The Democrats and the Dogs of War

jacdon at jacdon at
Mon Sep 30 22:51:12 MDT 2002


Congress is expected approve a resolution before Election Day granting
President Bush the powers to launch a "preemptive" war against Iraq.

This is hardly startling for a legislative body catapulted to the far
reaches of jingo excess since Sept. 11,  but the important news is that
a small but potentially viable sector of the Democratic Party and its
congressional delegation has finally started to criticize or at least
question the Bush administration's mania for endless wars.

These liberal Democrats -- a distinct minority in the Senate and House
-- have cautiously started to speak out after a year when most of them
approved a resolution giving Bush broad powers to initiate an open-ended
war on terrorism, supported a major assault upon civil liberties known
as the USA Patriot Act, and approved an enormous increase in war
spending, among other measures propelling the U.S. down the road to war,
repression and debt.

Now, emboldened by recent criticism of the methodology behind Bush's war
plans by several mandarins of the Republican inner circle, at least some
Democratic members of Congress are expressing qualms about the Bush
administration's preference to start a war first and answer questions
later.  Most of these politicians support the war against Afghanistan
and do not express total opposition to the notion of a preemptive war
against Iraq, but they insist that:  (1) The U.S. should first provide
UN weapons inspectors with the opportunity  and time to fulfill their
responsibilities before launching a possibly preventable war; (2)  the
White House should not take action without a substantial number of
allies; (3)  the administration must show that a war to unseat Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein will not drain support, energy and resources
from the war on terrorism.

Former Vice President Al Gore, the leading Democratic contender for the
presidential nomination, has criticized the Bush regime's preference for
blasting Hussein out of Baghdad.  In a speech Sept. 23, he argued that
an invasion might scuttle the war on terrorism, and charged that it was
presumptuous to advocate "a new, uniquely American right to preemptively
attack whomsoever he may deem represents a potential future threat."  So
far, he alone of the five or six leading candidates for the party's
presidential nomination in 2004  has spoken out.  The others have
aligned themselves in one way or another with the warhawks --though this
may change in time.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), Gore's former running mate in 2000 and a
Democratic presidential contender in his own right, has been beating the
war drums against Iraq for over a year.  He criticized Gore's remarks,
arguing that the U.S. armed forces were perfectly capable of waging war
in Iraq and against terrorism at the same time.

Another leading contender for the presidential nomination, Senate
majority leader Tom Daschle (S.D.),  lashed out at President Bush Sept.
25 for declaring that the Democrats are "not interested in the security
of the American people" -- but he has not expressed more than trifling
misgivings about a war.  Throughout the year he has been instrumental in
organizing backing for President Bush's war on terrorism and pledging
"strong bipartisan support" for the White House resolution authorizing a
conflict with Iraq.  Daschle's main interest appears to be passing
Bush's war resolution quickly enough to leave some time before elections
for the electorate to think about blaming Bush (his public approval
rating remains between 65-70%) for the faltering economy and corporate

Among senate Democrats, Edward Kennedy last week questioned the war
drive in these words:  "I am concerned that using force against Iraq
before other means are tried will sorely test both the integrity and
effectiveness of the [90-member war on terrorism] coalition." The
senate's leading liberal also posited,  "The administration has not made
a convincing case that we face ... [an] imminent threat to our national
security that [requires] a unilateral, pre-emptive American strike and
an immediate war."
Critical Senate Democrats include Robert Byrd (W. Va.) Carl Levin
(Mich.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), and Patrick Leahy (Vt.), among
several others who may balk at Bush's request for an authorizing
resolution for war.

In the House, perhaps 30 representatives are associated with a newly
formed antiwar coalition.  They include Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), the
leader of the chamber's progressive caucus and a major opposition
voice;  Barbara Lee (Calif.), the only House member to oppose the
congressional resolution providing Bush with war powers last year;
Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), who characterized Bush's plan as "naked
aggression;" Jim McDermott (Wash.), who thinks an attack on Iraq "has
much more to do with oil than anything else;" Bob Filner (Calif.), who
says Bush is "leading us in the wrong direction;" and Maurice Hinchey
(N.Y.), the only Mid-Hudson congressperson to oppose a war with Iraq.
Kucinich announced formation of the coalition at a press conference
Sept. 20, telling reporters that "unilateral military action by the
United States against Iraq is unjustified, unwarranted and illegal."

Lee has introduced a bill (No. 473)  opposing a unilateral first strike
at Iraq, calling instead for the U.S. to cooperate with the United
Nations in restarting arms inspections and obtaining compliance with UN
resolutions.  As of this writing about 30 representatives have
co-sponsored the bill.  In a related development, Reps. McDermott and
David Bonior (D-Mich.) took part in a fact-finding trip to Iraq last
week and conducted a press conference in Baghdad where they suggested
that the UN should act only if the Iraqi government did not cooperate
with weapons inspectors. This presumably implies that the U.S. should
not launch a war until the UN declares one is necessary.

Only a few members of this gathering congressional opposition appear to
be unencumbered by various qualifications regarding their critique of a
new war with Iraq.  This one says, try inspections first.  That one
says, obtain Security Council backing first.  Another says, get support
from allies first.  One cannot help but wonder what comes second, if,
perchance, the allies and the UN for any reason decide to continence a
U.S. attack.   It seems possible that some of the existing dissent may
dissipate.  After all, it was Congress in 1998 that overwhelmingly
approved the imperialist  notion of regime-change in Iraq,  and most
Democrats were in the majority.  Likewise, virtually all Democrats in
Congress including those now speaking out, continue to justify the
bombing and occupation of Afghanistan and other unsavory aspects of that
euphemism for world hegemony known as the war on terrorism.

Regardless, the recent materialization of a Democratic congressional
opposition is a highly positive development that will create a split in
the lockstepping ranks of mentally jackbooted legislators quickmarching
to Baghdad. As such, the antiwar movement will benefit.   But this
phenomenon cannot yet be compared to the opposition against a successful
White House war-authorization proposal mounted by congressional
Democrats during the prelude to the first President Bush's war against
Iraq in 1991. A total of 45 (out of 55) Democratic senators and 179
Democratic representatives (out of 265) opposed the resolution. The
great majority of today's Democratic members of Congress remain safely
situated three steps behind and a quarter-inch or less to the left of
the current President Bush as he prepares to let slip the dogs of war on
a country not cimperialistnected with the World Trade Center
tragedy.     [*  "... and let slip the dogs of war..." -- from
Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.  "The little fox is still, the dogs of war
have made their kill" -- Langston Hughes in 1936, when Italy subjugated
Ethiopia. A powerful and moving expression, though 'tis people such as
George Bush, not dogs, who commit these crimes.]

The original White House proposal in mid-September amounted to a warhawk
wish list, virtually compelling the U.S. to bombard Baghdad if Saddam
Hussein failed to say "Bless you" after Bush sneezed.  It was so
blatantly aggressive (essentially allowing the Vandal-in-Chief to
ransack the entire Middle East, if he felt it necessary, instead of
merely plundering Iraq), that the Bush administration resubmitted a
modified draft joint resolution.  This resolution authorizies "the use
of U.S. Armed Forces against Iraq" as Bush sees fit to "defend the
national security interests of the U.S. against the threat posed by Iraq
and to enforce the UN Security Council resolutions."  Some more
modifications are expected, but not to the extent of forbidding a U.S.
attack without Security Council  approval.

Congressional opposition is too small to be effective at this point, but
it will help to build the antiwar movement, which is becoming
increasingly active.  The war resolution, plus the beginning of a
fightback in Congress should serve to swell the ranks of the big
protests in Washington and San Francisco, Oct. 26.

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