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Iraq Spins Out of Control 

Where are the Democrats and the peace movement?

Thursday, Nov 6 2003
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It’s the Islamic world that celebrates the just-initiated holy month of Ramadan — but it’s George W. Bush who better start praying. Maybe we all should.

The conservative spin machine and its White House engineers can whine and sputter all they want about the supposed lack of good news from Iraq to be found in the media, but the simple fact is that there just isn’t any to be reported.

Consider the toll of the past two weeks: 15 Americans killed in one missile attack, an average of 25 attacks a day against U.S. troops, a tightly coordinated string of car bombings, the shelling of the Al Rashid Hotel housing none other than Paul Wolfowitz, an assault that basically chased the Red Cross out of Iraq, escalated targeting of the newly trained police force and a rumor campaign that forced the shutdown of Baghdad’s public schools. The casualty toll reached more than four dozen dead and 200 wounded.

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Bush responds that the wholesale spilling of blood should be read as none other than a sign of our “success,” that the murder campaign in Iraq is but a sign of desperation. Sure. We’ve heard this kind of reasoning before. War Is Peace, Hate Is Love, Slavery Is Freedom. And that old standard: Arbeit Macht Frei.

This official sense of denial is the scariest part of the whole Iraqi debacle. At least Richard Nixon came into office recognizing that somehow or other, the U.S. had to figure a way out of Vietnam. As wars go, Iraq’s still pretty small potatoes. But the unreality and rank politicization of the Bush policy, its drift and deception, and its mounting human and economic cost spell only continuing disaster.

Not that Congress, or the Democrats for that matter, plan to get in Bush’s way. The staggering $87 billion supplemental plan (read partial cost) passed along by the White House for the splendid little adventure was formally approved this past week without so much as a debate, let alone any sort of meaningful protest. Even some centrist Democrats, like syndicated columnist Matt Miller, were outraged at the obsequious rollover by their own party.

 

Here was a golden opportunity for some brave Democrat to revitalize the entire national debate, Miller wrote last week, by staging a filibuster. Not to deny the payment but to hold it hostage to a reversal of the Bush tax cuts.

Such a move would have owed nothing to revenge but all to social justice. What kind of fairyland is this nation living in when — with record deficits — we continue to rebate taxes to the superwealthy while running up a tab of tens of billions in Iraq? Now we know what Bush meant by “leave no child behind.” As a result of this shameful refusal to properly fund his own war making, the president (and Congress) — by my calculations — has dropped about a $1,500-per-head bill on each and every teenager in America. This is an infinitely more important economic statistic than the much-ballyhooed 7 percent growth figure reported for this past quarter. Instead of the Democrats blowing up the fiction of the Bush economic program — guns, no butter, and tax cuts for the rich — they have left the door wide-open for a GOP propaganda blitz.

On second thought, hoping the Democrats would provide real opposition is much like thinking that my aunt could be my uncle — in either case they’d have to grow a set of balls.

That leaves only the option of a citizens’ movement. Back in the spring, before the invasion of Iraq, the peace movement was ahead of the curve, staking out a politically unpopular position. Now, I’m afraid it has fallen behind. Majority public opinion is now opposed to the war — at least in the inexplicable and unilateral way the Bush administration is carrying out the occupation. But the American public is too smart to believe the solution resides in the simplistic slogan of immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops.

Americans, unlike their government, would be more than ready to share the burden, costs and responsibilities of occupation with the rest of the world community. And that, indeed, is the only sensible way out of the morass. Simply packing up and leaving 26 million Iraqis at the mercy of those who now target the Red Cross, the U.N. and the incipient Iraqi authorities would be one more crime against humanity. Those setting off car bombs in downtown Baghdad are not some sort of romantic resistance, but rather are carrying out the bloody and criminal traditions of the deposed Saddam Hussein dictatorship.

The Bush administration had a shot at internationalizing the occupation last month when it won a unanimous rubber-stamping of yet another U.N. resolution. But as a friend remarked at the time, that “victory” was like a bald man winning a free haircut. The White House’s refusal to cede any of its total control over Iraq guaranteed that no significant amount of foreign troops or foreign funding for reconstruction will be forthcoming.

Instead, our children and our grandchildren will be paying for the war in Iraq, long after George W. Bush will have quietly and unremarkably passed into history. Iraq may, indeed, lead to the undoing of this administration. Let’s hope the country doesn’t go down with the presidency.

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