After a series of legislative defeats in 2007 that saw the year end with more U.S. troops in Iraq than when it began, a coalition of anti-war groups is backing away from its multimillion-dollar drive to cut funding for the war and force Congress to pass timelines for bringing U.S. troops home.
The groups believe this switch in strategy can draw contrasts with Republicans that will help Democrats gain ground in November and bring the votes to pass more dramatic measures. But it is a long way from the early months of 2007, when Democrats were freshly in power and momentum for a dramatic shift in Iraq policy seemed overpowering.
“There was a consensus that last year was not productive,” John Isaacs, executive director of Council for a Livable World, said of a meeting attended by a coalition of anti-war groups last week. “Our expectations were dashed.”
The meeting, held at an office on K Street, was attended by around 20 representatives of influential anti-war groups, including MoveOn.org and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, which spent $12 million last year opposing the war.
Isaacs said he thought the meeting would be a difficult one, with an adamant faction pressing for continued focus on timelines and funding. It wasn’t to be.
“We got our heads together and decided to go a different way,” Isaacs said. “The consensus was not to keep beating our heads against the wall trying to block every funding bill — not because we don’t agree with it, but because we don’t have the votes.”
Moira Mack, a spokeswoman for AAEI, was also at the meeting. “There was a lot of agreement that this is really the way that we can best get our message across about endless war versus end-the-war and draw clear distinctions between anti-war Democrats and pro-war Republicans. They really don’t want to end the war. This is the perfect legislative opportunity.”
This sadly reflects one of the weaknesses of the US antiwar movement - its deep fragmentation with much of the leadership composed of supporters of the Democratic Party. Since when were there "clear distinctions" available between "anti-war Democrats and pro-war Republicans"? The only way this fiction can be maintained is if they maintain the pretense, as they do, that funding for the war couldn't be shot down because they "didn't have the votes". The claim from the Democrats was that an executive veto, which can be issued whenever there is less than two-thirds Congressional support for a given bill, prevented them from withholding funding. It's a lie. In order for funding to be issued, Congress has to vote in the affirmative for it, which couldn't have happened without the Democrats who are now in the majority. This is an extremely costly war, and even if there is considerable troop "drawdown", the Congressional Budget Office expects it to cost a total of $2.73 trillion. To fork over this much on behalf of the taxpayer while blithering on about balanced budgets and so on is a serious commitment. The lie can only survive if people ignore the fact that Democrats already had plenty of opportunity to set withdrawal timetables and chose not to pursue it. The first time they bothered to even ask nicely was in November last year - arguably a necessary pitch before the elections - but they quickly caved in and gave Bush an extra $70bn to pursue the ongoing occupation, sans strings. But who am I to question success? The subordination of the priorities of the antiwar movement to the electoral strategy of the Democrats worked well in 2004, did it not? And the conduct of Democrats elected in 2006 has been a real blast, hasn't it? Let's have more of that, why not?