Iraq, the Candidates, and the Netroots

One of the reasons I have a hard time getting enthused about either of the Democratic candidates is that I find both of their Iraq withdrawal plans lacking. I am enthused about ending the Bush era, and I’m enthused about preventing the election of another Republican who doesn’t even seem to realize we have a problem in Iraq, but neither of the Democrats offers a plan that I consider to be complete.

Reading such is usually particularly galling to Obama supporters, because he gave such a pretty speech in 2002, and is therefore supposed to be vastly superior to Clinton, on Iraq. Some of the more deranged Obama supporters even go so far as to try to pin the war on Clinton, as if her having voted no on the AUMF would have changed anything other than her present political fortunes. It was a terrible vote, but she is demonized for it even by many of the same people who now lionize John Kerry, because he supports Obama, and despite his having made the same terrible vote made by Clinton. And, of course, most of these Obama supporters ignore the reality that despite the very pretty speech, when Obama was not in the position of actually having to vote on the resolution, his voting record has been nearly identical to Clinton’s, since he has been in the position of having to vote. That’s one of the reasons I find this particular argument for Obama and against Clinton to be, at best, specious. But the main reason is their withdrawal plans. I have said it many times: what happened in 2002 and 2003 is now irrelevant; the only thing that matters is what begins to happen in 2009. Which candidate will do the best job of most expeditiously getting us out of Iraq? And that doesn’t even begin to address the question of reparations, which isn’t even a topic of discussion.

Naomi Klein recently published what I consider to be the best book on politics in at least a generation. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts, and I will undoubtedly do so again. Many times. It should be required reading for anyone who claims to be politically informed. So, I also want everyone to click over to Huffington Post, and read her new article, with Jeremy Scahill:

Sixty-four per cent of Americans tell pollsters they oppose the war, but you’d never know it from the thin turnout at recent anniversary rallies and vigils.

When asked why they aren’t expressing their anti-war opinions through the anti-war movement, many say they have simply lost faith in the power of protest. They marched against the war before it began, marched on the first, second and third anniversaries. And yet five years on, U.S. leaders are still shrugging: “So?”

There is no question that the Bush administration has proven impervious to public pressure. That’s why it’s time for the anti-war movement to change tactics. We should direct our energy where it can still have an impact: the leading Democratic contenders.

Because Klein and Scahill also understand that although both Democratic candidates are much more honest and realistic than John McCain, when discussing Iraq, neither is coming close to being honest and realistic enough.

Look past the rhetoric and it becomes clear that neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton has a real plan to end the occupation. They could, however, be forced to change their positions–thanks to the unique dynamics of the prolonged primary battle.

Despite the calls for Clinton to withdraw in the name of “unity,” it is the very fact that Clinton and Obama are still fighting it out, fiercely vying for votes, that presents the anti-war movement with its best pressure point. And our pressure is badly needed.

For the first time in 14 years, weapons manufacturers are donating more to Democrats than to Republicans. The Dems have received 52 percent of the defense industry’s political donations in this election cycle–up from a low of 32 per cent in 1996. That money is about shaping foreign policy, and so far, it appears to be well spent.

While Clinton and Obama denounce the war with great passion, they both have detailed plans to continue it. Both say they intend to maintain the massive Green Zone, including the monstrous U.S. embassy, and to retain U.S. control of the Baghdad Airport.

They will have a “strike force” to engage in counterterrorism, as well as trainers for the Iraqi military. Beyond these U.S. forces, the army of Green Zone diplomats will require heavily armed security details, which are currently provided by Blackwater and other private security companies. At present there are as many private contractors supporting the occupation as there are soldiers so these plans could mean tens of thousands of U. S. personnel entrenched for the future.

I’ve already written about the $1,300,000,000 a year boondoggle embassy. The rest of it speaks for itself, and proves, once again, that neither Democrat is close to being pure or perfect. They are, however, both rational and sane, which gives them a big step up on McCain, who continues to claim we are winning the war, despite all evidence to the contrary. But it’s not enough. It’s not close to being enough.

Klein and Scahill discuss the recent Winter Soldier hearings, held by Iraq Veterans Against the War. As Klein and Scahill point out, IVAW supports no candidate or political party. Apparently, that allows them a degree of honesty that cannot be attained by those involved with the candidates or parties.

Instead they are calling for immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. soldiers and contractors. Coming from peace activists, the “out now” position has been dismissed as naive. It is distinctly harder to ignore coming from hundreds who have served–and continue to serve–on the frontlines.

A majority of Americans want us out of Iraq, and I believe that a majority of the supporters of the Democratic candidates- and in particular those who support Obama- do not understand the shortcomings of their favorites’ withdrawal plans. Beyond that, though, I worry about the reactions of those supporters, when they do begin to understand. More particularly, I worry about the Netroots supporters of Obama.

One of the reasons I continually criticize certain elements of Obama’s Netroots support is that I find in those elements a lack of rationality and honesty that I don’t find as lacking in supporters of Clinton. It could be that it’s due to Obama having so much more support in the Netroots, and it could be because his more shrill supporters are louder and more obsessed. And I do find many smart, sane, honest Obama supporters. But the dislocation from reality, in some of his supporters, makes me wonder what will happen if Obama is elected, and does not pursue a policy of complete withdrawal from Iraq. I have no doubt that if Clinton is elected, and pursues such an incomplete policy, that we will be unified in condemning her for it. We will hold her feet to the fire. We will put policy over politics, no matter our partisan allegiances. But will the same happen if Obama is elected?

My fear is that there is such a deluded lack of understanding about Obama’s Iraq plans that even if he pursues the exact same policies Clinton would have pursued, he will not be condemned for it. My fear is that there will be so much cognitive dissonance that the same people who now distort his strengths and Clintons weaknesses will have trouble coming to terms with his failures. I’m sure some are even now having trouble coming to terms with what Klein and Scahill wrote. It is critically important that we accept, now, that neither Democrat is inclined to be aggressive enough, in getting us out of Iraq. It is critically important that we resolve to push them both on that. But it is most important that if Obama is elected, and pursues the same compromised policy Clinton would have pursued, that we call him out for it, just as we would have called her out for it. My fear is that too many in the Netroots will resort to rationalizing and making excuses. For if that were to happen, the hoped for change would not be the change that some now expect.  


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  1. Obama will be happy with whatever he does just like Bush supporters were – and Clinton supporters before them.  More and more Americans yield their Constitutional authority to these elected officials and more and more they find themselves coming out at the short end of the stick.

    I thought that the netroots coalition would serve as the only entity that would discipline our candidates – the only coalition that would speak out and force them to be better.  Little did I know that we’d become a cheerleading squad performing complex contortions to rationalize, justify and cover up any and all blemishes regardless of how offensive they are or really should be.

    • brobin on March 26, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    a total lack of understanding from Senator Obama’s followers regarding not only his Iraq policy, but his policy in general.

    Sure, I can go into detail here.  Perhaps I should, yet that wouldn’t dissuade those that follow from screeching about their perceived reality of his policies, in many cases.  He has a website, and we can all visit there and make our own decisions as to this issue.

    Senator Clinton may have a bit more “meat” on the bones of a good amount of her policy agenda items, yet her Iraq policy continues to be flimsy and open ended.

    We all realize that no one can say for sure that “We will pull all of our military presence out of Iraq beginning Day 1 of our Administration.”  That is not something anyone with a sense of reality would accept, and rightly so.

    Still, both candidates very much disappoint when it comes to their Iraq policy statements, as they have left open the one thing that the American people have asked them to NOT leave open ended.  Just the opposite.

    They have left open the possibility and perhaps probability of the continuing presence of American forces patrolling the Soverign State of Iraq that Americans have asked our politicians to bring to an end.  Bring them home to America.  Iraqi’s want to take their country back.

    Get it?  Americans want that loop closed, and they want to be given a real plan from a real Presidential candidate to close that loop.

    John McCain will not consider that possibility.  Not unlike G.W. Bush, Senator McCain has decided that his judgement is above the American peoples wishes.  

    That is not a President I would like to see in the White House, making policy decisions for America.  We have seen that, these last sad 7-plus years.

    Stand up, Democratic Candidates!  Stop being afraid of the 20% shadow of George W. Bush.  America will stand with you if you stand with America.

  2. Citizen action is another.

    We need people on the streets, as well as on the blogs, to continue to push the candidates on this issue.

    I enjoy writing a good blog post as much as the next guy, and but I think we really need to focus on reaching the two-thirds of the people who think the war was a mistake, and try to get them to tell that to the candidates.

    How? If I knew that, the war would be over. I’ve thrown in with the Iraq Moratorium, but I hardly think that by itself is going to stop the war or make the candidates take the detailed positions you’d like to see.

    Basically, we’ve got to do everything to keep Iraq front and center, first between now and November, but continuing after the new president takes office.

    Instead, far too many people are doing nothing.

    • Pluto on March 27, 2008 at 12:24 am

    But I wish could freeze — this very moment — the Daily Kos homepage w/50 Diaries into a permanent wall poster. So I never forget.

    Never have I seen — on the Internet — a more disgraceful display of political party insanity.


    It makes Free Republic look like the Junior League Cotillion.

  3. I thought I was at DD not talk Left. Must have hit the wrong button. This is a Hillary anti Obama essay which while not overt is irritating none the less. At least he isn’t running around trying to out chest thump McCain. He’s not running ads that try to scare the crap out of me. I think he fully understands as he calls it ‘the mind set’ behind this war and all preemtive wars of aggression. Hillary not so much. She talks of the next war. The Military Industrials have shifted their money support to her and she’s talking about what a patriotic guy madman McCain is. Iran?    

    • kj on March 27, 2008 at 1:31 am

    Haven’t read this essay, haven’t read the comments, don’t as a rule read candidate diaries.  But… the name “John Kerry” jumped out while scanning down the blog, and so, scrolled up to read this (bold emphasis mine)

    It was a terrible vote, but she is demonized for it even by many of the same people who now lionize John Kerry, because he supports Obama, and despite his having made the same terrible vote made by Clinton.

    For christ’s sake, Turkana, that’s bullshit.  John Kerry admitted his vote was a mistake years ago.  Has Hillary?  if she has, it must have been recently.

    Please, give people more credit for why they might have decided to let John slightly off the hook for his idiotic vote… which has had jack shit to do with his support of Obama and everything to do with his admission years ago that his vote sucked pickles.

  4. Responsible Plan to End the War

    Discussion of the plan by Digby

    Signers of the plan and a way to donate money to them.  We need to change Congress, if we’re going to get out.

    • shpilk on March 27, 2008 at 7:12 am

    and the candidates react to it, viscerally. It’s hard wired into many aspects of media, fear, appeals to ‘patriotism’. Clinton and Obama must respond to this fear, or they cannot get traction with voters, who have been trained to operate solely off of fear – at least that’s what their handlers are telling them.

    I think Clinton buys into it, but she at least seemed somewhat thoughtful about some of the consequences in the debates.

    I saw Obama’s buying into fear in the debates, and in his Foreign Policy statements. He seemed to be already ‘pre-programmed’ with his response, as if any failure to show how ‘rough and ready’ he’d be on the GWOT would doom his campaign. Is his pandering real, or just a dodge? I think he honestly buys into the larger military, and will use intimidation and military force much as any of the other politicians will use it.

    Perhaps not as brazenly, but the impetus to use what we spend a trillion dollars a year on will continue with Obama. He has advisors who will push military actions. No doubt, there will be challenges made by adversaries to ‘test’ the new President, whomever it will be.

    The GWOT is a fantasy of our own making, something we manufactured, and we could stop. But it’s really not the true heart of the matter, because the fear of physical attack is only part of the equation.

    The other part is not fear of physical attack, as much as it is fear of loss of lifestyle that scares Americans most as a society. That they might not be able to spend money with wild abandon, which has been pounded into our heads since commercials and radio and [more so] TV were foisted up upon us. It’s reflected a little in the hysteria any time Americans are presented with things out of the ordinary. Think race, gender, religion, GLBT issues, for example. Hysteria reigns for a while, and then over time the narrative changes and the positions gradually become more pliant.

    This is what drives the Cheney/neocon narrative: lifestyle without change. Consumption [and it’s necessary cohort, capitalism] without consequences, or conscience. There is no pliancy here. No Madison St ads call out for consuming less, for being more responsible citizens.

    No, the answer for society as a whole requires we go our ‘shopping’ to fix everything, not realizing that at the end of the frenzied buying cycle, this manufactured universe will collapse in on itself, like a Big Bang.

    This unsustainable path we are on, and the failure to understand the fear of change we have as a nation is what really drives the war in Iraq, for many Americans, at it’s core.

    If we cannot grasp our fears, and deal with them soon, the consequences for the planet are dire.

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