every day at The Nation. In a time of continued erosion of our fundamental rights and urgent global struggles for peace, independent journalism is now more vital than ever.

As a Nation reader, you are likely an engaged progressive who is passionate about bold ideas. I know I can count on you to help sustain our mission-driven journalism.

This month, we’re kicking off an ambitious Summer Fundraising Campaign with the goal of raising $15,000. With your support, we can continue to produce the hard-hitting journalism you rely on to cut through the noise of conservative, corporate media. Please, donate today.

A better world is out there—and we need your support to reach it.


Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

Ad Policy