Sunday, June 10, 2007

Get America Out Of Iraq


No, we're not endorsing anyone. But we have been looking at campaign literature that arrives in the mailboxes. Bill Richards deserves credit not only for his bumper sticker, but also for an envelope that states (between the sender and the mail to addresses) "The war in Iraq is not the disease. Iraq is a symptom. The disease is arrogance." (Richards' plan is that Congress should reauthorize the illegal war and then pull troops out of Iraq within six months -- no qualifiers of "combat" troops: "We must remove ALL of our troops. There should be no residual US forces left in Iraq. Most Iraqis, and most others in the region, believe that we are there for their oil, and this perception is exploited by Al Qaeda, other insurgents, and anti-American Shia groups. By announcing that we intend to remove ALL troops, we would deprive them of this propaganda tool. And once all US troops are out of Iraq, Al Qaeda foreigners will no longer be able to justify their presence there, and the Iraqis will drive them out.")

The John Edwards campaign, by contrast, recently sent out a mailing which included a four page letter. While Iraq is number one of his "three specific examples," you have to turn to page two (the back of page one) before you find Iraq mentioned. We'll note the statement from the Edwards campaign on Iraq in full:

1) Iraq -- I was wrong when I voted in 2002 to give President Bush the power to invade Iraq. His Administration has failed us on the war at every turn.

While we can't change the past, we need to accept responsibility, because a key part of restoring America's moral leadership is acknowledging when we've made mistakes -- and showing that we have the backbone to make them right.

That's why I've called for the immediate withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 combat troops from Iraq, followed by a complete withdrawal in about a year.

There's no military solution to the civil war that's taking place in Iraq, and until we show we are serious about leaving, the Iraqi people won't start taking responsibility for their country.

More debate in Washington isn't enough. We need to end this war, and with your support today, I'll use my campaign as a platform to speak out for all of us who want to bring our troops home and find a diplomatic solution to this crisis.

If you missed it, last Sunday the Democratic candidates for hoping to win their party's presidential nomination had a debate last week. In it, Barack Obama thought he could score some points on Edwards (who had rightly stated there is a difference between legislating and leadership) by saying Edwards was four-and-a-half years too late. Barack Obama expects a lot of brownie points for being against the illegal war before started. But, as Cedric and Wally noted, the proper response to Obama's assertion is, "BARACK, I KNOW YOU USED TO SPEAK AGAINST THE ILLEGAL WAR BEFORE THE SUMMER OF 2004, BUT WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR US LATELY? OOOOH-OOOOH-OOOOH-YEAH."

Seems to us that if you're running for president (two years after being elected to the US Senate) and you were against the illegal war before it began, you should be able to offer a real plan and, no, cribbing from the James Baker Circle Jerk doesn't count. But it does add to the general opinion that Barack Obama is not a leftist, he is a triangulating centrist. As Ruth Conniff (whom we're thrilled to be able to say something nice about) noted, "Less inspiring, in his best-selling book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama stakes out the middle ground between political poles he describes as right and left 'extremes.' He associates Rush Limbaugh with one and NPR with the other" ("Obama's Kennedy Bid," pp. 14-15, The Progressive, June 2007). This is the great left hope? Someone repeating the lie that mainstream media is liberal?

At his feel-good website ("Did you get your box?" asks a former coffee fetcher for Katrina vanden Heuvel), Iraq is the second issue listed. (First? "Security" underscoring Conniff's points about his war-on for Iran.) After he's done back-patting and self-stroking, this is offered:

Senator Obama introduced legislation in January 2007 to offer a responsible alternative to President Bush's failed escalation policy. The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008 -- a date consistent with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group's expectations. The plan allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces. If the Iraqis are successful in meeting the 13 benchmarks for progress laid out by the Bush Administration, this plan also allows for the temporary suspension of the redeployment, provided Congress agrees that the benchmarks have been met.

Okay, can we all just grow up for one damn minute? The symbolic Pelosi-Reid measure was worthless for many reasons but one was the "combat brigades." As with that measure, Obama's plan allows troops to remain in Iraq 'till the end of time. How so? Bully Boy can reclassify them as "military police" or state they are needed not for "combat" but to fight "terrorism." Barack Obama's 'plan' is short on specifics (all this time later) and symbolic. This from the candidate who thinks he is qualified to lead the country?

Reality is that Barack Obama lost his semi-strong voice on Iraq when he lost Jack Ryan as a challenger in the 2004 election. By the time he was tossing out sap to the masses (which, among big independent media, only Matthew Rothschild called out in real time), at the 2004 DNC convention he found his touchy-feel, moist voice that he's more or less kept ever since.

Iraq is nothing but a slogan -- and a soft one at that -- at this point in Obama's campaign. So much so that even War Hawk Joe Biden (who wants to partition Iraq into three sections) is coming off more serious about the war than is Obama:

Following the announcement yesterday by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) of six sanctioned Presidential Debates, Senator Joe Biden called on all four participating network news Presidents to organize one 90-minute debate focused solely on ending the War in Iraq. Biden also asked DNC Chairman Howard Dean to join him in his efforts.

Click here to find the petition and add your voice to the debate.

The American people want to understand our plans for ending the Iraq war, and numerous news outlets all agree that Iraq is the defining issue of the upcoming Presidential election. As such, the Concord Monitor argued that, "Joe Biden is absolutely right about one thing: 60 seconds is not enough time to debate the future of Iraq. He's called for a 90-minute debate on that one topic alone. The other candidates for president should sign on to the idea and find a television network willing to give them the airtime." [Concord Monitor, 5/2/07] Des Moines Regiser columnist David Yepsen also endorsed a debate on Iraq. Yepsen said that a debate should be held "on Iraq and the U.S. role in the world." [Des Moines Register, 5/8/07]

Exactly why is Joe Biden the candidate calling for a debate on Iraq? Iraq clearly decided the 2006 elections (based on polling), so why are so many of the candidates shy about broaching the topic in specific terms?

Not a lot of feel good moments in discussing Iraq but anyone wanting to aspire towards president should be able to offer leadership right now.

Dennis Kucinich isn't afraid to grapple with the issue of the illegal war. He spoke out against it before it began, he voted against it in Congress. And, unlike Obama, he's been able to come up with a twelve-plan point for ending the illegal war (one that doesn't crib from centrist panels).

Appearing last week on Paula Zahn Now (CNN) for a discussion on faith, Kucinich repeatedly addressed the topic of Iraq:

We have -- we're in Iraq based on lies. And, you know, the Bible has a line that says that which is crooked cannot be made straight. Nothing will ever be made straight about our presence in Iraq. We must leave Iraq. We must bring our troops home. And we must work to achieve a kind of reconciliation with the people of Iraq, with the people of the world and within our own country for -- in order to establish truth once again and make that truth the single principle upon which our country is based.

Hillary Clinton argues she has a plan. Actually, she argues she is pushing two plans but has anyone noted that they overlap on the authorization issue? Both include that, so is that her playing it safe to be sure it is addressed or is she really not going to put her muscle behind one or both measures? More curiously, her campaign website notes:

Hillary opposes permanent bases in Iraq. She believes we may need a vastly reduced residual force to train Iraqi troops, provide logistical support, and conduct counterterrorism operations. But that is not a permanent force, and she has been clear that she does not plan a permanent occupation.

Well nothing is "permanent" in the lasts forever, but that certainly sounds like prolonged occupation. And Clinton's twice-focused measures on authorization seem to firmly accept that the illegal war is authorized. One who doesn't is John Edwards and this is from his plan:

Edwards' plan for Iraq calls for Congress to:
Cap Funds: Cap funding for the troops in Iraq at 100,000 troops to stop the surge and implement an immediate drawdown of 40-50,000 combat troops. Any troops beyond that level should be redeployed immediately.
Support the Troops: Prohibit funding to deploy any new troops to Iraq that do not meet real readiness standards and that have not been properly trained and equipped, so American tax dollars are used to train and equip our troops, instead of escalating the war.
Require Authorization: Make it clear that President Bush is conducting this war without authorization. The 2002 authorization did not give President Bush the power to use U.S. troops to police a civil war. President Bush exceeded his authority long ago, and now needs to end the war and ask Congress for new authority to manage the withdrawal of the U.S. military presence and to help Iraq achieve stability.
End the War: Require a complete withdrawal of combat troops in Iraq in 12 to 18 months without leaving behind any permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.

As Norman Solomon noted, it's clearly Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel who have an anti-war position (last Friday's Living Room, hosted by Kris Welch on KPFA). Gravel has a plan for Congress to end the illegal war:

Effective 120 days after this bill becomes law:
1. All members of the United States Armed Forces must be withdrawn from Iraq, except the Marine Corps guards serving on the sovereign territory of the United States at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and performing solely typical embassy guard duties. No member of the United States armed forces may remain within the borders of Iraq on or after the 121st day after this bill becomes law.
2. No funds authorized or appropriated at any time by any other Act of Congress or controlled by the United States or any of its officers, employees, or agents (whether or not the use of such controlled funds has been authorized or appropriated by an Act of Congress) may be used to conduct or support military or paramilitary operations (whether conducted by members of the United States Armed Forces or by military personnel or civilians of any nation) within or over the territory of Iraq (which territory of Iraq includes the waters within 3 miles of the Iraqi coast) except for travel by the Marine Corps embassy guards allowed by Section 1.
3. On the 122nd day after this bill becomes law and on the first business day of each month thereafter (for a period of one year following the 122nd day after this bill becomes law), each of the following officials shall deliver to the Congress a separate written certificate signed by the official under penalty of perjury certifying that since the 121st day after this bill becomes law the United States has complied with the sections of this law indicated immediately after each official’s position:
a. the President - Sections 1 and 2
b. the Vice President - Sections 1 and 2
c. the Secretary of Defense - Sections 1 and 2
d. the Secretary of the Treasury - Section 2
4. It shall be unlawful for any person willfully and knowingly to violate, or to conspire to violate, any provision of this law or to deliver a written certificate to the Congress as required by Section 3 which certificate is false. The provisions of this Section 4 shall not apply to any person who, at the time of the violation, was a uniformed member of any branch of the United States Armed Forces below general officer or flag rank (below the rank of Brigadier General or below the rank of Rear Admiral). Any violation of any provision of this law, and conspiracies to commit such a violation, occurring outside the United States, shall be prosecuted only in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which shall have exclusive original jurisdiction over any such prosecution. Each act constituting a violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of $1,000,000 and by imprisonment for five years (without the possibility of parole, probation, or reduction in fine or sentence for any reason other than a written certificate from the prosecuting attorney representing the United States to the effect that the convicted person has provided information necessary to a conviction actually obtained of some person of higher rank for a violation of any provision of this law). Notwithstanding any other provision of law, in the event any fine is not paid as ordered by the court, the Secretary of the Treasury shall deduct the unpaid amount of the fine from any funds otherwise payable for any reason by the United States to any person convicted of a violation of any provision of this law. Such deductions shall continue until the fine has been paid in full. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any prosecution of a violation of any provision of this law must commence within fifteen (15) years after the violation occurred.
5. The Joint Resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq (H.J. Res. 114), approved by the House of Representatives on October 10, 2002 and by the Senate on October 11, 2002, is hereby repealed.

Chris Dodd's campaign offers a speech where he calls for support for the Feingold-Reid measure

"that sets a firm timetable to end this war by March 31st, 2008". (A note on Chris Dodd's campaign website, it is now offering text as well. For many, the over dependence upon video clips seemed far from inclusive. So to repeat, it is now offering text as well a/v material.)

Does the illegal war matter to you? It should. And more than Joe Biden should be calling for at least one Democratic debate on the topic. It's easy to sit on your ass and Obama appears happy to do so. But others are offering plans to varying degrees. You need to know what their plans are because that's a great deal more important to all of our lives than who won the latest fundraising cycle or who is up in the polls?

In terms of seriousness on the issue we grade the following as serious or semi-serious: Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Mike Gravel, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd and Hillary Clinton. We don't grade Obama as serious at all. He's fond of pointing out that he was opposed before the illegal war began and the best that he can do, all these years later, is offer "me too!" to the James Baker Circle Jerk (which pushes for the privatization of Iraqi oil -- Dennis Kucinich has come out firmly against that). In terms of people whose positions speak to us in part or in whole, we'd note the following: Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd. You need to figure out where you stand and you better believe mainstream media isn't going to assist you (nor will the fluff that The Nation keeps churning out by their new crops of writers).
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