By David Swanson
It is not election season. It is citizen activism season. The eternal election season is draining all sorts of energy away from our democracy. And it’s not just the corporate media promoting it. Activist groups like Moveon.org are involved. Not just Moveon, many groups are buying into and promoting the idea that an election (like a mushroom cloud) is imminent. Those interested in promoting third-party candidates are among the most passionate promoters of this deadly notion. But Moveon is among the largest.
Tuesday night, MoveOn held a “virtual town hall meeting” asking candidates for US President about the war in Iraq. Some of the candidates are in Congress, so their views on Iraq are of interest to those busy working for peace.
MoveOn Director Eli Pariser introduced the online video by saying it would allow members of the moveon community to participate. But the interviews with the candidates had been prerecorded. The participation consisted of the prior submission and voting on questions to ask.
Candidates were not all asked the same questions, and Pariser read short bios for each candidate. But the questions tended to be fair and substantive, and the allotments of minutes even, making this a superior debate to those run by the corporate media. Here are my notes:
1.-best and fastest way to get out of iraq?
(Clearly had question beforehand or expected this question, clearly reading a written statement.)
I was wrong to vote for the war.
Congress should use funding authority to force Bush to end war and start immediately bringing troops home. Cap levels at 100,000 troops.
No new troops not prepared and equipped.
Complete withdrawal in a year.
2.-what will you do about prosecuting war profiteering in Iraq?
I’ll end it
Hold corporations accountable through judicial system
In new contracts impose a cap on profits
Bar contractors from donating to campaigns for a year before and after bidding on a contract
Close revolving door
3.-Murtha’s readiness standards approach – keep it in final bill out of conference committee?
Closing minute: Congress should find courage not to back down on supplemental.
JOE BIDEN: (with Moveon displaying a photo of Edwards)
1.-What is your plan to end the war in Iraq?
Biden began with “If I were president…” and thus avoided question of what he’ll do as a Senator. Biden blamed the violence on sectarian strife, and proposed decentralizing the Iraqi government. (But why is it Biden’s government to reshape? Why isn’t it the Iraqis’?) Proposed an international conference to impose on Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey a political solution. Then get out by March of 2008.
2.-How do huge bases and embassy building fit with assertions US will not stay in Iraq permanently?
I introduced bill over and over to ban permanent US bases in Iraq.
3.-Iraq Study Group says Iraqi police cannot control crime but engage in it. US is sponsoring and training Iraqi police who engage in ethnic cleansing.
We should stop training the police force. We should give local control to Iraqis in regions.
Closing minute: same stuff
DENNIS KUCINICH: (still photo of Edwards showing), clearly not reading from notes
Best and fastest way to end war in Iraq?
HR 1234. Violence driven by occupation. I warned against going into Iraq. Stop the funding. End the occupation. Close the bases. Move UN in as our troops leave. Bring back all US contractors. 50% of UN peace keeping troops should come from Muslim nations. We need a program of reconciliation between groups in Iraq, which cannot happen until occupation ends. We should not divide Iraq. Return control of the oil to the Iraqi people. Make sure Iraq can get loans without IMF and World Bank forcing privatization.
What diplomatic and humanitarian steps would you take for Iraq?
See HR 1234. We need to reach out to Syria and Iran. And we have to help Iraqis rebuild their lives. It’s going to take a massive program to rebuild hospitals, schools, places to shop. This is a humanitarian crisis. We need to take a new direction and reject war.
How repair relations between US and rest of world?
End the war now. Congress should provide no more funds for this war. We need to tell the world that we will not engage in preemptive wars. We’ll participate in the NPT with goal of getting rid of all nukes, support the chemical weapons convention, biological weapons convention, small arms treaty, join the International Criminal Court. I am the only one who voted against the war and has voted consistently against funding it. This will give me the credibility needed.
Closing minute: I had the wisdom to oppose the war and to vote against each and every appropriation to fund the war in Iraq. It’s inconsistent for anyone to say they are a peace candidate and keep voting to keep the war going.
1.-How end war?
If I were President, I would end the war within a year. I’d put Sunni, Shia, and Kurds in a room and tell them there’s going to be a coalition government. I’d also hold a US-led security conference, including Muslim nations, to deal with reconstruction and Iraq’s future security. You get Iran and Syria to invest in Iraq’s security. (Would they help with things like driving out foreign occupiers??) I would withdraw within the next 8 months.
2.-Are you for or against stopping the funding and why?
I am for a timetable. I would be for a cutoff of appropriations. I would pass a Congressional resolution deauthorizing the war based on the War Powers Act. In that deauthorization there would be a timetable, benchmarks. I would not support anything beyond 2008. There would not be a residual force. The Bush Administration would then say we do not support the War Powers Act. The next step would be to take it to the Supreme Court. I believe there would be a 50-50 chance in the Supreme Court. (That’s good enough? You haven’t heard of impeachment?)
Decision should be up to the Iraqi people.
Closing minute: I’ve created jobs and cut taxes and made New Mexico the clean energy state. I can work across party lines. I can fight for global climate change.
1.-Best and fastest way out of Iraq?
I introduced a bill that would begin redeployment in 90 days, cap number of troops in Iraq, prevent sending troops without training and equipment, apply benchmarks and consequences. If Iraqi government doesn’t shape up, we will stop funding them. That will really put pressure on them. We need an international conference in the Middle East. (So when would you end the war and how???) I’ve challenged the President not to veto. (Yeah, that’s telling him.) If this President won’t end the war, then I as President will. (CONGRESS Can end the war!!!)
2.-You envision a presence in Iraq to protect US interests. What interests? Will they be in cities or bases? For how long?
A residual force to train Iraqi troops, counter-terrorism, protect the Kurds. Not permanent. No permanent bases. Need to support the Iraqi government. We’ll survey the needs in 2009 and use as few troops as necessary.
3.-Will you oppose any bill that lacks a timeline?
We should not tell Bush what we will do if he vetoes. We should pressure him not to veto, by telling Americans he is the one cutting off the funding. (Hillary doesn’t understand that the American public – and more so Moveon members – wants to cut off the funding.)
Closing minute: Moveon is great.
1.-Plan to end war in Iraq?
Start redeploying this evening. Support Feingold-Reid. http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/feingoldbill Make America energy independent. Use diplomacy in the Middle East.
2.-Bush administration is pushing Iraqi government to pass law giving foreign corporations right to oil. Where do you stand on who should own Iraqi oil, its production and refinement?
If it’s true, it’s disgraceful. (He doesn’t KNOW??? He’s a US Senator???) Decision should be left to Iraqi people. We should be energy independent in 10 years.
3.-Do you support requiring the president to come to Congress before attacking Iran?
President could respond in an emergency, but even after that should come back to the Congress. (You didn’t answer the question.)
Closing minute: We need diplomacy to rebuild relationships, condemn torture, end wars, overturn the Military Commissions Act – I’ve introduced legislation to do that.
(OK, at this point, thinking I might get the images on the site to catch up with the audio, I stupidly hit Refresh on my browser and was unable to get back in until Obama was talking about…)
…We need diplomacy. We need a phased withdrawal.
3.-Will you commit to only supporting legislation that includes a timeline to end the war.
No. One possibility is giving Bush money for only 3 months at a time.
Closing minute: Keep up the pressure. We’ll bring troops home and focus on the wider struggle against terror. (The what?)