The Feingold Option

Sen. Russ Feingold may have withdrawn from the presidential sweepstakes, but he has entered the national debate over the Iraq war in a fairly dramatic fashion. Indeed, he has matched the president’s escalation with one of his own by launching hearings, scheduled to begin on Tuesday, designed to point out the obvious – that Congress has the power to cut off the funding for the war. He plans to introduce legislation doing just that. Naturally, the piece reporting this on the new Politico Web site frames the matter in terms of the “conventional” wisdom, personified by the ultra-conventional Sen. Harry Reid, who opines,

“Republicans ‘would like this debate to be as whether or not we are going to be cutting off money for the troops. The logical conclusion is that a lot of things can happen. But right now, the most important thing is to tell the president that what he has done with the escalation is wrong. And that’s what we are doing, bipartisanly.'”

Democratic complicity in this futile and increasingly dangerous conflict is only underscored by the weakness of the party’s ostensible opposition to it: they say they’re against it, but on the other hand, apart from sponsoring nonbinding resolutions and posing for the cameras, they refuse to take meaningful action to end it. They can appeal to the president until they’re blue in the face, but as Dick Cheney pointed out the other day, that won’t stop this White House.

What will stop them, of course, is if Congress cuts the purse strings: that’s the one and only way to end this senseless policy, because not even Cheney and his pet neocons can wage war without dineros. Like a parent who cuts off an errant teenager’s credit card after it’s maxed out, Congress can discipline the warmakers and ensure we’re out of Iraq by voting to make funds unavailable after a date certain. But Reid and his fellow enablers of Republican militarism are quaking in their boots at the prospect, supposedly on the grounds that this will leave the Democrats open to the charge that they’ve abandoned the troops in the field – without bullets, without body armor, and at the mercy of the enemy.

That’s a lot of malarkey, since the money appropriated for current military operations was voted on and disbursed a while back. Aside from that, however, if our delusional commander in chief leaves the troops in Iraq after the cutoff date, then the blame will fall on his shoulders, and no one else’s.

In any case, however, the real reason Democrats are allowing this president to play out his Napoleon complex using American troops as pawns has nothing to do with Reid’s lame explanation, and is, instead, due in large part (albeit not exclusively) to what Wesley Clark points to as the decisive influence of “New York money.”

The presidential contest looms large on the political horizon, and the War Party‘s enormous financial resources are crucial to the Democrats’ electoral success. To take one example: Haim Saban, the Israeli-American billionaire who funded the Saban Center for Middle East Studies at Brookings – which played such a key role in buttressing liberal hawks in the run-up to war – is the single largest donor to Democratic politicians, disgorging a whopping $13 million to political candidates (although President Bush came in for his share of Saban’s largess). Speaking of the Democratic Party, the Huffington Post – which has, not surprisingly, become a glorified bulletin board for the Democratic National Committee – is also the recipient of Saban’s generosity, where he no doubt contributes more than merely his (and his wife’s) bromidic posts. In 2002, Kenneth Pollack, the director of research at the Saban Center, published his enormously influential book, The Threatening Storm, which retailed the neocons’ dubious “intelligence” describing Saddam’s WMD to Democratic hawks. Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, in their pathbreaking Harvard University study of the Israel lobby, describe the pro-war Saban as an “ardent Zionist.”

And the beat goes on: not content with atomizing the Iraqi nation, the War Party and their moneybags are now taking on Iran. As Matthew Yglesias avers:

“Most major American Jewish organizations cater to the views of extremely wealthy major donors whose political views are well to the right of the bulk of American Jews, one of the most liberal ethnic groups in the country. Furthermore, it’s true that major Jewish organizations are trying to push the country into war.”

The Democrats, in short, have sold out for 30 pieces of silver. They have to be careful, however, to walk a fine line between passively enabling our war-crazed president and visibly aiding him. Yesterday, they were cowering before the Republican-neocon onslaught that labeled anyone who so much as questioned the war plan as a traitor and a terrorist collaborator, while today they strike an oppositional pose. One almost wishes they’d go back to cowering, what with all those “nonbinding” (i.e., utterly meaningless) antiwar resolutions floating around Congress. In the U.S. Senate, only Feingold has any balls, and he is pretty much an isolated figure, a kind of senatorial Dennis Kucinich. Yet there is hope…

Sentiment to get us out of Iraq and prevent the next war is building, and the antiwar forces have the momentum. If a national movement can be mobilized around the narrow issue of the Feingold option, then the weak Reids of this world can be shown to be wrong, not only morally but strategically as well.

For every moment the Democratic congressional majority continues to vote funds for this war – and future wars to come – they buy into a failed policy and make it their own. Once they begin to realize the political difficulties of such a tenuous position – and that day of enlightenment is not far off – they can be pushed (kicking and screaming) into taking their opposition to the war out of the symbolic realm and into the world of the actual.

What you can do is contact your congressional representatives and let them know you support Sen. Feingold’s pending resolution to cut off funding. There’s just one way to end this war, and that is by simply ending it.

Enough is enough: vote yes on the Feingold resolution!

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is editor-at-large at Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].