The Senators’ Rebellion

by , November 17, 2005

The recent Senate vote to require regular reports from the White House detailing all the wonderful “progress” we’re making over there was more reflective of a desire to cover their asses as election time approaches than it was of growing antiwar sentiment in the U.S. Congress. This, after all, is substantially the same group of fools who voted overwhelmingly to authorize the invasion of Iraq in the first place, and pretty much stood by and did nothing even as the majority of Americans turned against the war. What makes this a surprise, however, is that the competition between the two parties was limited, during the debate over the resolution, to who came up with the idea first.

Remember when almost no one dared oppose the war, at least in public, and news anchors were wearing American flags on their lapels as they breathlessly “reported” our glorious “victory”? The times, they sure are a’ changin’!

The Republicans claimed authorship, but this fib was exposed when the Democrats held up the smoking gun: a transcript of their resolution hand-edited by the Republican leadership. (Gee, who knew Bill Frist dotted his i’s with little hearts?)

The editing job was pretty perfunctory, and included two key points: (1) Instead of commencing 30 days after passage of the amendment, the reporting requirement would kick in 90 days later, and (2) The Democratic proposal required the president to come up with “a campaign plan with estimated dates for the phased redeployment of the United States Armed Forces from Iraq as each condition is met, with the understanding that unexpected contingencies may arise.”

This last provision was simply struck from the GOP amendment, but the Democrats didn’t make too big of a fuss. Sen. John Warner, co-sponsor with Frist of the Republican proposal, made some noises about how the above provision amounted to “cutting and running,” but you’ll notice that the word “withdrawal” was entirely missing from both amendments. We aren’t withdrawing – we’re “redeploying” American troops, and not necessarily back to the States, but perhaps to Syria or maybe Iran. Just one of those “unexpected contingencies,” you know…

The practical effect of all this is negligible, legislative vaporware that may never get out of the product development stage. The House is unlikely to pass it, at least anytime soon, and even if a greatly watered-down version somehow makes it, the measure faces a certain presidential veto – Bush’s first. He couldn’t bring himself to veto a single humongous spending bill, but when it comes to his unlimited ability to make war, he’ll defend that to the bitter end. This is what neoconservatism in power looks like: increasing big government at home, steadily escalating wars abroad. In short, from a libertarian perspective, we’re on a fast track to Hell…

Our foreign policy of perpetual aggression and endless spending just isn’t sustainable: The senators know it, too, and that’s part of the reason they’re delivering this mostly symbolic rebuke to Bush and the War Party. Think of a serial killer who goes on a murder spree. He can only keep it up for so long until he begins to slip and make mistakes. Exhausted by the sheer effort expended in so much mayhem, he is ready to be caught.

Speaking of getting caught, the timing of this senatorial rebellion is hardly coincidental. You have to ask yourself: what is so pressing about this matter that the Senate felt it necessary to show their defiance now? After all, we’ve been losing the war for well over a year, and this didn’t just recently become obvious: the 2006 congressional elections, although a factor, are still far enough away so that what happens right now won’t leave much of a lasting impression. The really big difference isn’t anything that happened on the battlefields of Iraq, but what occurred in a Washington courtroom on Oct. 28, when a grand jury indicted I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on five charges of lying to investigators and obstructing an investigation into a conspiracy to divulge classified information.

Warner bellows that the Democrats want to “cut and run,” but he and his fellow senators – not a few presidential aspirants among them – are running as fast as they can from the messy scandal about to explode like a giant paint balloon, spattering half of Washington. As everyone waits for Patrick J. Fitzgerald‘s other shoe to drop – perhaps on Karl Rove’s neck, maybe on a few more members of the neocon coven in the vice president’s office – “cutting and running” is perhaps too kind a gloss to put on it. They aren’t just running away from the war they voted for and never publicly questioned until now – they’re racing as fast as they can away from the core cadre of the War Party in this administration, i.e., the neoconservatives, who are now politically radioactive.

Polls show Americans not only think the Libby indictment is a big deal, they also believe that more administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, were involved. The coming election isn’t that near, and that’s precisely the problem for our lawmakers: the way things are going, campaign season is likely to open at the same time as Scooter Libby’s trial, and that prospect is what accounts for Republican movement on this issue.

The rationale for war was discredited long ago: now, however, some of the principal rationalizers are being exposed as liars and worse. It’s important to note, however, that the breaking point was reached not when the number of Americans killed reached the 2,000 mark, but when, in Washington, they began to smell the blood in the water.

As Ahmed Chalabi told Arianna Huffington when the two of them were chillin’ over sushi in a chic Tribeca restaurant,

“Ultimately, we have no friendships – only interests.”

“Interests” that boil down to the one and only interest in our nation’s capital: the perpetual pursuit of power.

As far as I can tell, the sole U.S. senator to sincerely express the slightest intention of withdrawing a single American soldier from Iraq any time soon has been Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin. Feingold was the first to broach the idea of a timetable, and one of a minority of Senate Democrats who opposed the war when it really counted: during the 2002 vote authorizing the invasion. The rest of them, with the exception of Lincoln Chafee, of Rhode Island, an old-fashioned Republican of the more reflective sort, are reflexive warmongers. They abdicated their constitutional responsibility to check the rush to war, and are now seeking to place the blame elsewhere.

Look not to the Senate for a way out, but to the House, where a bipartisan movement to set a definite timetable for U.S. withdrawal has been percolating for months, ever since the “Homeward Bound” resolution requiring that we begin pulling ourselves out of the Iraqi quagmire, “no later than Oct. 1, 2006,” was introduced in the House this summer. Co-sponsored by two Republicans – Walter B. Jones of North Carolina and Ron Paul of Texas – and two Democrats, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio – the “Homeward Bound” legislation expresses the real sentiments of the grassroots. The most recent polls show more than half the country wants to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within the next 12 months – including one in three of all Republicans surveyed.

The big antiwar demonstrations have their place: certainly the most recent march, organized by United for Peace and Justice, was very visible and effective. Now, however, it is time to mobilize all that energy around the mundane but even more vitally important task of campaigning for the passage of the “Homeward Bound” resolution. The wind is behind us: let’s not lose our momentum. Now is the time to move on this issue.

It’s vitally important that you pick up the phone – or, better yet, write a letter and send it via snail mail – and tell your congressional representatives to get with the program. Because the War Party never rests. They’re already working on expanding the conflict to Syria – and, incredibly, to Iran.

See, they just happened to have found this laptop computer that has all the Iranian plans to build nukes conveniently stored in one very compact place – you know how these things just fall out of the sky. Like all those Iraqi “defectors” during the run-up to war with Saddam…

It’s funny how that happened: we “found” the “smoking gun” just before a crucial meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will decide whether to sanction Iran for violating anti-proliferation guidelines. Just as the Niger uranium forgeries turned up at precisely the moment when the Senate was examining the administration’s evidence that Iraq was building nuclear weapons.

Of course, it’s all pure coincidence – and if you don’t think it was, then you’re no doubt one of those tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorists. You believe in what Chalabi would call an “urban myth.” But then again, he would say that, now wouldn’t he?

The rising of the Senate against the American Caesar augurs ill for the War Party and provides the peace movement with an opportunity it cannot afford to pass up. We must launch a preemptive strike – or else face renewed conflict and the prospect of a regional conflagration.

Faster, please

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

I am told that our recent fundraising drive garnered some $63,000 – surpassing our goal, and once again showing that our loyal readers value the work we are doing. For that, on behalf of the entire staff of Antiwar.com, I thank you all for your vote of confidence – and pledge that we’ll continue to live up to your highest expectations.

It’s been such a busy couple of weeks that I must admit to completely forgetting to mention the conference being put on by LewRockwell.com, Nov. 18-19, in San Mateo: go here for details. One of my favorite people on earth, Bruce Ramsey – responsible for putting so much of the work of Garet Garrett, the Old Right author and magazine editor, back into print – is speaking on Friday. I’ll be speaking on Saturday, along with Lew Rockwell and a host of others (including Antiwar.com webmaster Eric Garris). You can still get tickets – just give the conference organizers a call.

 

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