Friday, March 28, 2008

War, what is it good for? Electing Democrats

Writing in the Guardian, Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill throw cold water on the idea that either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton are committed to anything other than a Bush-lite (at best) foreign policy:
For the first time in 14 years, weapons manufacturers are donating more to Democrats than to Republicans. The Democrats have received 52% of the defence industry's political donations in this election cycle - up from a low of 32% in 1996. That money is about shaping foreign policy and, so far, it appears to be well spent.

While Clinton and Obama denounce the war with great passion, they both have detailed plans to continue it. Both say they intend to maintain the massive green zone, including the monstrous US embassy, and to retain US control of Baghdad airport.

They will have a "strike force" to engage in counter-terrorism, as well as trainers for the Iraqi military. Beyond these US forces, the army of green zone diplomats will require heavily armed security details, which are currently provided by Blackwater and other private security companies. At present there are as many private contractors supporting the occupation as there are soldiers, so these plans could mean tens of thousands of US personnel entrenched for the future.
After the performance of Democrats in Congress over the past year and half, one would think anti-war activists would not need to be reminded that the Democratic Party is more than happy to take their votes while continuing the US imperial mission abroad, albeit with a kinder, gentler face (not that that matters to an Iraqi parent who has had a son or daughter liberated by an American "smart bomb").

As a congressional correspondent at the time Democrats took back the Congress in November '06, I remember House Speaker Nancy Pelosi boldly declaring that she would end the dastardly war in Iraq, while coldly calculating to do no such thing. After all, doing something proactive to end the war -- like cutting the funding, as Congress has the full authority to do -- would open up Democrats to claims that they are "weak" and pacifistic.

Meanwhile, allowing "Bush's war" in Iraq to continue, and to actually expand, would allow the donkeys to come galloping back to the White House in '08 on a platform of opposing the war, or so the thinking of the Democratic leadership goes.

The lack of change -- there's that word again! -- brought about by the Democratic takeover of Congress was perhaps best described not by some some anti-war activist like Cindy Sheehan, but by Republican congressman Paul Ryan at a hearing I attended in October:
[Since Democrats took over Congress] we’ve heard comparisons about how much we are spending on the war as opposed to children’s health insurance or education programs, or what have you. But nothing has really changed. The President continues to send his war funding requests to the Hill, and in the end, he continues to get what he asks for.
Now, Klein and Scahill argue that anti-war voters should use their electoral power to force Clinton and Obama to adopt a more strident stand against the occupation of Iraq. That might be all well and good, but if neither of them feel comfortable calling for a complete withdrawal now, when a good 70% of the American public opposes the war, then they probably never will. Instead, the public will continue to get glorious sound-bites about "bringing the troops home" -- always short on specifics -- and the occupation will continue to one degree or another, regardless of who wins the White House.

And you know what? Anti-war voters will probably fall for it. After all, the Democratic nominee -- if there ever is one -- will be running against John "100 years in Iraq" McCain, and as someone like Rahm Emmanuel might ask, "what're you gonna do, vote Republican?"

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