As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

End This War

The events of today in Baghdad and Basra and Hilla and Kut just reinforce the need to end this war immediately, responsibly, and without delay. The political situation is a shambles, all sides of the sectarian divide are at odds, and our troops are nothing but targets. The metrics by which "victory" can be reasonably counted, political reconciliation, reconstruction, etc., are not moving forward and haven't for years. There's simply nothing more our military can do and we need to get out.

The Congressional challengers that have stepped forward with the Responsible Plan to end the war have shown a great deal of courage. So far the only criticism I've seen of it falls along the predictable lines of "What if it doesn't work," which of course is a giveaway that the critic has no endgame strategy of their own. Today Chris Hayes had a great story in The Nation about the Responsible Plan.

In the face of this official indifference to public opinion, it is tempting to succumb to despair. The antiwar strategy, after all, has not been static. In the run-up to the war, organizers managed to pull together the largest simultaneous worldwide demonstrations in history. That didn't work. Then the antiwar movement channeled much of its energy into electoral politics, helping to elect Democratic majorities in both houses. That hasn't worked either. So we find ourselves in the situation of Beckett's protagonist in Worstward Ho: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Although the electoral strategy has not yet borne fruit, it is still the most viable option, barring a draft or a radical turn in public opinion that would once again bring people en masse into the streets. (There are, of course, parallel strategies to be pursued. Passing a ban on mercenaries in Iraq would make the occupation untenable.) The question, then, becomes how to create the electoral conditions that maximize the power and representation of the majority who want the war ended. The antiwar caucus doesn't have enough votes to override a delusional President or enough members willing to bear the political risk of cutting off funding for the war. The solution to this impasse is, in the words of Congressional candidate Darcy Burner, to elect "more and better Democrats"--Democrats who have publicly committed to pursuing a legislative strategy to end the war.

So at Take Back America, Burner--a former Microsoft manager from the Seattle suburbs who narrowly missed unseating a GOP incumbent in 2006--with nine other Democratic Congressional challengers released A Responsible Plan to End the War. Developed in collaboration with retired military officers and national security professionals, the plan attracted the support of fifteen additional Democratic Senate and House challengers in the first week after it was unveiled (see Unlike the withdrawal plans offered by both Democratic presidential candidates, the Responsible Plan opposes any residual forces as well as permanent military bases. It flatly states, "We must stop counter-productive military operations by U.S. occupation forces, and end our military presence in Iraq." It looks toward restoring "Constitutional checks and balances and fix[ing] the ways in which our governmental, military, and civil institutions have failed us." It also addresses the need to take responsibility for a humanitarian crisis in which thousands of Iraqis who worked with US forces are in danger and millions are displaced across the region.

As an organizer working on the Responsible Plan stressed to me, it is an explicitly legislative road map, to be pursued by Congress with or without a President committed to withdrawal. Among other actions the plan calls for war funding to be brought into the normal budgetary process, as opposed to the ersatz emergency supplementals, which detach the cost of the war from the rest of the nation's discretionary spending. The plan also highlights more than a dozen bills that have already been introduced, like HR 2247, the Montgomery GI Bill for Life Act of 2007, which the signatories would support if elected.

The activism has simply worn itself down working from the outside in. We have to work from the inside out. And that means getting as many candidates as possible to endorse the Responsible Plan so we can deliver a mandate for its policies in the fall. The Washington Post had a nice piece on this as well today. In the wake of the tragic news out of Iraq, it's almost an act of criminal proportions NOT to do all you can as a lawmaker to end this war once and for all. This plan is a road map to end the war and to end the funnel effect which always seems to push us toward war. It's a strategy that forces the other side to react to us on a national security issue. It's just sensible policy in the final analysis. We need it more than ever.

One other thing, we need to be, as Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill put it, be players and not cheerleaders and use the leverage we have as a movement to force this plan up through the ranks. I'm tired of feeling helpless about this war so I choose not to. Naysayers are rampant throughout the blogosphere but activists are sometimes rare. Everyone has the ability to be an activist.

Labels: , , , ,