By Ed Ciaccio
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
We must be clear about the following bitter realities:
1. “Every 10 minutes an Iraqi civilian is injured or killed in a war that George Bush says will not end until he leaves office. Every 10 hours an American soldier is killed in a war that George Bush says will not end until he leaves office. Every 10 days $2 billion is removed from the U.S. Treasury and placed in the accounts of Halliburton, Blackwater and all other war profiteers that are getting rich off the misery of Iraqis and Americans by a government that will continue to remove those amounts or more every ten days as long as George Bush is President of the United States” (from Sally B. Davidson at Veterans for Peace, NY).
While Bush and Cheney remain in office, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan will continue. Bush’s recent announcement of his (probably illegal) “agreement” with the increasingly unpopular, discredited, U.S.-puppet Maliki regime to continue Iraq deployment of U.S. troops indefinitely shows Cheney/Bush’s absolute and total contempt for our Constitution and the wishes of 3/4 of U.S. citizens. As even Alan Greenspan admitted in his recently-published book: the Iraq War was largely about oil. The U.S. power elite, Democratic as well as Republican, wants those permanent U.S. bases in Iraq to protect access to, and control of, “our” oil, especially as China, India, and Europe become stronger economic and trade threats to U.S. global hegemony.
2. Why do BOTH major parties agree that the U.S. “needs” access to, and control of, this oil? Because, implicitly, most Americans believe that we “need” this oil to live the way we have become accustomed to living in 2007. The one, true religion of all Americans is Consumerism, and we all practice it daily via TV & radio, the Internet, and in our mega-cathedral of consumption, the shopping mall. We need to be honest with ourselves and face up to how much our consumptive (pun intended) U.S. lifestyle depends on maintaining our oil and other fossil fuels addictions, and how complacent, if not comfortable, we are about expecting that our political and military leaders will continue to secure these foreign fossil fuels to support our lavish “American Dream” lifestyle. Then we need to ask ourselves how much we are truly willing to cut back, and how we can make this a part of our activism.
3. Therefore, based on points 1 and 2 above, most Congressional Democrats implicitly support the continued occupations, regardless of their rhetoric, which is belied by their failure to stop funding the occupations, or to begin impeachment hearings of Cheney and Bush. Oil is also a major reason they support military threats of “regime change” in Iran, along with over-concern for Israel’s security, regardless of Israel’s hundreds of nuclear weapons (Israel, unlike Iran, is NOT a signatory to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty), and general lack of real concern about Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinians and its 40-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. The largely neocon-led “Israel Lobby” is a reality which we must, sooner or later, confront, especially since it has so much influence on most members of Congress.
4. The leading Democratic Presidential candidates, Clinton, Obama, & Edwards, all said they will keep some (50,000?) U.S. troops in Iraq through their first term (till 2013), so we can’t count on them to stop this wasteful madness anytime soon. That relatively smaller number of troops, dispersed among the (4? 14?) permanent bases, will be enough to protect “our” oil, but small enough for Iraq to become as forgotten (except to the troops and their families) as our 50-year occupation of South Korea or Germany. Only Richardson, Kucinich, & Gravel have said they will begin to bring home the troops immediately, and they have next to no chance at being the nominee.
5. ALL the presidential candidates, and ALL members of Congress, get contributions from the “Defense” (War) Industry, to a greater or lesser extent. Right now, for example, Hillary Clinton leads ALL candidates, Democratic as well as Republican, in the amount of such contributions. See Defense Industry Embraces Democrats, Hillary By Far The Favorite
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2007/10/17/defense-industry-embraces_n_68927.html. (To find out what each industry contributes to which politicians, including candidates, go to http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.asp?Ind=B02)
6. The Senate could easily gather 41 votes to stop funding the occupations, enough to filibuster it until Bush gives in, or leaves office. They need only 41 votes (or abstentions) to sustain a filibuster against the next supplemental appropriation for the war. That kills the legislation – completely veto proof and then Bush must come to them with a bill they find acceptable. So why don’t the Dems filibuster? Democratic Senate majority Leader Harry Reid has already taken that strategy “off the table.” (see numbers 1, 2, and 3 above again)
7. Even if the Democrats did stop funding everything but withdrawal of our troops, Bush would illegally keep funding the occupation. See The Two Biggest Public Secrets, and How Bush Just Signing Statemented Iraq By David Swanson
8. So the only sure way to stop the occupation and force Cheney/Bush to start withdrawing troops is to hold impeachment hearings. But Dennis Kucinich’s HR 333 to impeach Cheney has been buried in the House Judiciary Committee for a month now, and will not be resurrected. Why is the Democratic “leadership” keeping impeachment “off the table,” even after so much evidence of high crimes? Why did Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi take impeachment “off the table” as soon as she was sworn in as Speaker in January, 2007? See the next point.
9. According to Constitutional scholar and Bush administration critic Jonathan Turley, a nationally recognized legal scholar who teaches at George Washington University Law School, interviewed on the Nov. 28, 2007 Randi Rhodes Show on Air America Radio, the Democratic Congressional “leadership” has made a ‘pact” with Republicans NOT to impeach Cheney or Bush. See “I Can Promise You This: The Democrats Will Never… Pursue the President Even Once He’s Out of Office http://journals.democraticunderground.com/orleans/136
10. So, if the Democrats will NOT filibuster to block occupation funding, if their leading candidates all agree to keep U.S. troops in Iraq; if Bush will write signing statements diverting (actually, misappropriating) funds from other War Department budget areas to keep his Iraq & Afghan occupations going; if most Democrats will continue voting for bloated, Cold War-level War Budgets regardless of our real security and domestic needs; if Democrats and Republicans will not stand up for what is left of our Constitution and Bill of Rights as Cheney/Bush grab more and more executive power; if the “fix” is in so that Democrats will never impeach Cheney/Bush, where does all this leave us?
It’s about time we cleared our eyes of the fog of an alleged “two party system” and truly, deep in our bones, realized that, when it comes to war-funding and foreign policy, the U.S. has only one War Party, with two branches (to paraphrase Gore Vidal). It’s true that most Democrats are somewhat more “liberal” than most Republicans when it comes to “domestic” issues such as women’s reproductive choice, separation of church and state, affirmative action, teaching evolution, helping the poor and homeless, health care, funding education, improving our infrastructure, and caring for the environment. These differences are significant and should not be minimized.
BUT, when “national security” and foreign policy (in reality, expansion and maintenance of U.S. global hegemony and empire) are the issues, and when the Democrats’ record since 1947 is examined, there has always been little significant difference between them and Republicans, which is what President Eisenhower warned us about just before he left office. Now, consider that “military spending” (WAR-MAKING spending) takes up well over 50% of the discretionary U.S. budget every year, if one realistically and accurately includes the military spending which is part of NASA, the Dept. of Energy (nuclear weapons), Veterans’ Affairs, and debt for all our past wars, those “domestic programs” cited above stand little chance of EVER being adequately enough funded to make a real difference. See Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes http://www.warresisters.org/piechart.htm. As one of the most tragic examples, Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty would have succeeded if the Vietnam War hadn’t sucked funds away from it.
The last seven, very bitter but eye-opening years have revealed a harsh truth which many knowledgeable, insightful Americans had learned long ago (but which took me a long time to learn): we cannot count on either party to fulfill their legal and moral responsibilities to protect and defend our Constitution, nor to truly work for social and economic justice and a world without war or want or ecological devastation. We can, unfortunately, expect them to continue to feather their own nests while they endlessly bloviate about how they are representing us.
Right now, we DO NOT have a government of, by, and for the people of the United States. We have a government of, by, and for war criminals, by their enablers in the Congress, and by the corporate media which profits from the status quo. And it will continue this way, as long as the current bipartisan power structure, the Corporate-Military-Congressional-Media Complex (CMCM), continues.
It’s the 21st century. It’s time for anti-war, social justice, environmental, human rights, workers’ rights, feminist, gay rights, minority (racial, cultural, religious) rights, and immigrant rights groups and populations to join together to work for a truly better future for all of us and our children and grandchildren. As Native Americans put it, we must live with Seven Generations in mind.
Where and when we can work with Democrats or Republicans, we should, of course. But we must always be mindful that the current corrupt system of legalized bribery and influence-pedaling (lobbying) suits most members of Congress very well and very comfortably. Without massive, withering pressure from all of us, they will never agree to necessary reforms such as public-only campaign financing; the total end of all corporate financing & contributions (in spite of at least two infamous, shameful Supreme Court decisions, corporations are NOT “persons”, so they are NOT entitled to the right of free speech, which the Supreme Court said equals money); free TV & radio airtime (on OUR airwaves!) for candidates; popular election of the President (elimination of the archaic, grossly inequitable Electoral College); paper ballots with paper records of votes for recounts; Election Day(s) as a paid but work-free national holiday or even a two-day weekend; and ending ALL organizational (“special interest) lobbying of politicians. In a true democracy, OUR representatives are responsible to US, THE PEOPLE, not to corporations nor lobbies.
Once we accept the fact that, paradoxically, we are on our own together, that “We must be the change we wish to see in the world,” as Gandhi has taught us, that we must rely on each other, not on monied interests such as political parties which have everything to gain by keeping the status quo, we can begin to develop strategies and tactics to make our country our own, as it never truly has been before. If marches, demonstrations, vigils, street actions, and all the old 1960’s tactics no longer work (except to make us feel better in our self-reflective bubbles), we must accept this, abandon them, and develop effective new tactics for the 21st century, Internet, personal media age. To start with, self-styled “progressive” organizations such as MoveOn and United for Peace and Justice must abandon their too-cozy relationship with the Democratic Party, and “move on” to become truly progressive, truly non-partisan organizations. Better minds than mine must devise the tactics needed for these transformations.
True progressives practice the precautionary principle: first, do no harm. They practice compassion by working to implement policies which provide for people and people’s rights, not harm them or strip their rights. They are not slaves to ideology, unless compassion, the struggle to end inhumanity, is an ideology. Our resistance to inhumanity, to the violence of neoliberal “free trade” economic policies, the violence of neocon military policies (state terrorism), and the violence of any and all nature-ravaging policies, must begin with us, ourselves, then branch out through, and connect to, our colleagues who share a vision of a better future.
To start with, we must, as James Carroll reminded us, call things by what they truly are, not by the Orwellian frames handed us by the power elite to cloud our thinking and acting. We have a War Department, as it was called before World War II, not a “defense” department. Our huge, bloated Global War Budget, which is larger than the war budgets of ALL other countries combined, deprives all of us of needed services and resources. Violence begets revenge and more violence, not peace and security. The “war on terror” is a lie. Iraq is a violent occupation by foreign troops (us) sent there for oil and control; it is no longer a war. Nuclear weapons are genocidal, not weapons of war. “Free trade” globalization is theft of resources and exploitation of powerless people for corporate profit and control.
As 2007 ends and Election Year 2008 begins, let’s keep these bitter, sobering, but ultimately liberating realizations uppermost and begin to act on them.