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May 25, 2007

Deadly Illusions, Rest in Peace


by Norman Solomon

This week's cave-in on Capitol Hill – supplying a huge new jolt of funds for the horrific war effort in Iraq – is surprising only to those who haven't grasped our current circumstances.

Public opinion polls aren't the same as political leverage. The Vietnam War went on for years after polling showed that most Americans opposed the war and even saw it as immoral.

Slick phrases about the need to bring our troops home can easily become little more than platitudes on wallpaper in media echo chambers.

No matter how many Democrats are in Congress, they won't end this war unless an antiwar movement develops enough grassroots strength to compel them to do so.

Unfortunately – and unnecessarily – for years now the Internet powerhouse MoveOn.org has often functioned as a virtual appendage of the national Democratic Party. That close relationship has largely squandered MoveOn's opportunities to help build strong deep independent activism for the long haul. And, on crucial issues of the Iraq war, MoveOn has failed to back the positions of such gutsy progressive visionaries as Reps. Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters.

A statement issued Thursday by the national Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) pointed out that "the approach of the Democratic leadership has utterly failed – as they now prepare to give President Bush $95 billion more war funding through a bill that no longer has any timelines for troop withdrawal."

Asking a key question – "How can you oppose a troop escalation while funding it in full?" – PDA reiterated its longstanding position that Democrats in Congress should be "using the power of the purse to cut off funds to Iraq, except those needed to safely withdraw our troops (and for humanitarian/reconstruction aid to the Iraqi people)." And legislators should be "using their investigative power to probe White House deceptions and distortions that propelled the Iraq invasion and occupation, and to impeach if necessary."

Memorial Day 2007 comes at a disastrous time. Political power brokers and media elites insist on opting for a mix-merge of tragedy and farce. A key reality is that we won't be able to change the militaristic direction of the country without effectively confronting the congressional Democrats who are fueling the engines of destruction.

When considering what to demand now, it's helpful to put the current moment in historical perspective. The same basic arguments for keeping U.S. forces in Iraq have long been presented by reigning politicians and key media outlets as self-evident wisdom.

A cover story in Time magazine laid down the prevailing line: "Foreign policy luminaries from both parties say a precipitous U.S. withdrawal would cripple American credibility, doom reform in the Arab world and turn Iraq into a playground for terrorists and the armies of neighboring states like Iran and Syria." That was in April – 2004.


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