$100 Billion to Continue the War




O

n Friday, March 23 the Democrats in the House of Representatives pushed
through the “U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health, and Iraq Accountability
Act” by a vote of 218-212. The bill gives the Bush administration some
$100 billion to continue the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while calling for
U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq by September 1, 2008. 


House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi hailed this as a vote “to bring an
end to the war in Iraq.” It is no such thing. Instead of ending the war,
this bill (and a similar Democratic Party bill under consideration in the
Senate) is an effort to pressure the Bush regime to adjust its strategy
in Iraq and the region to better preserve U.S. imperialist hegemony and
stamp out anti-U.S. resistance, Islamic fundamentalism in particular. It’s
also designed to rein in and paralyze the millions who are increasingly
angry and disillusioned with the war and the Bush regime, and channel these
feelings into support for a different (Democratic Party) strategy in waging
that war. 



Retooling U.S. Strategy 



T

he Democrats’ bill reflects the deep concern of many ruling class strategists
that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and the Bush strategy must
be changed to head off even greater disasters for the empire. Zbigniew
Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter who has
been advising the Democrats, testified before the Senate earlier this year:
“If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody
involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely
to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam
at large…[plunging] a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire
eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.” 


So the Democrats (following in the vein of the Baker-Hamilton Study Group)
are proposing a number of measures to try to stabilize the situation in
Iraq, limit further U.S. losses (including the enormous stresses on the
U.S. military), and shore up U.S. efforts across the region—while refocusing
the U.S. “war on terror.” The measures proposed by the Democrats include:
 



Fully funding the war:

Congress has the power to end the war by cutting
off funding. Instead, the Democrats chose to give Bush $100 billion, enabling
him to continue the war as he sees fit for the immediate future. This is
more money than Bush originally asked for. 



Enforcing “benchmarks”:

These are the same benchmarks for the Iraqi government
that Bush spelled out in his January 10 speech. The Democrats want to more
aggressively impose them by threatening funding cutoffs and troop redeployments
(from combat operations to training and/or out of the country). These benchmarks
have nothing to do with liberating the Iraqi people—just the opposite.
They’re aimed at heading off a strategic defeat in the region by forcing
the various factions in the Iraqi government to subordinate their agendas
to the U.S.’s overall goal of creating a more stable regime capable of
ending the anti-occupation insurgency and the ongoing civil war, holding
Iraq together, and acting in concert with U.S. goals in the region. So
the Bush-Democrat benchmarks include passing a bill that divides oil revenues
among Iraq’s different national and religious groups, reining in sectarian
militias, and taking frontline responsibility to fight anti-U.S. forces.
The U.S.-backed oil bill also opens Iraq’s enormous oil reserves to direct
and open control by foreign capital for the first time in over 30 years,
potentially giving global powers like the U.S. a stranglehold over this
key Iraqi resource. 

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Blaming Iraqis for their suffering

: Many top Democrats spout the chauvinist
lies of the Bush regime, portraying the U.S. invasion as a noble effort
to liberate Iraq and claiming that the Iraqis have now screwed things up
with a persistent civil war. “We have lost over 3,000 people. We have lost
over 25,000 wounded. The Iraqis have had Saddam Hussein taken out. They
have had two elections,” Tennessee Democrat John Tanner declared on “Newshour”
(March 22). “They have had a government now for over a year. And we see
no progress on them…it’s time for them to step up.” But this turns reality
upside down. It is the U.S.’s unprovoked war of aggression that has led
to the death of an estimated 650,000 Iraqis, the forced displacement of
another 3.2 million (over 1 in 10 Iraqis), and widespread destruction.
Tanner’s lie also covers up the fact that the U.S. helped trigger and continues
to fuel a “civil war” by empowering some reactionary forces, barring others,
and encouraging sectarian divisions. 



“Redeployment”—not withdrawal:

The Democrats are not demanding that U.S.
forces immediately leave Iraq—the only just solution—or that they ever
leave Iraq. Both Bush and the Democrats envision that thousands of U.S.
troops will be in Iraq for years to come—just not on the frontlines of
combat in the same way or in the same numbers. Pelosi’s website states:
“Following redeployment, U.S. troops remaining in Iraq may only be used
for diplomatic protection, counterterrorism operations, and training of
Iraqi Security Forces.” These open-ended commitments and the Democrats’
refusal to renounce permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq mean that thousands
of U.S. troops could be stationed in Iraq for decades to come. 



  • Escalation in Afghanistan:

    Many of the “redeployed” troops could well be
    used in other countries in the region. According to Pelosi, “The bill significantly
    increases funding to defeat al Qaeda and terrorists in Afghanistan.” She
    also called it an effort to concentrate on Afghanistan “where the war on
    terrorism is.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the House bill “maximizes
    our chances for success in Iraq and redeploys our troops so we can more
    effectively wage the war on terror.” Afghanistan is not a “good war,” with
    Iraq a “diversion” from the “real war on terror,” as the Democrats often
    argue. Both are parts of the Bush regime’s war for greater empire, and
    the strikingly similar outcomes in both countries—the deepening suffering
    and anger of the people, the empowering of brutal reactionaries, the strengthening
    of oppressive, feudal relations—illustrate this reality. 



Preserving the U.S. military:

Another goal of the redeployment is preserving
and rebuilding the U.S. military—the U.S.’s main weapon for enforcing its
global hegemony. “The war in Iraq has produced a national security crisis,”
Pelosi warned, “with military readiness at its lowest level since the Vietnam
War.” In supporting the House bill, Brzezinski stated, “The United States
cannot afford an open-ended commitment to a war without end. A means must
be devised to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq and reduce our troop levels,
so that we can begin to rebuild our military and reclaim our position of
leadership in the world.” 



Giving Bush a green light to attack Iran:

The Democrats removed a stipulation
that Bush had to get Congressional approval before attacking Iran. With
the U.S. openly threatening Iran and with war preparations at an advanced
stage and—given the Bush regime’s track record of launching pre-emptive
wars based on lies—this amounts to giving Bush a bright green light to
attack Iran. 

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Pressuring Bush, without unraveling the war:

The Democrats are trying to
walk the fine line of pressuring Bush while continuing to give him freedom
to wage the war as commander-in-chief and not provoking a political crisis
that could also accelerate a U.S. defeat. That’s why the Democrats have
continued funding the war and why there are no means in their bill for
enforcing their demands. In terms of the benchmarks, all Bush has to do
is periodically “certify” in public that the Iraqi government is meeting
them. As California Democrat Lynn Woolsey said on “Democracy Now!” (March
22), “There are virtually no enforcement measures in this legislation that
will make the president do anything that we’re telling him to do…. [W]hen
we get to the end of August 2008 and the war is still going on, we’re going
to say to the president, ‘Alright, now you have to bring them home.’ The
only way we can force him to do that in this bill is to sue him.” Of course,
whether a political crisis will be averted is another matter. Bush has
threatened to veto the Democrats’ legislation and is demanding a bill with
no stipulations—or “strings” —at all. Overall, the possibility for geopolitical
disaster in Iraq, or as a result of war with Iran, has made tensions within
the ruling establishment very sharp. 


All these steps flow from the Democratic Party’s agreement with the Bush
regime’s basic goal of maintaining and strengthening U.S. imperialist global
dominance—even as they have deep disagreements over how to realize it.
A column in the

Washington Post

noted the striking similarity between the
strategic visions of Democratic “neo-liberals” and Republican “neocons”:
“[T]he fact is that prevailing Democratic doctrine is not that different
from the Bush-Cheney doctrine. Many Democrats, including senators who voted
to authorize the war in Iraq, embraced the idea of muscular foreign policy
based on American global supremacy and the presumed right to intervene
to promote democracy or to defend key U.S. interests long before 9/11,
and they have not changed course since. Even those who have shifted against
the war have avoided doctrinal questions…. [W]ithout a coherent alternative
to the Bush doctrine, with its confidence in America’s military preeminence
and the global appeal of ‘free market democracy,’ the Democrats’ midterm
victory may not be repeated in November 2008. Or, if the Democrats do win
in 2008, they could remain staked to a vision of a Pax Americana strikingly
reminiscent of Bush’s” (“It’s Uphill for the Democrats,” Tony Smith,

Washington
Post

, March 11, 2007). 

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What is Needed to End the War 



I

n November millions voted for the Democrats to protest Bush and the war
and in hopes they would end it. Today, many—including people who worked
energetically to elect Democrats and who’ve been lobbying them to cut off
war funding—feel bitter, betrayed, and outraged. They should be. The lesson
is not that the Democrats “sold out” or are “spineless.” The lesson is
that the Democrats are a ruling class party (and this is deeply institutionalized,
regardless of the desires or intentions of its supporters or even some
elected Democrats), acting to advance the interests of a capitalist-imperialist
system they’re part of and represent. These interests are directly antagonistic
to the interests and sentiments of billions of people globally and the
vast majority in the U.S. 


The content of the Iraq Accountability Act and the way it was pushed through—including
by threatening and strong-arming Democrats who said they wanted to vote
against war funding and refusing to allow a vote on an amendment to only
fund a withdrawal of U.S. forces—show this. Neither the Democrats nor the
Republicans make decisions on the basis of elections or public opinion.
They make decisions based on the needs and interests of the imperialist
system. 


How can anything good for the people possibly come from decisions based
not on ending an unjust war, but “winning” it? Not on ending a neo-colonial
occupation, but stabilizing and continuing it? Not on supporting real liberation
and self-determination, but on controlling countries and resources halfway
around the globe and ensuring that the corporate-financial rulers of a
country with some 3 percent of the world’s population can dominate and
determine the destinies of the other 97 percent? 


The problem isn’t only that the Democrats are betraying people’s hopes.
They’re also actively and aggressively trying to channel and confine people’s
hopes into pro-war, pro-imperialist politics. These are the only choices
offered (in elections generally, especially important ones), and the only
choices deemed “realistic” by the powers that be. Take the “poll” conducted
by Moveon.org, an activist group closely tied to the Democratic Party.
Right before the war funding vote, Moveon gave its members the “choice”
of voting for Pelosi’s bill—or not. Voting to end funding for the war wasn’t
a choice, even though the head of Moveon admitted its membership would
have supported it. 


This is one way millions of anti-war people end up voting for one pro-war
candidate versus another. This is already being “programmed” into the 2008
elections—and into the minds of anyone who remains confined by these choices.
This will happen unless and until the entire political calculus is upended
by massive upheaval from below. 


But such an outpouring cannot and will not happen as long as millions are
putting their hopes in the Democrats—either passively by waiting for 2008
or actively, by focusing their energy, efforts, hopes, and money into pressuring
the Democrats to “do the right thing,” instead of putting them where they
can really count for something: into mobilizing the one force that can
stop the war and drive out the Bush regime: the millions, from all walks
of life, who oppose them. Inspiring and organizing these millions to take
independent mass political action based on the just demands of ending the
war and turning back all the outrages of the Bush regime, from torture
to spying to theocracy, is the only realistic option and the only way these
crimes will be stopped. It will never happen by hoping the Democrats become
something they’re not and never have been. 









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Larry Everest is author of


Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global
Agenda

(Common Courage), a correspondent for

Revolution,

and a contributor
to

Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney

(Seven Stories).