Democrats: It’s the War

Dennis Kucinich November 1, 2005

End­ing the war in Iraq is right for a lot of rea­sons. The war was unjus­ti­fied, unnec­es­sary and unpro­voked. It is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, strength­en­ing al-Qae­da and weak­en­ing the moral author­i­ty of the Unit­ed States. It is dead­ly: Many Amer­i­cans, and many, many more Iraqis, have been killed or injured as a result of the fight­ing. And it is cost­ly: Well over $250 bil­lion in tax­pay­er funds have already been spent, with no end in sight.

It is also increas­ing­ly unpop­u­lar. For all these rea­sons, plus the increased spot­light that Hur­ri­canes Kat­ri­na and Rita put on how much the war is drain­ing resources des­per­ate­ly need­ed at home, Democ­rats should clear­ly call for the with­draw­al of troops from Iraq. If Democ­rats do not make this the cen­ter­piece of their cam­paign in 2006, they risk repeat­ing recent his­to­ry, in which they failed to recov­er seats in the House and Senate.

Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers have already tried, and tried again, to ignore the war, and it didn’t work polit­i­cal­ly. Dur­ing the 2002 elec­tion cycle, when Democ­rats felt they had his­tor­i­cal prece­dent on their side – the president’s par­ty always los­es seats in the mid-term elec­tion – the Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­er­ship in Con­gress cut a deal with the pres­i­dent to bring the war res­o­lu­tion to a vote, and appeared with him in a Rose Gar­den cer­e­mo­ny. Let no light show” between Democ­rats and Pres­i­dent Bush on for­eign pol­i­cy was the leadership’s strat­e­gy, and it yield­ed a his­toric result: For the first time since Franklin Roo­sevelt, a pres­i­dent increased his majori­ties in both hous­es of Con­gress dur­ing a recession.

Then, in 2004, with the pres­i­dent vul­ner­a­ble on the war, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty again sac­ri­ficed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­tin­guish itself from Bush. Mem­bers avoid­ed the issue of with­draw­al from Iraq in the Par­ty plat­form, omit­ted it from cam­paign speech­es and delet­ed it from the nation­al convention.

Why is it an uncon­scionable polit­i­cal blun­der to sweep the war and occu­pa­tion of Iraq under the rug? Because the war is one of the most potent polit­i­cal scan­dals of all time, and it has ener­gized grass­roots activ­i­ty all over the country.

Pres­i­dent Bush led the coun­try into war based on false infor­ma­tion, fal­si­fied threats and a fic­ti­tious esti­mate of the con­se­quences. His war and the con­tin­u­ing occu­pa­tion trans­formed Iraq into a train­ing ground for jihadists who want to kill Amer­i­cans, and a cause célèbre for stok­ing resent­ment in the Mus­lim world. 

Bush’s war and occu­pa­tion squan­dered the abun­dant good will felt by the world for Amer­i­ca after our 911 loss­es. He enriched his cronies at Hal­libur­ton and oth­er pri­vate inter­ests through the occu­pa­tion. And he divert­ed our atten­tion and abil­i­ties away from appre­hend­ing the mas­ter­minds of the 911 attack. Instead, we are mired in an occu­pa­tion which has already cost over 2,000 Amer­i­can lives and the lives of tens of thou­sands of Iraqis.

The issue of the war clear­ly dis­tin­guish­es what is wrong with Repub­li­can rule. Repub­li­cans in Con­gress won’t extri­cate the Unit­ed States from the quag­mire the pres­i­dent has got­ten us into. They have refused to inves­ti­gate what role the White House played in manip­u­lat­ing pre-war intel­li­gence. They refused to inves­ti­gate the Down­ing Street memo. Democ­rats, on the oth­er hand, most­ly vot­ed against the war: Two-thirds of House Democ­rats and half of Sen­ate Democ­rats opposed the war in Iraq. Democ­rats can draw no clear­er dis­tinc­tion with the pres­i­dent and the Repub­li­can Con­gress than over this war.

Every major poll con­firms that the war is a los­er for the pres­i­dent and his par­ty. Con­sid­er one of the most promi­nent: The ABC/Wash­ing­ton Post poll, which has sur­veyed pub­lic opin­ion on the war reg­u­lar­ly since March 2003. Respons­es to all per­ti­nent key ques­tions clear­ly show erod­ing sup­port for the war. Sup­port for the president’s han­dling of Iraq has steadi­ly fall­en; belief that the war was worth fight­ing has fall­en; belief that the num­ber of U.S. casu­al­ties are an accept­able cost of the war has steadi­ly fall­en; belief that the war has con­tributed to U.S. long-term secu­ri­ty has steadi­ly fall­en, and sup­port for keep­ing forces in Iraq has steadi­ly fall­en. There are no excep­tions to this trend.

Right is on our side, and pub­lic opin­ion is trend­ing our way. In 2006, Democ­rats must break from the past and run on the issue of quick with­draw­al of all troops from Iraq. The stakes are high: Unless Democ­rats stand for end­ing the war in Iraq, this coun­try will not leave Iraq, and Democ­rats their minor­i­ty sta­tus in Wash­ing­ton, for a long time to come.

Of course, no par­ty can win votes on the strength of one issue. End­ing the war in Iraq must be at the cen­ter­piece of a cam­paign that includes stand­ing for nation­al health care and pre­serv­ing Social Secu­ri­ty. This is the con­stel­la­tion of issues with which Democ­rats can take back the country.

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