Ending the War in 2007
-by Kevin Martin
Congress is now considering the Bush Administration’s request for a supplemental appropriations bill for the “global war on terror” – whatever that is. The lion’s share of the $120+ billion bill is of course earmarked for continuing the occupation of
Iraq. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the “supplemental” provides an opportunity to end the war and bring US troops home this year.
It is not necessary at this time to delve into the specific issues in the House and Senate versions of the bill, which will need to be reconciled in a conference committee. One notable, and regrettable, omission from both bills was a provision to prohibit President Bush from attacking
Iran without congressional authorization (it had been proposed for inclusion in both bills but survived in neither). By floating and then ditching provisions regarding
Iran, did Congress send Bush a tacit green light for a military attack, or at least the room for him to interpret it that way?
The peace movement and our congressional allies need to focus on the real action, President Bush’s threat to veto the supplemental if it contains any conditions, timelines or goals for withdrawal of US troops, which it almost surely will.
In the end, George Bush may well be our best ally.
Here’s the likely scenario: a House-Senate conference committee report the peace movement does not support (because its conditions, timelines and loopholes would allow for the war to continue for well over another year, and tens of thousands of troops to remain in Iraq indefinitely) is hammered out and is sent to the president, who keeps to his word and vetoes it, as he wants absolutely no fettering whatsoever of his war-making authority.
Game on. We tell House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic leadership that when Bush vetoes the supplemental, that’s it – no more money for the war. They do not try to override Bush’s veto – they don’t have the votes (a two-third’s majority is needed) and even if they did we wouldn’t want them to.
Reid and Pelosi do not go back to Bush with a weaker bill or, worse yet, one with no constraints on the president’s perpetuation of the quagmire. That is not the mandate for peace the voters so clearly delivered last November.
At our insistence, with plenty of loving, non-violent pressure if necessary, the Democratic leadership must go back to Bush with a bill to fully fund a safe and orderly withdrawal of all — all — US troops and US-funded military contractors from Iraq by the end of the year. The bill should also specify that the US will not maintain any permanent bases in Iraq, and it should make healthy down payments on an interim UN or regional peacekeeping force if Iraqi factions agree it is needed; on reparations and reconstruction aid for the people of Iraq, to whom we owe an enormous debt; and on taking care of our veterans when they get home. (U.S. Reps Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters, all Democrats from California, and US Sen. Russ Feingold, Democrat from
Wisconsin, have introduced legislation in this vein.)
That is our goal, ending the occupation of
Iraq and bringing US troops home this year. Not getting more co-sponsors on various bills which may or may not ever get a vote in order to “build momentum”. Not improving the Democrats’ prospects in next year’s elections. Not using the war as a cudgel to hammer Bush. Ending the war this year.
This will likely come down to a game of political chicken. Democrats need to immediately stop being cowed by the Administration’s obscenely cynical use of the troops (as in, anyone who disagrees with Bush on
Iraq “doesn’t support the troops”) as human shields for its miserably failed policies.
Democrats, please repeat after me: “The best way to support the troops is to get them out of Bush’s quagmire by fully funding a safe, orderly and complete withdrawal from
Iraq by the end of the year, so they can enjoy the holidays in the warm embrace of their families.”
As of now, we lack the votes in Congress to pass legislation to end the war by the end of the year, but there has been little or no debate in Congress or the media about proposals to do so. Let’s start that debate, instead of haggling over a weak supplemental that Bush intends to veto.
In the end, it could well be the greatest obstacle to this simple scenario working out is the peace movement’s and our congressional allies’ lack of confidence in our ability to actually win, to actually end the nightmare in
Dare we hope? Dare we plan to win?
I say we should show we have the courage of our convictions, and we should set our sights on nothing less than ending the war this year.
Kevin Martin is executive director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund, headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside
Washington. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with over 100,000 members nationwide, and the organization is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. www.peace-action.org