Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The Great Litmus Test

So, in the news, Abbas is out and new attacks on Israel are in. I figured it would happen, but not this fast. I think the administration is still trying to pretend the road map isn't dead, but it would take a miracle to rescue it at this point. Now we've got another Arafat crony running the show there. I really don't see Arafat's crowd settling this thing. His crew is infamously corrupt, and I fear, growing further out of touch with Palestinian popular sentiment every day. Not to mention the fact that the US and Israel hate him with a passion and don't want to deal with him. In fact, I rather suspect he'd have lost power by now except for how strongly the US and Israel fight against him and the sympathy that this engenders in the Palestinian populace. And the way things stand now he has a death grip on the armed wing of the Palestinian Authority. As long as the US and Israel insist on dealing with the PA alone (not involving Hamas) and they maintain a level of pressure that leaves the PA unable to thouroughly reform itself this conflict will go nowhere.

Also in the news, Bush asks for a boatload of money for Iraq. I think this is a very good idea, but agree with various Democratic congress-people (including our friend Russ) that he needs to be made to suffer for it. If he is not willing to admit to any mistakes, if he is not willing to compromise on his tax cuts to fund it, if he is not willing to let Congress have more say on how it is spent, they need to reject this request. There is a column on of moderate value that contains a quote that I think captures the brilliance of Rove's media strategy: "The genius of the new Bush Speak is to fudge all substantive distinctions, on the assumption that the American people won't notice what you are saying as long as you get the photo op right." It's the ultimate statement of style over substance, and it has worked beautifully so far. Congress has an opportunity to force the administration to deal in substance or to see their plans suffer. If indeed they choose to pass up the funding to avoid substantive discussion of the issues, it would truly be a tragedy for Iraq. However, I don't think they can afford to do that, and I don't think they will. Congress, press them hard while you have the chance.

But all of that is not what I want to write about tonight. I wanted to clearly delineate why I will not vote for any Democratic candidate who voted for the resolution allowing George Bush to go to war with Iraq. It's late already, so I'm going to keep this short and to the point. When this vote came up in October of 2002 it had been known for a year that the Bush administration was angling to go to war with Iraq. Rumsfeld had set up a planning committee to prepare for this war within weeks of the 9/11 and had been working to position the US for this war despite a complete lack of evidence tying Saddam to the attack or demonstrating any substantive risk posed by Iraq to the US. When this vote came up the doctrine of preemtive warfare had been circulated to the public and the administration's support for it was known. When this vote came up it was known that our allies were reluctant at best and that the administration planned to use this resolution in an effort to blackmail the UN into agreeing to the war. When this vote came up it was known that only the most sketchy of evidence existed to justify a war on Iraq. When this vote came up it was known that the administration was refusing to disclose any plans for dealing with the aftermath of the conflict and offered only the most vague details on the costs of it.

So why did the Democratic party decide to support the resolution? Because they thought getting it off table would help them in the mid-term elections. Here we are discussion the most important of political issues, whether or not to go to war, and the Democratic party was busy playing politics. Many of those who voted for the resolution expressed strong doubts and concerns about where the adminstration was headed and how they would make use of the resolution. But they voted for it anyway. This is a level of disconnect that I simply cannot fathom. Why do you bother to try to attain a position of power if not to have some say on an issue of this critical importance? I cannot but conclude that the Democratic party and those members of it who supported the resolution are so lost in their pursuit of power that they have forgotten the noble pursuits that led them into politics in the first place. This was an act of the most extreme cynicism and disdain for their appointed duties.

I understand the importance of politics and compromise and playing the game to achieve your goals. But this goes far beyond that. This was a matter of the most vital moral and political importance. That is not a time for playing games. It was unconscienable for the Democrats to view going to war as a matter of political expediency.

And to top it off, it didn't even work. The Democrats lost out on the mid-term elections because people were rallying behind Bush's war. Even having voted for the war they could not rightfully claim they were stronger proponents of it than the Republicans, many of whom voted for the war, not as a matter of politics, but because they actually believed in it. It was a stupid idea, and I believe I said so from the beginning. Signing on to the President's anti-terror agenda cannot help the Democrats. It simply gives these policies their endorsement and strengthens the position on this critical issue of the Republicans, from whom these policies originated in the first place.

And so I cannot in good conscience ever again support any Democratic politician who supported or voted for that resolution, and will not, even should the cost be a Republican victory. This goes beyond a matter of disagreeing on policy, as I disagree with the Republicans. It is a betrayal of everything our political system should be about. I will not stand for it.

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