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Wars Are Depressing, Even "The Good Ones," Ending Them Is Too, Even Bad Ones

leah's picture

CD is depressed, as she tells us here.

Not angry, and not contemptuous, although I'm sure there are elements of both emotions interwoven in her remarks about the specific manner in which liberals, progressives, and Democrats are being forced to try and end Bush's excellent Iraq adventure.

This strikes me as an entirely appropriate response to an entirely messy enterprise.

Sometimes I have the feeling that some of our anti-war brethren, not including CD, exhibit a strain of thought that has a similarity to an underlying assumptions of the victory-in-Iraq crowd - that success is a matter of will. Lack of the will to win is keeping us from doing so, says one side, what the hell is taking so long, what's the big deal, do you guys really want to end this horror, if so, do it, failing to do so means you lack the will to end it.

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Please note, I don't mean to conflate the two sides here; the out-of-Iraq now crowd wants to end policies that have nearly destroyed an entire country, undermined our own position in the world, killed multitudes of Americans and Iraqis, and is breaking our own military, and that isn't even mentioning the way the WOT is undermining constitutional democracy at home, even while the burden of supporting the military is eating our budgetary priorities alive; the other side refuses to recognize any reality beyond their own delusions and wants only more and more of the same. No equivalence here.

So, what is taking so long? Why is this path so tortuously laid out? I think it's actually called constitutional democracy.

Harold Meyerson had a great column on this subject last week. He uses the David Obey incident, yelling at the anti-war mother of a Marine who is in Iraq as a jumping off place. Obey was wrong to lose his temper, and I'm glad he apologized, but I'm with Meyerson on his evaluation of Obey's will to end this war.

No one has ever described David Obey as phlegmatic. The Wisconsin Democrat, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, combines long-standing liberal passions with a keen sense for the deals that must be cut to turn those passions into law. And on occasion, people who don't share Obey's assessment of where, and whether, the deal should be cut have been subjected to an Obey outburst.

Last week, as he was working to build support for amendments that would impose a 2008 deadline on U.S. combat activities in Iraq, Obey was accosted by Tina Richards, an antiwar activist and mother of a Marine.


Obey erupted. "We can't get the votes," he shouted. "Do you see a magic wand in my pocket? We don't have the votes for it."

"We're trying to use the supplemental," he explained, "to end the war."

You may remember that in his frustration, Obey also said "I hate this war. I've been against it from the beginning." I see no reason for doubting Obey's sentiments here.

Meyerson is an honest-to-God liberal, he's made choices through-out his journalistic career that have kept him on the margins of the SCLM. He is he not a scold. But he wants to make a point about this business of trying to take over the congressional offices of Democrats, or protesters parking themselves around Pelosi's home in San Francisco.

In effect, what the protesters are doing is making the unattainable perfect the enemy of the barely-attainable good.

Because Obey is quite right: The votes aren't there to shut down funding for the war. What he and Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership in both houses are about is finding some way to curtail the president's determination to pass the war on to his successor regardless of the continuing cost to U.S. interests and lives. Attaching conditions to the appropriations bill is not a foolproof way to accomplish that, as Pelosi and Obey would readily admit. It is merely the best of the imperfect options to wind down U.S. involvement in Iraq, given the narrowness of their congressional majorities and the presence of George W. Bush in the White House.

The antiwar bona fides of Obey and Pelosi are not only in good order, they're a lot more impressive than those of just about any Democrat running for president. In October 2002, breaking with then-House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt, Pelosi led the opposition to the bill authorizing the president to go to war in Iraq. Obey voted with Pelosi and spoke forcefully against U.S. involvement.

What Pelosi and Obey understand that their critics on the left seem to ignore is that it will take numerous congressional votes and multiple confrontations with Bush to build the support required to end U.S. involvement. Thanks to the Constitution's division of powers, Congress and the White House seem bound for months of fighting over the conditions attached to any approval of funds for continuing our operations in Iraq. Over time, as the war drags on, either enough Republicans will join their Democratic colleagues to put an end to U.S. intervention, or they will stick with Bush, thereby ensuring there will be a sufficient number of Democrats in the next Congress to end the war.

As a strategy for ending the war, that may not be a thing of beauty. It is, however, the best that our political and constitutional realities allow.


Meyerson goes on to argue with his own newspaper's editorial stance on Pelosi and the Democrats' attempts to rein in this war, and then points out how far behind the times the Fred Hyatt beltway boyz are - at least two years. The fact is, as Meyerson points out, nothing could be better politics for th Democrats then for the US to still be stuck in Iraq in the fall of 2008.

If the United States is still in Iraq come November 2008, the Democrats will sweep to power. It's the 2006 elections that are to blame for this nefarious Democratic plan to wind down the war, for the Democrats ran on precisely that platform, and, more to the point, they won on it. The only constituency that The Post ignored in its assessment of Pelosi's plan, and the chief constituency she is trying to heed, is the American people. They have charged the Pelosis and Obeys with the messy task of ending this fiasco, which, to their credit, is exactly what Pelosi and Obey are trying to do.

You can read the whole column here.

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chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

i suppose you're right, and i am overly concerned with 'will' and not with 'what actually can be done in our system.' still, i will never call staying in iraq "the best thing." too many people will die for me to ever use those words sincerely. kos explains what this was really all about:

As I said yesterday, this is a message battle since our options to end the war with King George in the White House are slim. What we need to do is lay the foundation for overwhelming victories up and down the ballot in 2008, which would then give us the tools (i.e. the White House) to end this boondoggle once and for all. And on that front, this is what America is seeing today:

House OKs Timetable For Troops In Iraq (CBS News)
House Narrowly Backs Iraq Timetable (NY Times)
House approves end date for Iraq war (ABC News)
House OKs timetable for troops in Iraq (Houston Chronicle)
House approves deadline for ending Iraq war (Reuters)

The next batch of headlines will feature Bush's threat to veto Democratic efforts to end the war.

Ok then. it's a "message battle" and our concern here is making democrats look better in the eyes of people who don't read blogs. fine, an admirable goal.

but please don't tell me that this is about "ending the war." it's not. it's about posturing and positioning so that democrats look good and can get (re)elected.

....i think shy would have something to say about that.

and meanwhile

As for the billions of dollars spent on reconstruction, these doctors say they saw a little of it. But most was wasted on shoddy furniture and poor decorations.

Some money has gone on high-tech machinery. But it is useless, say the doctors, because no one knows how to use it. They believe the equipment was only bought so that officials could siphon off part of the funds.

'Stolen medicines'

As I left the doctors, I met an Iraqi patient waiting for treatment, a pharmacist.

She described going into a filthy maternity ward in Iraq, with rats the size of cats.

Although she was only trained as a pharmacist, she could see one of the expectant mothers needed her blood pressure tested. There was no doctor around, so she tried to help. But there was not even the equipment for that simple test.

As for the other facilities, "there was some medication, but they were stolen by the assistant pharmacist," she said.

"They came back in the night and want to sell me the medication."

Later I met the doctors again. They said that whatever horror stories they had told about the medical situation, however bad it sounded, it was actually worse.

as i was just saying over at talkleft, this bill adds funding to the right places, giving troops needed armor and health care. but it doesn't stem the flow of money to contractor/Halliburton welfare-for-nothing programs. that we will continue to pay for, because...why, again?

leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

You were only the jumping off point. I agree, words like the best way don't cut it. I'll say it again - I am entirely sympathetic with your feeling depressed; I feel it too.

Meyerson is talking about what can be done legislatively; there is a role for all kinds of other activism. I'm not even being critical of protesters who sit down in congressional offices, or the ones gathered at Pelosi's house.

I do think it's important not to use Republican and SCLM tropes to criticize Democrats.

What I meant to emphasize is that this is going to be a tough, torturous, nerve-racking struggle, and we need to not give up because the process is so unlovely.

I have my moments of fury; I don't understand why Pelosi agreed to cut out the Iran language from one version of the bill, I think it was the supplemental, but it might have been one of the amendments that didn't work out; I'm comforted by knowing that there is time to work on limiting Bush's ability to decide on his own to strike Iran militarily, and that's something that Biden in the Senate seems determined to get accomplished.

That's our role, to help Democrats, and to keep them on the steady path to undoing Bush's power to create more Iraqs.

leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

Suddenly thought you might be referring to his use of "best."

He's saying that this is the most one can expect, given the actual power of Democrats. Part of out maneuvering Bush will be the ability of Democrats to oppose him in ways that hold the support of those who voted for change in 2006, and build support among those who are finaly becoming skeptical of Bush, so that increasingly Republicans find it difficult to support him. Right now, Republicans are holding together; even Chuck Hegel has been unwilling to join Democrats on key votes. So the process is not about endless giving in, it's about finding ways around Bush's veto power, keeping the critique of what's happening in Iraq going, dealing with the inadequacy of our media and it's knee-jerk hostility to anything left of the so-called center, and slowing building one's own power to take more decisive action.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

it's good enough for now. murtha says so, and his speech is so passionate that i have to get on board. and i know you didn't mean this to be directed at just me. but i was agreeing with you that i'm often too concerned with 'will' and that it's hurtful for me to realize that about myself. for which i thank you.

leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

Thanks CD. Wow, a Marine who can care enough to be close to tears and not give a damn about it, while he gives a damn about everything else. Yunno, CD, I sometimes forget you were a Marine.

Hey, check out...damn, where did I's a piece of tape of Obey on the House floor answering Hiatt's hit piece...also passnionate, and lovely to hear a Democrat saying the congressional equivalent, "oh, go screw yourself, creepo." I'll try and find the link to it.

Submitted by lambert on

Passion, evidence, reasoning.

Oh, and its also the answer to the story being spread that the bill was larded with pork.

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.