By David Swanson
Why is it that every time we elect “peace” candidates we defund the peace movement, stop calling for an end to wars, and limit our demands exclusively to opposing war escalations?
In 2006 we voted into Congress the candidates who looked most likely to end the war in Iraq. We congratulated ourselves on a job well done. Then we mildly urged them not to escalate the war they’d been elected to end, and they escalated it anyway.
In 2008 we voted into Congress and the White House the candidates who looked most likely to end the war in Iraq. Candidate Obama promised to pull out two brigades per month for sixteen months. Here we are in month 10 and that withdrawal has yet to begin. And what in the name of all that is true, good, and free-of-hope are we doing about it? Not a god damned thing.
Meanwhile Obama promised, much less noisily, to escalate a war in Afghanistan and has done so with no resistance, even as the American people have (at least in polls) turned against it. Now party leaders in Congress have given Obama the go-ahead for a larger escalation, and what have we done?
To begin with we’ve accepted the terms of the debate that our government officials always impose on us following an election: Are you for an escalation or do you think the current troop/mercenary levels are adequate? There is no room in that debate for arguing that the entire enterprise is illegal, barbaric, self-destructive, and must be immediately replaced with civilized acts of aid and diplomacy.
Of course we should oppose an escalation, just as we should prefer a “public option” to no healthcare reform at all. But self-censoring our demand for single-payer shifts the debate so far right that we can’t even pass a public option. And self-censoring our demand for an end to wars shifts the debate to a point where the middle ground becomes an escalation of half the largest size anyone proposes — and the war in Iraq is not even mentioned.
Well-meaning peace groups are pointlessly urging us to lobby the president, and are publicly whipping congress members on the following items: sponsorship of a bill that would require some sort of non-binding exit plan for Afghanistan if actually passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president, and sponsorship of a bill that would deny funding for an escalation in Afghanistan if actually passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president. But getting either of those bills through the Senate is going to be significantly more difficult than getting the House to stop funding the wars, and thus far no organizations have begun building a public list of House members committed to voting No on war money.
In June, because all the Republicans were voting No on the war money for their own crazy reasons, we only needed 39 Democrats to vote No to block it, and we managed to get 32. We could easily line up 39 right now if we worked at it. Then we could begin building from there in the direction of 218. Even if all you wanted to oppose was escalation, the way to actually do so would be to build a whip list of House members committed to voting No on war funding bills that did not limit troop levels in Afghanistan to the desired level. Nobody is doing that. The next supplemental spending bill will probably come by spring, and it’ll come sooner the greater the escalation, but peace coalitions tell me they think it’s smarter not to prepare for such fights ahead of time.
FireDogLake, which hosted our whip list in June, is fully immersed in healthcare struggles. United for Peace and Justice and a new anti-escalation coalition have both refused to host a list of congress members committed to voting No on war funding or even escalation funding. So, I’m going to provide, not a replacement for the anti-escalation campaigns, but a necessary addition to them. I’m going to post a list at the top of http://afterdowningstreet.org and encourage you to ask these 32 heroes from back in June (plus a very short list of Republicans) whether they are committed to voting against further funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Please phone them at (202) 224-3121 and post your responses on the website.