Now What?

By David Swanson

Over the past day or so, the following things have happened:

The Senate passed language aimed at antagonizing Iran.

The House approved billions more dollars to extend the occupation of Iraq a couple of more months and also joined the Senate in passing a condemnation of an activist group for telling the truth about a lying warmongering general.

A number of Democratic presidential candidates refused to commit to ending the occupation of Iraq by 2013, practically guaranteeing a Republican victory, but assuring no end to the war no matter who wins.

Congresswoman Jane Harman reported that Congress passed the bill last July shredding the Fourth Amendment and legalizing violations of FISA, because the White House alleged a bogus bomb threat on the U.S. Capitol and Congress got scared.

A Spanish newspaper printed the minutes of another pre-war meeting at which Bush schemed to launch the war he was pretending publicly to be trying to avoid.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on CNN: “I have always said that impeachment is off the table. This is President Bush’s war. It’s Vice President Cheney’s war. And now it’s become the war of the Republicans in Congress.”

Pretty grim, I’ll admit.

But not without cracks and fissures and possibilities for hope.

As regards the Democratic presidential candidates, we have always known that there were weak ones and strong ones. While Clinton, Obama, and Edwards say they may keep the occupation going for years, Kucinich, Dodd, Richardson, and Gravel, and even Biden in his own twisted way that’s unlikely to work, say otherwise. So, obviously one approach people intent on ending the occupation could take would be to devote money and support to Kucinich, Dodd, Richardson, or Gravel. Of these, Kucinich is highest in the polls and has the strongest plan for ending the occupation.

Yesterday also gave a new burst to Emails and websites organizing people to publicly quit the Democratic party. Dave Lindorff does a good job of arguing that this should be done for the Democratic Party’s own good. Abandoning the goal of ending the occupation will make it very hard for the Democrats to win. Something is needed to jolt them. And there is no reason you can’t send Kucinich money while sending Pelosi a goodbye note: Goodbye until you end the occupation.

Yesterday also saw a new burst of proposals to give up on trying to end the occupation of Iraq, and to focus our energies instead on preventing an attack on Iran. But we can and must do both, and it takes no greater effort to do both. If we establish that our government can kill off a movement to end one illegal war by threatening a second, what sort of precedent will we have set?

Now, if the Democratic leadership favors keeping the occupation going until 2013, and if people recognize that there is no reasonable excuse for that, perhaps people will also recognize that there is no decent excuse for keeping it going until 2008 either. Perhaps more and more people will recognize that it is a lie that Congress must pass a bill to end the occupation of Iraq. The occupation can be ended with an announcement by Congressional leaders that there will be no more funding. Any proposal to fund it can be blocked by 41 senators. Bush has plenty of money for withdrawal and could be given more for that exclusive purpose. When your television tells you the Democrats need 60 or 67 senators to end the occupation, your television is lying to you.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could if they wanted announce today that the House and Senate will no longer bring to a vote any bills to fund anything other than withdrawal. They have many colleagues already on board with that position, not to mention two thirds of the country. It would take 218 signatures on a discharge petition to force a bill to the floor of the House without Pelosi’s approval. It is unlikely enough Democrats would oppose their party to fund Bush’s war in that way. In the Senate, Reid alone could refuse to bring a bill to the floor, or another senator could put a secret hold on a bill. And, while not all bills can be filibustered (appropriations bills can be, budget reconciliation bills cannot), you can hardly claim you need 60 votes to get past a filibuster without admitting that with only 41 you could launch your own filibuster and that with 51 you could defeat any bill. Once you understand the goal as blocking bills rather than passing them, the number of allies you need shrinks dramatically.

Because people understand this to some extent, CNN is able to use people’s frustration to beat up on Pelosi. But CNN would never actually reveal to people what the solution is. CNN plays along with Pelosi’s pretense that she needs 60 senators or she’s helpless. Nonetheless, Pelosi must appear to a huge percentage of the audience to be lying when she says “I have always said that impeachment is off the table. This is President Bush’s war. It’s Vice President Cheney’s war. And now it’s become the war of the Republicans in Congress.”

The war belongs to those who could end it and fail to do so. The crimes of Bush and Cheney belong to the woman who refuses to impeach them, spitting in the face of 80 percent of Democrats and a majority of Americans.

Eighty-four congress members have signed a letter committing to oppose new occupation funding that does not end the occupation, and 20 have signed onto impeachment of Dick Cheney. Most of those 84 voted for more war money on Wednesday, but they claim that was an exception and that in the future they mean what the letter says. If the American public wakes up, shakes things up, and continues to escalate the strategic use of nonviolent civil disobedience in congressional offices, we can increase those numbers above 84 and 20. A major march is planned for Washington, D.C., this Saturday, but what is needed is unlikely to happen in Washington. What is needed is for a handful of people to go to their local congress member’s district office and read the Constitution aloud until forced to leave or arrested, and another group the next day, and another until they have a choice of closing the office or upholding their oath. We need this everywhere, and we need it now. And we need it completely regardless of the probability that we will succeed.

We need to struggle because it is the way we join together and make more of this frightening moment than we could by surrendering. Camus said “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Need any more inspiration? Watch these new videos of Sam Provance, Dan Ellsberg, Ann Wright, Larry Johnson, Coleen Rowley, Bob Parry, Akbar Ahmed, Peter Kuznick, Max Friedman, and Ray McGovern:

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