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$100 Billion to Continue the War
O n Friday, March 23 the Democrats in the House of Representatives pushed through the “U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health, and Iraq Accountability Act” by a vote of 218-212. The bill gives the Bush administration some $100 billion to continue the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while calling for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq by September 1, 2008.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi hailed this as a vote “to bring an end to the war in Iraq.” It is no such thing. Instead of ending the war, this bill (and a similar Democratic Party bill under consideration in the Senate) is an effort to pressure the Bush regime to adjust its strategy in Iraq and the region to better preserve U.S. imperialist hegemony and stamp out anti-U.S. resistance, Islamic fundamentalism in particular. It’s also designed to rein in and paralyze the millions who are increasingly angry and disillusioned with the war and the Bush regime, and channel these feelings into support for a different (Democratic Party) strategy in waging that war.
Retooling U.S. Strategy
T he Democrats’ bill reflects the deep concern of many ruling class strategists that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and the Bush strategy must be changed to head off even greater disasters for the empire. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter who has been advising the Democrats, testified before the Senate earlier this year: “If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large…[plunging] a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.”
So the Democrats (following in the vein of the Baker-Hamilton Study Group) are proposing a number of measures to try to stabilize the situation in Iraq, limit further U.S. losses (including the enormous stresses on the U.S. military), and shore up U.S. efforts across the region—while refocusing the U.S. “war on terror.” The measures proposed by the Democrats include:
Fully funding the war: Congress has the power to end the war by cutting off funding. Instead, the Democrats chose to give Bush $100 billion, enabling him to continue the war as he sees fit for the immediate future. This is more money than Bush originally asked for.
Enforcing “benchmarks”: These are the same benchmarks for the Iraqi government that Bush spelled out in his January 10 speech. The Democrats want to more aggressively impose them by threatening funding cutoffs and troop redeployments (from combat operations to training and/or out of the country). These benchmarks have nothing to do with liberating the Iraqi people—just the opposite. They’re aimed at heading off a strategic defeat in the region by forcing the various factions in the Iraqi government to subordinate their agendas to the U.S.’s overall goal of creating a more stable regime capable of ending the anti-occupation insurgency and the ongoing civil war, holding Iraq together, and acting in concert with U.S. goals in the region. So the Bush-Democrat benchmarks include passing a bill that divides oil revenues among Iraq’s different national and religious groups, reining in sectarian militias, and taking frontline responsibility to fight anti-U.S. forces. The U.S.-backed oil bill also opens Iraq’s enormous oil reserves to direct and open control by foreign capital for the first time in over 30 years, potentially giving global powers like the U.S. a stranglehold over this key Iraqi resource.
Blaming Iraqis for their suffering : Many top Democrats spout the chauvinist lies of the Bush regime, portraying the U.S. invasion as a noble effort to liberate Iraq and claiming that the Iraqis have now screwed things up with a persistent civil war. “We have lost over 3,000 people. We have lost over 25,000 wounded. The Iraqis have had Saddam Hussein taken out. They have had two elections,” Tennessee Democrat John Tanner declared on “Newshour” (March 22). “They have had a government now for over a year. And we see no progress on them…it’s time for them to step up.” But this turns reality upside down. It is the U.S.’s unprovoked war of aggression that has led to the death of an estimated 650,000 Iraqis, the forced displacement of another 3.2 million (over 1 in 10 Iraqis), and widespread destruction. Tanner’s lie also covers up the fact that the U.S. helped trigger and continues to fuel a “civil war” by empowering some reactionary forces, barring others, and encouraging sectarian divisions.
“Redeployment”—not withdrawal: The Democrats are not demanding that U.S. forces immediately leave Iraq—the only just solution—or that they ever leave Iraq. Both Bush and the Democrats envision that thousands of U.S. troops will be in Iraq for years to come—just not on the frontlines of combat in the same way or in the same numbers. Pelosi’s website states: “Following redeployment, U.S. troops remaining in Iraq may only be used for diplomatic protection, counterterrorism operations, and training of Iraqi Security Forces.” These open-ended commitments and the Democrats’ refusal to renounce permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq mean that thousands of U.S. troops could be stationed in Iraq for decades to come.
- Escalation in Afghanistan: Many of the “redeployed” troops could well be used in other countries in the region. According to Pelosi, “The bill significantly increases funding to defeat al Qaeda and terrorists in Afghanistan.” She also called it an effort to concentrate on Afghanistan “where the war on terrorism is.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the House bill “maximizes our chances for success in Iraq and redeploys our troops so we can more effectively wage the war on terror.” Afghanistan is not a “good war,” with Iraq a “diversion” from the “real war on terror,” as the Democrats often argue. Both are parts of the Bush regime’s war for greater empire, and the strikingly similar outcomes in both countries—the deepening suffering and anger of the people, the empowering of brutal reactionaries, the strengthening of oppressive, feudal relations—illustrate this reality.
Preserving the U.S. military: Another goal of the redeployment is preserving and rebuilding the U.S. military—the U.S.’s main weapon for enforcing its global hegemony. “The war in Iraq has produced a national security crisis,” Pelosi warned, “with military readiness at its lowest level since the Vietnam War.” In supporting the House bill, Brzezinski stated, “The United States cannot afford an open-ended commitment to a war without end. A means must be devised to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq and reduce our troop levels, so that we can begin to rebuild our military and reclaim our position of leadership in the world.”
Giving Bush a green light to attack Iran: The Democrats removed a stipulation that Bush had to get Congressional approval before attacking Iran. With the U.S. openly threatening Iran and with war preparations at an advanced stage and—given the Bush regime’s track record of launching pre-emptive wars based on lies—this amounts to giving Bush a bright green light to attack Iran.
Pressuring Bush, without unraveling the war: The Democrats are trying to walk the fine line of pressuring Bush while continuing to give him freedom to wage the war as commander-in-chief and not provoking a political crisis that could also accelerate a U.S. defeat. That’s why the Democrats have continued funding the war and why there are no means in their bill for enforcing their demands. In terms of the benchmarks, all Bush has to do is periodically “certify” in public that the Iraqi government is meeting them. As California Democrat Lynn Woolsey said on “Democracy Now!” (March 22), “There are virtually no enforcement measures in this legislation that will make the president do anything that we’re telling him to do…. [W]hen we get to the end of August 2008 and the war is still going on, we’re going to say to the president, ‘Alright, now you have to bring them home.’ The only way we can force him to do that in this bill is to sue him.” Of course, whether a political crisis will be averted is another matter. Bush has threatened to veto the Democrats’ legislation and is demanding a bill with no stipulations—or “strings” —at all. Overall, the possibility for geopolitical disaster in Iraq, or as a result of war with Iran, has made tensions within the ruling establishment very sharp.
All these steps flow from the Democratic Party’s agreement with the Bush regime’s basic goal of maintaining and strengthening U.S. imperialist global dominance—even as they have deep disagreements over how to realize it. A column in the Washington Post noted the striking similarity between the strategic visions of Democratic “neo-liberals” and Republican “neocons”: “[T]he fact is that prevailing Democratic doctrine is not that different from the Bush-Cheney doctrine. Many Democrats, including senators who voted to authorize the war in Iraq, embraced the idea of muscular foreign policy based on American global supremacy and the presumed right to intervene to promote democracy or to defend key U.S. interests long before 9/11, and they have not changed course since. Even those who have shifted against the war have avoided doctrinal questions.... [W]ithout a coherent alternative to the Bush doctrine, with its confidence in America’s military preeminence and the global appeal of ‘free market democracy,’ the Democrats’ midterm victory may not be repeated in November 2008. Or, if the Democrats do win in 2008, they could remain staked to a vision of a Pax Americana strikingly reminiscent of Bush’s” (“It’s Uphill for the Democrats,” Tony Smith, Washington Post , March 11, 2007).
What is Needed to End the War
I n November millions voted for the Democrats to protest Bush and the war and in hopes they would end it. Today, many—including people who worked energetically to elect Democrats and who’ve been lobbying them to cut off war funding—feel bitter, betrayed, and outraged. They should be. The lesson is not that the Democrats “sold out” or are “spineless.” The lesson is that the Democrats are a ruling class party (and this is deeply institutionalized, regardless of the desires or intentions of its supporters or even some elected Democrats), acting to advance the interests of a capitalist-imperialist system they’re part of and represent. These interests are directly antagonistic to the interests and sentiments of billions of people globally and the vast majority in the U.S.
The content of the Iraq Accountability Act and the way it was pushed through—including by threatening and strong-arming Democrats who said they wanted to vote against war funding and refusing to allow a vote on an amendment to only fund a withdrawal of U.S. forces—show this. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans make decisions on the basis of elections or public opinion. They make decisions based on the needs and interests of the imperialist system.
How can anything good for the people possibly come from decisions based not on ending an unjust war, but “winning” it? Not on ending a neo-colonial occupation, but stabilizing and continuing it? Not on supporting real liberation and self-determination, but on controlling countries and resources halfway around the globe and ensuring that the corporate-financial rulers of a country with some 3 percent of the world’s population can dominate and determine the destinies of the other 97 percent?
The problem isn’t only that the Democrats are betraying people’s hopes. They’re also actively and aggressively trying to channel and confine people’s hopes into pro-war, pro-imperialist politics. These are the only choices offered (in elections generally, especially important ones), and the only choices deemed “realistic” by the powers that be. Take the “poll” conducted by Moveon.org, an activist group closely tied to the Democratic Party. Right before the war funding vote, Moveon gave its members the “choice” of voting for Pelosi’s bill—or not. Voting to end funding for the war wasn’t a choice, even though the head of Moveon admitted its membership would have supported it.
This is one way millions of anti-war people end up voting for one pro-war candidate versus another. This is already being “programmed” into the 2008 elections—and into the minds of anyone who remains confined by these choices. This will happen unless and until the entire political calculus is upended by massive upheaval from below.
But such an outpouring cannot and will not happen as long as millions are putting their hopes in the Democrats—either passively by waiting for 2008 or actively, by focusing their energy, efforts, hopes, and money into pressuring the Democrats to “do the right thing,” instead of putting them where they can really count for something: into mobilizing the one force that can stop the war and drive out the Bush regime: the millions, from all walks of life, who oppose them. Inspiring and organizing these millions to take independent mass political action based on the just demands of ending the war and turning back all the outrages of the Bush regime, from torture to spying to theocracy, is the only realistic option and the only way these crimes will be stopped. It will never happen by hoping the Democrats become something they’re not and never have been.
Larry Everest is author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda (Common Courage), a correspondent for Revolution, and a contributor to Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney (Seven Stories).
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AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.