Democrats Drop Antiwar Pretensions

Saturday at the Westin Diplomat hotel outside Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the Democratic Party finalized its platform for the upcoming Democratic National Convention to be held in Boston later this month. Progressives and peace lovers – mostly Kucinich and Dean supporters – didn’t get much at all. Not only does the platform not call for the U.S. to leave Iraq ASAP, it is also loaded with militarism and calls for the U.S. to advance democracy abroad through force.

It was a sad outcome for progressives. This wholesale rejection of our cause and values stung deeply. We were shocked, in fact, and many of us cried when we realized that not only did our amendments lack the support necessary for passage, but we also lacked even the minimum support required to debate the amendments.

Since the primaries, the Progressive Caucus has worked tirelessly for the cause of peace and justice and for the Democratic Party to define itself in opposition to the wars of aggression in which we are currently engaged. We have been fighting for respect and inclusion. We have been fighting for the enlightened ideals of Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean. We have been advocating a Department of Peace, and arguing for a better, more civilized America. In all this we lost. For all our efforts, amendments proposed, and quid pro quos offered, we were given only a single, very minor, language adjustment to one of our proposed amendments. In this one instance, when we asked for the following language:

“[W]e must announce our intention to set a date for the withdrawal of our military forces,”

we were instead given

“[T]he U.S. will be able to reduce its military presence in Iraq, and we intend to do this when appropriate so that the military support needed by a sovereign Iraqi government will no longer be seen as the direct continuation of an American military presence.”

This new language is not exactly predicated on the notion that attacking Iraq was an illegal and immoral mistake in the first place.

And so it went, amendment after amendment, all unseen, none debated. Forgotten for now is justice in Palestine, the Department of Peace, a scaled-back military, the proscription of preemptive war, the legitimacy and primacy of international law, etc., etc.

We are diehard Democrats, and even though some of us felt stretched to the breaking point by the sustained cold shoulder of the Democratic Party power elite, our Progressive Caucus leadership quickly scrambled to put a positive spin on the process. To wit: even though we were all but marginalized and ignored in the platform, and even though we got practically nothing in the end, the fact that we took part in the process and formally accepted nothing is evidence of a working relationship with the Kerry camp that will bode well for us once Kerry is elected.

I don’t know if I believe that. If the upcoming election proves to be a referendum on the war, and I think it might be, then Democrats have not sufficiently differentiated themselves from Republicans for Kerry to win.

Author: Mohammed A. Salih

Mohammed A. Salih writes for Inter Press Service.