UPDATED: 6:15 PM PST, Monday, September 3, 2007
By it's nature the Out Of Iraq Bloggers Caucus is, as our tagline describes, a "coalition of the willing", not a top down organization speaking with one voice, but a gathering place for bloggers united in opposition to the Iraq occupation, each with their own motivations, each with their own ideas on how the occupation can be ended.
I want to talk today about my own views, and also about a short conversation I had yesterday about whether and about how the Iraq occupation could be ended - but first I want to provide some background against which to express my own thoughts. I also hope here to encourage other OOIBC members to post their thoughts. I speak only for myself here.
OOIBC is a subset of a much larger "coalition of the willing", a microcosm of the tens of millions of people who, expressing, in the words of Keith Olbermann "the collective will of the nearly 70 percent of Americans who reject this War of Lies", in the 2006 midterm elections repudiated the Republican party and I think George W. Bush's foreign policies, and swept the Democratic Party into a Congressional majority on the strength of one single issue, one overwhelming mandate.
A mandate they have since, in my view, grievously insulted the people who gave them the Congressional power they now hold by ignoring.
Keith Olbermann described that mandate more clearly than anyone else, I think, in his May 23, 2007 "Special Comment" MSNBC broadcast: "The entire government has failed us on Iraq"
Few men or women elected in our history—whether executive or legislative, state or national—have been sent into office with a mandate more obvious, nor instructions more clear:Now, a little more than three months later, nothing has changed and it appears that there is no movement by the Democratic controlled Congress toward ending the financing of "the deaths of Americans in a war that has only reduced the security of Americans".
Get us out of Iraq.
Yet after six months of preparation and execution—half a year gathering the strands of public support; translating into action, the collective will of the nearly 70 percent of Americans who reject this War of Lies, the Democrats have managed only this:
- The Democratic leadership has surrendered to a president—if not the worst president, then easily the most selfish, in our history—who happily blackmails his own people, and uses his own military personnel as hostages to his asinine demand, that the Democrats “give the troops their money”;
- The Democratic leadership has agreed to finance the deaths of Americans in a war that has only reduced the security of Americans;
- The Democratic leadership has given Mr. Bush all that he wanted, with the only caveat being, not merely meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government, but optional meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government.
- The Democratic leadership has, in sum, claimed a compromise with the Administration, in which the only things truly compromised, are the trust of the voters, the ethics of the Democrats, and the lives of our brave, and doomed, friends, and family, in Iraq.
In some comments beginning here replying to a post by Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft yesterday, Glenn Greenwald made it clear that he now feels there is no possibility of the Democratic leadership ending the occupation of Iraq in the near future, if ever.
I'm not advising Democrats to give up on Iraq. I think they ought to force the President to withdraw.I earnestly hope that Glenn is wrong on this, but I believe he is not, and I agree with him.
But I'm not going to lie to my readers to make them feel better. Everything I've seen from Democrats makes me conclude that nothing that anyone does will ever make them stand up to the President with sufficient unity and in sufficient numbers to force him to stop the war.
That's just reality. They can't even restore habeas corpus or defy the President's demand for vast new warrantless surveillance powers. The idea that they are going one day soon wake up and Stop the War is fanciful, no matter how much you wish it were otherwise (and, contrary to your weird praise of Atrios, he has made that point more emphatically and more continuously than anyone I know).
I'm not writing prescriptively, but descriptively. I'm not recommending that Democrats not try to stop the war. I'm not recommending that anyone stop trying. I'm just giving my honest assessment that they are not going to do it.
I also have come to believe that the Democratic Leadership has no motivation to end the Iraq occupation. I think that they believe they will retain and perhaps increase their control of Congress next year, and that Democratic presidential frontrunner candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton believe that they can count on winning the presidency without ending the Iraq occupation, almost if not fully on the strength of one message - that they are not Republicans.
I think they are counting on the fear of another four if not eight years of Republican government to provide the votes for them, without having to live up to their implied promises and the expectations of them that three quarters of voters hold. I think that they are not afraid they will pay any political price whatsoever in 2008 for not living up to those implied promises and the expectations.
But I think they are not simply afraid of nothing.
I think that they, like the Republicans, are afraid of one thing.
They are afraid that the US economy cannot and will not continue to dominate the world economy, and will collapse, unless the US is able to dominate the energy resources of the world, and that cannot be done if the US withdraws from Iraq.
The invasion and the occupation of Iraq was not done to deliver 'freedom and democracy' to Iraq. It was done in the hope of ensuring US economic dominance.
Larry Everest writing at ZNet shortly before the last Emergency Supplemental funding the occupation was passed in May (the first one passed by a Democratic controlled Congress after years of supplementals passed by Republicans) described the problem much more succinctly that I am able to:
What the Bush Regime portrays as a noble effort to make the world safe from terrorism and bring democracy to the Middle East is actually a vicious war of empire to deepen the U.S. stranglehold on the Middle East and Central Asia --a war that is part of a broader effort to create an unchallenged and unchallengeable imperialist empire.Glenn Greenwald yesterday was expressing his belief of the reality of the situation with "Everything I've seen from Democrats makes me conclude that nothing that anyone does will ever make them stand up to the President with sufficient unity and in sufficient numbers to force him to stop the war."
This goal is not viewed as capricious or incidental by those in charge--whether Democrats or Republicans--rather it flows from the deepest needs and drives of their system: U.S. hegemony in the Middle East and global dominance is crucial for U.S. capitalism's ongoing functioning and U.S. global power.
So when Bush says, "Even if you thought it was a mistake to go into Iraq, it would be a far greater mistake to pull out now," he's expressing a fear -- from an imperialist viewpoint - that a U.S. pullout would leave the empire weaker. And he is saying this in opposition to other forces in the U.S. ruling class who, also coming from an imperialist viewpoint, now think it's a big mistake for the U.S. not to withdraw.
This whole dynamic of riding the anti-war vote to power, then voting to fund an ongoing war while claiming to be ending it, reflect the conflicting necessities the Democrats face. As representatives of U.S. imperialism, they are committed to maintaining U.S. global dominance. Yet they fear the U.S. is sliding toward a strategic debacle of epic proportions and may already have lost the war in Iraq.
I agree with Glenn. They will not end it. They have no reason or motivation to, if they can count on voter support in 2008 without ending it.
The evidence states that Democrats are basically on board with Bush.
This has been obvious for some time. Since the supplemental in the spring at least. The FISA Amendment should have been the clincher for anyone who doubted it.
They are not capitulating to Bush. They are complicit with Bush. They are confident that the electorate will capitulate to them next year out of fear of the republicans. They are playing people. This, in my view, is Democrats using the same fearmongering tactics the Republicans used so successfully for the past few years.
It's very difficult to imagine a political reality developing under which current Democrats (again I refer to leadership and presidential frontrunners) will end the occupation of Iraq.
But it is not at all difficult to imagine how it can happen.
I believe that people would feel energized if they saw and heard enough people leading us in the right direction on Iraq, and that if leading Democrats heard enough people say to them that they will not vote for ANY Democrats next year EXCEPT Democrats who have been vocally, and by their votes on supplementals, calling for total withdrawal from Iraq they would quickly notice.
They are politicians after all, and they are concerned with winning elections.
They would notice if enough people turned the tables on them and used fear to motivate them, instead of voting simply out of fear of republicans.
If Democrats were filled with fear that they would lose Congress and the presidency UNLESS the occupation was ended before the 2008 elections, they would end the occupation of Iraq.
I hope that Glenn Greenwald will use the voice and the reach and the influence he has to encourage people to threaten the Democratic Leadership and presidential hopefuls with loss of support unless they do the job the voters who gave them the Congressional majority they now hold expect of them.
As Keith Olbermann also said:
Those who seek the Democratic nomination need to—for their own political futures and, with a thousand times more solemnity and importance, for the individual futures of our troops—denounce this betrayal, vote against it, and, if need be, unseat Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi if they continue down this path of guilty, fatal acquiescence to the tragically misguided will of a monomaniacal president.
UPDATED: 6:15 PM PST, Monday, September 3, 2007
This is a "problem" that has been going on for more than a century, and as Everett said "flows from the deepest needs and drives of [the] system: U.S. hegemony in the Middle East and global dominance is crucial for U.S. capitalism's ongoing functioning and U.S. global power."
Sheldon L. Richman wrote about this extensively, particularly in one article in 1991 when he was senior editor at the Cato Institute:
"Ancient History": U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War II and the Folly Of Intervention
If the chief natural resource of the Middle East were bananas, the region would not have attracted the attention of U.S. policymakers as it has for decades. Americans became interested in the oil riches of the region in the 1920s, and two U.S. companies, Standard Oil of California and Texaco, won the first concession to explore for oil in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s. They discovered oil there in 1938, just after Standard Oil of California found it in Bahrain. The same year Gulf Oil (along with its British partner Anglo-Persian Oil) found oil in Kuwait. During and after World War II, the region became a primary object of U.S. foreign policy. It was then that policymakers realized that the Middle East was "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history."And now Iran, being no longer friendly for well known reasons, has become the next target of this century long attempt at world domination.
Subsequently, as a result of cooperation between the U.S. government and several American oil companies, the United States replaced Great Britain as the chief Western power in the region.(5) In Iran and Saudi Arabia, American gains were British (and French) losses.(6) Originally, the dominant American oil interests had had limited access to Iraqi oil only (through the Iraq Petroleum Company, under the 1928 Red Line Agreement). In 1946, however, Standard Oil of New Jersey and Mobil Oil Corp., seeing the irresistible opportunities in Saudi Arabia, had the agreement voided.(7) When the awakening countries of the Middle East asserted control over their oil resources, the United States found ways to protect its access to the oil. Nearly everything the United States has done in the Middle East can be understood as contributing to the protection of its long-term access to Middle Eastern oil and, through that control, Washington's claim to world leadership. The U.S. build-up of Israel and Iran as powerful gendarmeries beholden to the United States, and U.S. aid given to "moderate," pro-Western Arab regimes, such as those in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan, were intended to keep the region in friendly hands. That was always the meaning of the term "regional stability."
It is not a problem that is going away quickly or easily, and even in pushing to end the occupation of Iraq - as large as that problem is - all we are doing is addressing a symptom of more systemic entrenched problems.