The sudden “surge” of anti-war positions among powerful Republican senators, most recently John Warner and Richard Lugar, and other elite forces (such as the editors of the New York Times) is putting intense new bi-partisan pressure on the White House to begin withdrawing troops. And while it is certainly an indication that our years of work are bearing fruit, this new period is going to be very dangerous, and create new problems for the anti-war movement.
Television and radio hosts are begging
Bush administration officials are responding with new dire reports from military and White House officials about the dire consequences of troop withdrawals. But with mainstream Republicans increasingly distancing themselves from Bush on Iraq, there’s a danger that their counterparts in the Democratic leadership are likely to soften their own [already wobbly] opposition to the U.S. occupation in order to reach the brass ring of a “bipartisan” [read: politically safe] position. That could well mean agreement on a “post-surge redeployment” designed to partially withdraw some troops (probably about half the current 150,000
According to the
The Baker-Hamilton report, the consummate elite bipartisan consensus, appears to be enjoying a second life. But it has not improved in the months since its high-voltage release last December. It does indeed talk about the desirability of “a reduction in the
So What About The Anti-War Forces
All of these developments of course reflect the free-fall of credibility for Bush and the war. But how they play out will be difficult. In Congress, the stronger opposition – centered in the Out of Iraq, Progressive, and Black Caucuses – appears resolved to continue their so-far unsuccessful fight against funding the war. In both houses, votes to set timetables or begin withdrawing some troops failed to win enough votes to override a veto.
There are indications that the bill to “fully fund full withdrawal” of the troops, introduced by Progressive Caucus co-chairs Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, may be allowed to come to the floor for a vote.But even the strongest of the anti-war congresspeople will worry about marginalizing themselves if they maintain a principled stance. The mainstream leadership of both parties will likely move to consolidate a bipartisan deal that will sound like withdrawal, look like withdrawal, but will in fact be a recipe for continuing, permanent occupation. President Bush himself said on the 4th of July that “We all long for the day when there are far fewer American servicemen and women in Iraq.” Following the September “status report” from General Petraeus on the state of the war in Iraq, the deal could gain White House acquiescence and happen very quickly. Those who stand against such a deal on principle, those who continue to demand that ALL U.S. troops and mercenaries be brought home, that the U.S. bases be closed, and that the U.S. abandon its efforts to control Iraqi oil, will be vulnerable to being isolated and attacked by party leaders eager for a bipartisan consensus. Only massive public pressure will enable them to stand firm and resist those pressures.
This moment’s spike in anti-war sentiment, including from some unlikely sources, is an indication of the strength and breadth of the anti-war movement and of anti-war sentiment throughout the country. The claim that advocating troop withdrawal means one “does not support the troops” is quickly being abandoned, discredited as war hawks work to retool their language into dove-speak, talking about “redeployment” and “redirection” as if they meant real withdrawal.
All of this points to the importance of remembering that Congress is not the peace movement. Alternative centers of power, such as local and state governments, and international allies, are playing an increasingly important role in mobilizing against the war. The peace movement must continue to engage those alternative power centers, while still ratcheting up the direct pressure on Washington, on those politicians and power centers openly supporting the war, as well as those attempting to relegitimize and rename this war into something they can call “redeployment.” U.S. occupation of Iraq, “sustainable” or not, must end. Until it does, the anti-war movement will continue its fight.
Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. She is the author of Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy U.S. Power (Interlink Publishing, October 2005).