GADFLY: Pulling the Plug (Again!) 

I said, some months ago ("Time To Pull the Plug," December, '06), that it was time for Congress to defund the war in Iraq. It has now become apparent that's the only way we're going to get out of Iraq in anything approaching a reasonable period of time In the time since I wrote that piece, hundreds more American soldiers have died, thousands more have been permanently disabled, and we've spent additional billions of dollars on this tragic, futile war. The electorate spoke loudly and clearly last November about their antipathy for the war. Their mistake was thinking their vote would bring an end to the war, just as the Iraqis' mistake was thinking that voting for a government would actually give them a government.

The feckless Democrats have knuckled under to a Republican autocrat, choosing to play a dangerous game of political chicken with Bush instead of exercising their electoral prerogative. If Bush thought he was given "political capital," after a close election victory in '04, Democrats were given the bank in '06. Yet, they've cowered in their corners, afraid of the political consequences of doing what they were elected to do. What sense does that make?

And the Democrats' excuse? We don't have enough votes to override a veto, they say, while they engage in pathetic maneuvering, posturing, and worse, empty table-thumping. The only thing the Democrats can do to end the war is the very thing they have the power to do, without worrying about whether or not the President likes or approves of it---cut off funding. Congress has what is so colorfully called the "power of the purse." Under the Constitution, Congress decides whether, and how much, to fund wars. It has the power, under the terms of Article I, Section 8, to "raise and support armies."

Many people may not realize that, thinking that anything Congress does is subject to Presidential approval (through signing) or disapproval (through veto). But the truth is, Congress can end this war, ALL BY ITSELF. So why hasn't it done so? Because it has bought into the spin of an administration that enjoys one of the lowest approval ratings in history that cutting off funding for the war is cutting off funding for the troops (even though that is manifestly untrue). And if Congress did that they'd probably face the folks who drive around in cars with those magnetic "Support the Troops" stickers rising up in revolt, right? Wrong.

The Democrats have allowed Bush (and his various henchmen) to define funding for the war as either being for "spreading democracy," "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here", or being against the troops. With the notable exception of Congressmen Martha and Kucinich, and of late, Chris Dodd, the Democrats have allowed themselves to be cowed by an administration whose "support" for the troops has manifested itself in vehicles that don't protect troops from being blown up, involuntarily extended tours of duty and woefully inadequate health care when they leave the military. So who's really supporting the troops?

In addition to the "not supporting our troops" trope, the Republicans also have their go-to talking point, namely that if troops are withdrawn, the result will be a catastrophe. This from the same people who claimed there were WMD's in Iraq, that the war would be short (and cheap), that we'd be greeted as "liberators," and that Iraqi oil would pay for the war. In other words, Bush and his cadre of neocon war drummers were wrong about every single thing they predicted about the war. But now we're supposed to believe their prediction about what will happen when we withdraw? That defies logic.

The President's speech on Thursday, which followed his alter ego, General Petraeus' dog and pony show before Congress (which revealed that he himself can't say that the war in Iraq is making the U.S. any safer), revealed, at long last, his (Bush's) true agenda. We all know that the U.S. is building the largest embassy in the history of civilization in Iraq, and that it's been building permanent military bases in Iraq, so we knew Bush et al. were planning on a long-term presence in that country. But now we know that he's planning on an indefinite presence, because he has finally told us so. The "enduring relationship" he announced during his speech has been interpreted as nothing short of the kind of commitment we've seen in Korea.

In other words, American troops will be stationed in Iraq for at least the next 50 years (which is probably how long it would take to get the Iraqi army to "stand up" anyway). Of course, Korea isn't in the midst of a civil war, and few, if any, American soldiers who have been stationed there for the last 50 years have died as a result of any combat. So, in the face of overwhelming opposition to the war, the public's belief that American troops should be promptly (within a year) and totally withdrawn, and an approval rating lower than most used car salesmen have, what does the President do? Why, of course, he calls for our troops to be permanently stationed in Iraq.

I've thought, for some time, that Bush has gone "Captain Queeg" (the deranged commander of a battleship in the novel---and a role so convincingly played by Humphrey Bogart in the movie of the same name---The Caine Mutiny) on us, or worse, that he's figured out how to hold us all hostage to his insanity, while we (and especially the Democratic party) have been suffering from a bad case of Stockholm syndrome. The sailors on the U.S.S. Caine mutinied in order to prevent the ship from capsizing. Our ship is severely listing, thanks to our "Captain Queeg's" insanity. If we don't take over control of this ship soon, and convince the Democrats in Congress that the only way to do that is to stop funding for the war, we may find our ship of state capsizing as well.


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