The Coming Sellout

by , November 16, 2006

The antiwar public, having voted the Democrats into power, are hoping – although they’re not convinced – that U.S. troops will now begin to be withdrawn from Iraq.

They are dreaming. And here’s why:

"Cautious newly elected Democratic members of Congress are saying they want to wait before taking action to try to force President Bush to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. Interviews with several newly elected Democratic House members Monday revealed that they’re hoping the commission headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Indiana Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton comes up with an Iraq exit scenario and that they’ll not need to vote on cutting off funding for the Iraq operation."

Not that cutting off funds for the war is even being considered by the incoming Democratic majority. The furthest they’ll go, according to Sen. Carl Levin, slated to become head of the Armed Services Committee, is a resolution similar if not identical to the non-binding one he proposed last June, calling for a "phased withdrawal" of U.S. troops. The resolution failed, 60-39. MSNBC quotes the senator as saying "I’m not prepared to go beyond that." Levin is reportedly "fending off talk of resolutions demanding troop withdrawal or cutting off funds for U.S. operations in Iraq."

Congress, once again abdicating its constitutional responsibility, abstains from policymaking and contents itself with the role of sideline critic. Although one hates to say it, it seems the Democratic leadership, instead of taking decisive action to end the war, would rather have Iraq as a campaign issue in ’08. At which time they – embodied, perhaps, by Hillary Clinton – can run against the "incompetence" of the Republicans in waging this war, and argue that they would do a much better job of it.

Antiwar voters who thought they were ushering in a new era of sanity in the realm of U.S. foreign policy are very much mistaken: the election was a measure of voter aspirations. But the politicians are selling them out, and rather quickly. Usually they wait a while longer before breaking their campaign promises – to do it this early, and in so brazen a manner, betrays the real contempt our "leaders" have for voters and the party rank-and-file.

The Washington elite has managed to reinterpret the election results, widely seen as a referendum on the war, into a rationale for inaction, as per Gloria Borger:

"The public will be watching [the Democrats’] approach to Iraq. Voters don’t want to relitigate the decision to go to war; most, in fact, were co-conspirators. Nor are they interested in providing future Democratic presidential candidates with the proof that they were lied to about Iraq’s weapons, so they can excuse their pro-war votes."

Isn’t it wonderful how a pundit sitting in Washington can mind-meld with the great, unwashed masses and channel our inner thoughts and desires? Fifty-eight percent of the American people believe the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about Iraq’s alleged "weapons of mass destruction," and it stands to reason that they are not exactly pleased about it. Surely they deserve some explanation, some accounting of the truth, even if punishment of the perpetrators is too much to expect.

And what’s this about the American people being "co-conspirators"? Let’s see if I get this straight: if Americans were lied into war, they have no right to know who lied, or why they did so – and we are all just as guilty as, say, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, two of the main disseminators of the lies, because, after all, we fell for it. By this same standard, a philanderer’s wife is a "co-conspirator" with her husband in his infidelity because she believed him when he told her he was faithful. She should have known better than that!

Borger’s fanatic centrism allows her to see what she wants to see, to divine the "real" motives behind the great realignment of 2006 without citing a single poll:

"Voters blamed the administration for mismanagement and incompetence, and that’s what they want to end. They want the war to end, too – but in the right way. If that doesn’t happen, voters in 2008 could be looking for someone to take the fall. They’ll ask: Whom do we blame? The people who got us into the war? Or the ones who got us out?"

I have news for Borger, who really ought to get out more: the American people are already asking ‘Whom do we blame?’ That’s why they hope and have every right to expect that plenty of subpoenas will be forthcoming from various congressional committees. Borger disagrees:

"What they do not want is a slew of subpoenas by Democratic committees, finger-pointing about intelligence failures, scapegoating, and more talk of filibusters. Now that Donald Rumsfeld is gone, how many more times can the president cry uncle? He lost; the Democrats won. Let the governing begin."

In other words, let the cover-up begin.

For a Democratic Congress that owes its majority to the antiwar views of the American electorate, the first order of business must be a full investigation into the intelligence-gathering efforts of the Bush administration. This is not about Bush crying uncle: it is about recovering the integrity of U.S. intelligence-gathering agencies and uncovering activities by government officials that cross the line from advocacy to criminality. Just for starters, I would focus on the Office of Special Plans (OSP), the Niger uranium forgeries, and the Pentagon’s relationship with Ahmed "Hero in Error" Chalabi, who was paid millions in taxpayer dollars to feed a pack of lies to the American media.

So many of the outright falsifications peddled by the administration in selling the American public on the war came out of the OSP, and by such a circuitous route, that a failure to probe this shadowy outfit would be a clear dereliction of duty. The Niger uranium forgeries indicate that the War Party committed serious crimes, up to and including espionage: failure to investigate amounts to a cover-up, and would itself constitute a crime.

As for Chalabi – why has his reported betrayal of U.S. secrets to the Iranians never been prosecuted? We are told that the FBI investigation was never officially closed, and U.S. agents did raid his Iraqi bunker, as well as INC offices elsewhere: what was that all about? The taxpayers forked over millions to this grifter through the years, and he still enjoys ready access to Washington power brokers: instead of being arrested and brought up on charges of fraud, embezzlement, and espionage, he’s feted by the American Enterprise Institute and interviewed by fawning reporters.

Yet Chalabi was at the center of the web of lies that trapped us in a tragic intervention. Like many of his neocon friends and associates, he combined self-promotion and ideological crusading with self-enrichment, and was quite successful at it.

Whereas the big-government liberalism of the Vietnam war era gave birth to gigantic domestic social engineering schemes like Lyndon Johnson’s "war on poverty," with the advent of George W. Bush’s "big-government conservatism" Washington’s efforts at social transformation are directed primarily abroad. The "poverty pimps" of the 1960s have given way to the "democracy" pimps of the 21st century. Chalabi is a good example of this phenomenon, and now we’re seeing new Chalabis generated by the passage of legislation funding "regime change" in Iran. As in the case of Iraq, this welfare program for out-of-work exiles is fully supported by both parties. How soon will these American sock-puppets be put to work in the U.S. government’s lie factory, ginning up another war in the Middle East – if they haven’t been put on the payroll already?

Establishment types aver that this election wasn’t about Iraq, it was really about corruption – but the two are intimately connected. Aside from the moral corruption of a military occupation that tolerates Abu Ghraib and routinely covers up its crimes, don’t forget the war profiteers, who are raking in multi-millions investing in Washington’s fastest-growing industries: homeland security and democracy promotion, the latest adjuncts of the military-industrial complex. To utter the word "Halliburton" is to evoke the spirit of corruption itself – can it be that the Democrats, in the name of "bipartisanship" and "unity" in wartime, will pass on their promise to clean up Washington?

This election was all about accountability – and that means someone must be held accountable. That’s one front in the war on the War Party, but only one of three. The other two must target funding for military operations in Iraq and preparations for war with Iran. The conventional wisdom, given voice by Borger and her "centrist" clones, both in Congress and among the punditocracy, is that a Democratic move to cut off Iraq war funding is out of the question, a political non-starter, and could only set up the Democrats for disaster in ’08. Yet this is precisely the kind of sharp fillip our gridlocked system needs to free itself up long enough to actually do something about our failed policy in Iraq.

Such an action would send shock waves strong enough to shake the Bush administration into a more realistic mindset. They would probably react in much the same way as the Clinton administration did when a Republican House of Representatives threatened to cut off funding for the Kosovo operation and the Senate nearly followed suit. The GOP leadership withdrew the provision from the 1999 defense appropriations bill only after assurances from the White House that the Kosovo occupation force would be internationalized, and our involvement rapidly phased out.

In 1999, the Republican tactic of threatening to cut the purse strings worked; it will work just as well for Democrats in 2006. Turnabout is fair play, and it’s also good politics: the majority not only want us out of Iraq, either in phases or immediately, but they also tend to admire those whose stance is clear-cut and unequivocal, as John Kerry found out too late.

If the Democrats think they can get away with offering a purely symbolic resolution, with no enforcement mechanism and no effect on war funding, they are making a huge mistake. Levin thinks he can "pressure" the White House with such tactics, and his colleagues in both parties think they can wait out the Baker commission’s findings, which are supposed to offer an exit strategy without incurring too many costs. Good luck with that one. Baker doesn’t have any more of a solution than anyone else does, and as he and his fellow Wise Men gather in secret conclave, the situation on the ground in Iraq is rapidly deteriorating.

With Congress refusing to act, except on a "symbolic" level, the president has a free hand – including the choice to escalate or expand the war beyond Iraq’s borders. There is plenty of opportunity for the latter: we are a border incident away from a conflict with Syria or Iran. Lebanon seethes, and the Israelis are champing at the bit for a rematch with Hezbollah. A new conflict in the Levant could easily provoke a wider war involving the U.S. In addition, the Israelis are openly threatening to strike Iran if we don’t do it first. In short, the Middle East is a powder keg just waiting for a spark to set off a cataclysmic explosion. Will 150,000 American troops be caught in the midst of it?

The idea that the Democratic capture of Congress means that we’ve reclaimed American foreign policy for the people is a charming idea, but unfortunately it is very far from the truth. Wishing doesn’t make it so. That’s why I’m shocked at the response so far to Antiwar.com’s fundraising drive, which can be charitably described as paltry: don’t people realize that we have to fight for everything, and that nothing is guaranteed? And we can’t fight if we aren’t informed.

Antiwar.com has been exposing the War Party’s schemes and countering their propaganda with the truth since 1995 – and never has the need been greater for such a site. Yet contributions to our winter fundraising drive are ominously down – due, I have no doubt, to complacency on the part of all too many of our readers and supporters, who think the victorious Democrats – in combination with Jim "The Miracle Maker" Baker – will come through in the end. For all the reasons given above, however, this Pollyanna-ish view is seriously off-base: in reality, we have arrived at a plastic moment in our Iraqi episode, when it could go either way – either we get out while the going is good, or we provoke a far greater disaster than has so far been imagined. The choice is withdrawal, or a regional war drawing in Iraq’s neighbors – and the day of decision approaches.

Put not your trust in politicians, of whatever party: they will come through only under pressure. Without bedrock institutions such as Antiwar.com, the movement for peace will founder and the War Party – never without resources – will slither back into the policymaking saddle. After sloughing off the dead husk of the GOP, they’ll find a new and healthier host, and one just as willing.

That’s why the antiwar movement must keep its own institutions healthy and operating at more-than-full capacity – starting with Antiwar.com. It’s essential that we raise $70,000 to meet our rising costs – a pittance compared to the multi-millions that were raised and spent on behalf of political candidates this year. Yet it ensures the survival of a vital institution, one that will act as your watchdog for peace – keeping an especially close eye on Capitol Hill.

Get your priorities straight: in the long run, your contribution to Antiwar.com goes a long way toward building momentum for a real sea change in American foreign policy. Cast the most meaningful vote possible this November, which is a vote for a peaceful foreign policy. Send in your contribution today.

Read more by Justin Raimondo