If Tuesday July 17th is any indication,
I saw Harkin on C-SPAN in the U.S. Senate Chambers at around two in the morning last Tuesday. As part of the Senate Democrats’ “sleep in” effort to break through a Republican filibuster against a Senate vote to begin withdrawing combat troops from Iraq in four months, he was reading from antiwar letters he’d received from Iowans in recent months.
“LET US VOTE”
One letter came from the mother of a
She would have been right to add that the war is criminal – not merely mistaken – and to note that the leading victims of
After reading from her note and another one like it, Harkin pointed to a big red, white, and blue sign positioned next to his podium. The sign read “LET US VOTE.” The Senator accused Republicans of defying the will of the American people by blocking a vote that could force a “change of course” in
VOTING FREELY TO AUTHORIZE THE ASSAULT
It’s too bad Harkin didn’t pay more attention to the large number of Iowan and other American and world citizens who opposed the White House’s
As many Iowans and Americans and most of the morally and politically cognizant human race could have told Harkin back then, the Cheney-Bush administration’s case for one-sided “war” (the illegal invasion of a defenseless state that posed no threat to the U.S.) was based on cooked (not “bad”) “intelligence” and on massive, media-enabled deception. The fact that Cheney-Bush et al. were lying about the danger supposedly presented to the
“THEY CAN STOP FUNDING IT”
And it’s too bad Harkin doesn’t listen more to
“As a mother,” she said, “I have to speak against this war and ALL wars. I have the responsibility to teach my children to be understanding of other people and to find ways to solve problems non-violently. It’s hard to teach your kids these lessons,” Persaud added, “when their culture is violent and when their government is provoking war as a means to an end.”
“I refuse,” Persaud declared, “to offer my children or anyone else’s children as fodder for the war machine.”
“The American people want our troops HOME, to live,” Ms. Persaud noted (making an assertion that finds strong support in the relevant polling data), ”and we want the Iraqi people to live. It was a crime for the
Persuad told the Linn County judge that she had wanted “to ask Senator Grassley, as someone who has spent years of service investigating fraud and waste in government spending, why he sees no waste in human life as this war goes on and on, year after year. Is not a life worth more than a dollar? It seems,” she added, “our Congress has lost its ability and courage to measure what matters and has lost its moral compass.”
Midway through her oration, Ms. Persaud registered a basic point that Tom “Let Us Vote” Harkin might wish to consider before he votes on the 2008 FY Pentagon Budget and the next Iraq War funding bill later this summer: “Congress has the power to end this unjust war and illegal occupation. They can stop funding it.”
As Stephen Lendman reminds us: “no money, no war; it’s that simple” (Lendman 2007).
“THEY DID NOT NEED A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY TO STOP FUNDING THE WAR”
But it’s all too simple, apparently, for Harkin and most of the Democrats in Congress.
Harkin’s party rode mass
Frustrated by Bush’s veto of their earlier effort to tie war funding to (merely non-binding) timetables for troop “withdrawal” and (more to the imperial point) “redeployment,” the congressional Democratic “leadership” caved to the nation’s incredibly unpopular president. They had no choice, they argued, claiming that the White House would be able to portray them as traitorous under-cutters of the nation’s noble freedom fighters in
“The claim by Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and other Democratic leaders that unconditional funding was necessary to ‘support the troops’ and to ‘not leave them in harm’s way’ is a LIE [capitalization added]. If they really supported the troops and wanted them out of harm’s way, they would have passed legislation that would bring them home. The Democrats had other priorities, however.”
“Pelosi claimed that they had to provide unconditional funding for President Bush’s war in
“As Speaker, Pelosi could have set the legislative agenda and not allowed any funding bill to come to a vote unless it had such provisions. And, if Bush refused to sign it, he would have been the one to put the troops in harm’s way, not Congress.”
“Some apologists for the Democrats claim that to not support funding for the supplemental would have allowed political opponents to portray them as ‘not supporting our troops.’ However, three conservative Republican senators—Coburn, Burr, and Enzi—voted against the supplemental because of the $20 billion in domestic, non-war-related expenditures without apparent fear of such charges. So why should the Democrats have been afraid to oppose the measure as well?”
“And it certainly is no longer the case—as apologists for the Democrats claimed when they supported supplemental spending for the war in previous years—that it would be politically difficult to oppose a key initiative of a popular president now that Bush is one of the least popular presidents in history, a ranking that has come largely as a result of the very war policy for which the Democrats have once again given him a blank check to continue” (Zunes 2007).
“TO TAKE REPONSIBILITY”
Zune’s common-sense analysis helps explain why Ms. Pesaud and 30 other antiwar activists with the Iowa Occupation Project went over – I joined them - to Harkin’s office after Pesaud and other “Cedar Rapids 11″ members were sentenced (Street 2007).
Saying he’d been “expecting” us, Harkin’s Cedar Rapids staffer Tom Larkin gave activists a two-page position paper titled “Tom Harkin on Iraq: Change the Course, Not Stay the Course.” This document began by praising “our brave men and women” [soldiers] for “having brilliantly completed the task for which they were sent to
Neither Larkin nor his handout offered any serious justification for Harkin’s decision to continue funding a criminal, brazenly imperialist oil occupation without even non-binding timetables for eventual withdrawal.
Larkin seemed flustered when I reminded him that many American and most world citizens know that “the task for which [US troops were] sent” – deepening U.S. control over strategic Middle Eastern energy resources – is criminal and imperialist in nature and that the U.S. bears enormous responsibility – and owes reparations – for the enormous damage (including the creation of civil war in Iraq) it has inflicted on Iraq.
I told Larkin that Harkin’s May 24th vote defied the majority antiwar citizen opinion that created his party’s congressional majority last fall. I asked him why the Democrats had lacked the elementary political courage to have put the onus of not “supporting the troops” on George W. Bush. I reminded Larkin of John Edwards’ useful slogan, “Support the Troops, End the War” and suggested that votes likes Harkin’s last spring help explain why the Democratic-majority Congress now receives lower
Larkin said something about Harkin’s history as a World War II veteran and disappeared behind a wall. A handful of University of Iowa students and others activists sitting on the floor of Harkin’s Cedar Rapids office then held an informal teach-in on U.S. foreign policy, politics and society. Students read aloud the names of hundreds of Iraqi children and
I forget to remind Larkin that many of Senator Harkin’s “brave men and women” (U.S. troops) have been indiscriminately killing, maiming and torturing Iraqi civilians in the execution of a colonial war (see Hedges and Al-Arian 2007 for some especially disturbing evidence from fifty returning U.S. occupation soldiers)
THE PERMANENT BIPARTISAN OCCUPATION
The bloody petro-colonial occupation of
Harkin and other congressional Democrats’ main problem isn’t that Republicans aren’t letting them vote. Its how they’ve been using the voting power they’ve already got.
This September, when the FY 2008 Pentagon budget comes up for congressional approval – $649 billion plus a $142 billon “war supplemental” – we should not be surprised when Harkin and hundreds of our other Democratic “representatives” fail yet again to pull the fiscal plug Cheney and Bush’s imperial adventurism within and beyond Iraq.
At the same time, we should refrain from celebration if Congress enacts “conditional” funding with some version of the (partial) withdrawal and redeployment schedules that Harkin and other Democrats tried to pass last March. As Howard Zinn notes, for antiwar activists to support ”timetables” for the eventual scaling down of the invasion of Iraq is “as if, before the Civil War, abolitionists agreed to postpone the emancipation of the slaves for a year, or two years, or five years, and coupled this with an appropriation of funds to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act…Timetables for withdrawal,” Zinn argues, “are not only morally reprehensible in the case of a brutal occupation (would you give a thug who invaded your house, smashed everything in sight, and terrorized your children a timetable for withdrawal?) but logically nonsensical. If our troops are preventing civil war, helping people, controlling violence, then why withdraw at all? If they are in fact doing the opposite—provoking civil war, hurting people, perpetuating violence—they should withdraw as quickly as ships and planes can carry them home.”
“It is four years since the
And what exactly do Democrats like Harkin and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Obama really mean when they say “withdrawal?” Now that the occupation faces widespread opposition inside the
“In effect,” Arnove notes, “it’s a ‘blame and hold’ strategy. Blame the Iraqis for all the problems we created. Hold onto whatever the U.S. military can salvage in terms of military bases in Iraq – to have some influence over the future of Iraq’s massive oil reserves and some ability to continue military operations in Iraq, and to project power against other countries in the region, particularly Iran” (Arnove 2007).
The imperial and bipartisan task is to mask continued permanent petro-imperialist occupation and control as “withdrawal” and “counterterrrorism” while deflecting and undermining legitimate calls for the payment of reparations for the monumental damage the United States Empire has inflicted on
And “here’s why” the occupation is not going to truly end until many thousands more Americans and Iraqis die, according to Lendman: “The Afghan and
“It makes the country ‘the most sought after real estate on the face of the earth’ according to
Such is the deep dark and oily imperial truth – readily available to anyone with “three functioning grey cells,” according to Noam Chomsky (Chomsky 2005) – behind Harkin and other leading congressional Democrats’ need to take superficially antiwar postures while using their policymaking authority to continue funding and justifying the persistent
Veteran radical historian, journalist, and activist
Anthony Arnove 2007. “Why Bush Won’t Admit Failure in
CNN 2002. “Senate Approves Iraq War Resolution,” CNN (October 11, 2002), available online at: (http://archives.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/10/11/iraq.us/
Noam Chomsky 2005. “There is No War on Terror,” Noam Chomsky interviewed by Geov Parrish (December 23, 2005), available online at http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20051223.html
Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian 2007. “The Other War:
Stephen Lendman 2007. “Plan
Howard Zinn 2007. “Are We Politicians or Citizens?” The Progressive (April 2007), reproduced on ZNet (March 27, 2007) at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=51&ItemID=12413
Stephen Zunes 2007. “The Democrats’ Support for Bush’s War,” Foreign Policy in Focus (May 31, 2007), available online at http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4278