Those cowards in the U.S. Senate wouldn’t be put on the record as having voted in favor of the $87 billion appropriation for waging war on Iraq they preferred a voice vote. When it came time to speak out, very few were actually in the Senate chambers, and the muttered assent of these few stragglers was put to shame by the stentorian “Nay!” of Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) the last man with any balls in the U.S. Senate. The New York Times reported Byrd’s lonely defiance:
“The voice vote took place late this afternoon, with only a few senators in the chamber. Although the voice vote allowed for passage without any negative votes being officially recorded, the approval took place over the conspicuously shouted ‘no’ of Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, one of the few lawmakers in the chamber.”
In his magnificent speech excoriating what he called “a monument to failure,” Senator Byrd took on the “support the troops” contingent with typical acerbity, pointing out that “endorsing and funding a policy that does nothing to relieve American troops in Iraq is not a ‘support the troops’ measure.”
To vote no was to support the troops against the suicidal policies of their civilian overseers, which, at nearly that very moment, were unfolding in Iraq: the U.S. Headquarters itself, in the supposedly sacrosanct “Green Zone,” came under attack from Iraqi insurgents. Byrd pledged to “fight for a coherent policy that brings real help not just longer deployments and empty sloganeering to American forces in Iraq.”
That dig about the longer deployments hits the War Party where it really hurts, for nothing unnerves them more than dissent in the ranks and it is rife. I am very pleased to note that the recent antiwar demonstrations in Washington had military personnel and their families in the very front ranks of the march. Our top generals and other military experts were early and very vocal opponents of this war, correctly warning that the real battle wouldn’t begin until after Saddam had been defeated. Now a new enemy arises from the desert sands of Iraq, a nationalist insurgency that grows more violent and more widespread with each passing day.
On the eve of the war’s deadliest day so far, Congress voted to fund a policy that was falling apart even before the final vote was taken. That should tell us everything we need to know about our elected representatives. If Byrd is the last sane man in the Senate, it isn’t much better in the House, where the supposedly anti-war Democrats were split roughly down the middle, with 82 yeas and 115 nays. Of all the Democratic presidential swarm, only Dennis Kucinich came out in opposition to the War Party’s boondoggle.
More interestingly, 5 heroic Republicans went on the record as opposing their leaders’ folly. Those sneering Europeans who think Texas is synonymous with Bushian warmongering should know that Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), one of the Fearless Five, is the single most consistent antiwar voice in the House.
If Paul represents the Old Republican Right of Robert A. Taft, then Bryd, on the other hand, represents the populist pre-Rooseveltian spirit of the Democratic party, as embodied in, say, the staunchly anti-imperialist William Jennings Bryan. Together, these two currents a majority in the general population represented no more than 25 percent of the final House vote. This is what is means to be a “democracy,” the joys of which we’re exporting to Iraq.
This war has reached a turning point politically as well as militarily. In a poll taken before the disastrous downing of a Chinook helicopter, in which 16 American soldiers were killed, for the first time a majority of Americans opposed U.S. policy in Iraq. The antiwar movement needs to mobilize that sentiment behind a clear and concrete proposal to get us out.
Congress, which is supposed to be the “voice of the people,” is, instead, the instrument of war profiteers, special interest groups, and an administration that has been hijacked by a piratical band of war-maddened ideologues. Democracy, which the neocons want to impose at gunpoint throughout the Middle East, is failing. The U.S. Congress just isn’t cutting it, as this shameful capitulation to the imperial Presidency demonstrates beyond doubt..
Are we powerless, then, to stop America’s headlong rush off a precipice? It may be that our fate is to end up in the abyss of Empire, but we still have a very long way to fall. The American political elites are corrupt, and power-mad, but hubris is not yet imbued in the popular psyche the fatal flaw in Roman, British, and Euro-continental political culture. The most powerful weapon in the antiwar arsenal is the anti-imperialist legacy of the Founders of this country: their spirit lives on in the American heartland.
So, yes, there is hope, but the hour grows late. The neoconservative cabal that has seized the White House, occupied the commanding heights of the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, and pulled off a virtual coup d’etat, isn’t going to give up power without a fight. Their newest line or, rather, their latest reiteration of an old mantra is that we have to “fight them in the streets of Baghdad so we don’t have to fight them in the streets of New York,” as New York Governor George Pataki put it on MSNBC’s “Buchanan & Press” the other day.
But we are fighting them in the streets of New York, and every other American city at least, one hopes so and that’s where the real war has to be waged. A whopping 70 percent of Americans opposed spending $87 billion on fixing Iraq’s schools and jump-starting their state-owned oil companies. One wonders if they would oppose this same sum spent on securing our borders and improving safety procedures.
The “good news,” this administration’s amen corner insists, is that the schools of Iraq are open. But what about the very bad news that a young prankster can smuggle box-cutters aboard a jetliner are we supposed to pretend that it’s not happening? Instead of arresting that kid, they ought to give him a medal along with that wacky guy who got himself shipped in a box from New York to Dallas. If a person hiding in a box could make it through “security” undetected, then why couldn’t a “dirty nuke” get through?
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
ANDREW SULLIVAN, DRAMA QUEEN In my last “Notes in the Margin” (scroll down), I noted the publication of a comprehensive piece in Scotland’s Sunday Herald, in which the story of Israel’s close surveillance of the 9/11 hijackers is detailed. Andrew Sullivan, writing in his blog, also took note. With his usual disregard for facts and objective analysis, Sullivan extracted what he called “the money quote” preceded by a typically ridiculous subhead: “The Left and Anti-Semitism.” The “money quote” consists of a reiteration of the known facts: that 5 Israelis were arrested on 9/11 after witnesses saw them dancing with joy at the sight of the burning World Trade Center. As Herald writer Neil Mackay put it:
“Their discovery and arrest that morning is a matter of indisputable fact. To those who have investigated just what the Israelis were up to that day, the case raises one dreadful possibility: that Israeli intelligence had been shadowing the al-Qaeda hijackers as they moved from the Middle East through Europe and into America where they trained as pilots and prepared to suicide-bomb the symbolic heart of the United States.”
Sullivan doesn’t dispute the facts. He doesn’t bother to deal with any facts. As a propagandist, he deals in emotions: Sullivan’s aim is not to convince but to manipulate. So he writes:
“It really is happening again. (While on the subject, check out Natan Sharansky’s take on anti-Semitism in the new Commentary.)”
What is ‘happening again” is that Sullivan is deluding himself, but hardly anyone else. We are not supposed to ask why it is “anti-Semitism” to raise the perfectly logical possibility that Israel’s notoriously efficient intelligence service could have been watching the hijackers. I would question the motives of someone who did so in the absence of any evidence; but there is plenty of credible evidence, which the author of the Herald piece cites, none of which is mentioned by Sullivan. It’s unconscionable that a reporter who brings up inconvenient facts about Israel’s role in the events leading up to 9/11 is smeared by Sullivan as a neo-Nazi.
To readers of this column, the material covered by Mackay is nothing new. This aspect of the 9/11 story has also been extensively covered by Fox News, Salon, the BBC, Die Zeit, Le Monde, and all the major news services. ABC’s 20/20 news magazine did a segment on the dancing Israelis and their probable connection to Israeli intelligence. But there is one very interesting new detail in the Herald piece about what was found in the possession of the 5 arrested Israelis, aside from $4700 in cash, foreign passports, and a pair of box cutters:
“There were also fresh pictures of the men standing with the smoldering wreckage of the Twin Towers in the background. One image showed a hand flicking a lighter in front of the devastated buildings, like a fan at a pop concert.”
A very telling detail, I would say, one that helps explain the remark of the driver of the Israelis’ van, who told the arresting officers:
“We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.”
Ariel Sharon couldn’t have said it better himself.