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Democrats, Republicans outdo each other in backing Iraq war
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 69/No. 47December 5, 2005


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(lead article)
Democrats, Republicans outdo
each other in backing Iraq war
Factionalism rife among capitalist politicians
Reuters/Neil Sevelius
U.S. Marines fire on antigovernment forces in Qusayba, western Iraq, near the border with Syria, November 8 during Operation Steel Curtain.

On November 15 the U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a nearly half-trillion-dollar military spending bill.

Three days later, in a 403-3 vote, the House of Representatives rejected a motion for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Three Democrats approved the resolution, while 187 voted with the Republicans.

These votes underscored the commitment of both the Democratic and Republican parties to the imperialist war in Iraq.

With no alternative offered by the Democratic leadership to the Bush administration’s course in Iraq and beyond, Congress and the White House are becoming more rife with factionalism.

The big-business media itself has contributed to the shrill tone of the debate, both in editorials as well as partisan “news” articles that paint a false picture of “heightened opposition to the war in Iraq” by Democratic politicians.

In a 98-0 vote on November 15, the Senate passed legislation authorizing $492 billion in military spending. Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate are now working on a final version of the bill to send to President George Bush, which will include a further $50 billion for the U.S.-led occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Senate rejected a Democratic-sponsored amendment demanding a timetable for a U.S. troop pullout. Instead, it passed a nonbinding resolution calling on the White House to report quarterly on progress toward troop withdrawal.

“We’re asking the administration to say to us how long it will take to train the number of Iraqi troops that we need,” said Democratic senator Barbara Boxer of California. “And, of course, we understand if something slips, we’re not going to hold you to it.”

The defeated amendment did not actually set a date for withdrawal. It would have asked the administration to “provide a rough schedule for when conditions would be met to begin pulling out troops,” the Marine Corps Times reported November 15.

While Democrats made much of their demand for regular updates, several federal government agencies already provide such quarterly reports to Congress.

The senators passed other amendments that the liberal media described as an indication of “willingness to defy the president” on Iraq policy, as one Associated Press report put it. The article said one amendment called on the administration to “restrict the techniques used to interrogate terror detainees.”

The resolution adopted by the Senate stated that 2006 “should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for a phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq.”

While no different course was proposed by the critics of the White House, the factional tone of the debate has become sharper. The ballot was “a vote of no confidence on the president’s policies in Iraq,” declared Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

The Republican majority leader, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, countered, “It is an absolute repudiation of the cut-and-run strategy put forward by the Democrats.”  
No shift to the left
The recent votes in Congress discredited suggestions by the liberal media that the November 8 election results signified a shift to the left. The New York Times and other such dailies trumpeted the Democratic victories in the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as the defeat of all the ballot initiatives backed by Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, as evidence of such a change.

At the same time, liberal claims that a new conservative majority in the Supreme Court will reverse social gains such as a woman’s right to choose abortion remain unfounded. This was acknowledged in a November 17 Washington Post article that stated, “Reversal of the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide could produce an upheaval in U.S. politics and would put candidates who oppose abortion rights at risk of defeat.”

Republican congressman Thomas Davis of Virginia, chairman of the Government Reform Committee, told the Post that overturning Roe v. Wade would lead to the defeat of many Republican politicians. “It would be a sea change in suburban voting patterns,” he said.  
Clinton backs war
On November 17, former president William Clinton, accompanying Democratic senator Hillary Clinton on a Mideast tour to promote her 2008 presidential prospects, made highly publicized remarks in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, criticizing many of the Bush administration’s tactics in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

“The American government made several errors,” Clinton said, “one of which is how easy it would be to get rid of Saddam and how hard it would be to unite the country.” He complained that the Bush administration had not planned adequately for what would happen after it overthrew the Iraqi government.

Defenders of the administration have waged a sharp counterattack against its critics, including their charge that the White House “lied” about intelligence to make the case for war. That accusation has been hurled about in the controversy around the indictment of White House adviser Lewis Libby and the “spy leak” affair.

On November 16, Vice President Richard Cheney accused Democratic senators of making “one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired.” Two days earlier Bush called the criticism “irresponsible” and damaging to U.S. soldiers’ morale.

On November 11 the Investor’s Business Daily published a list of quotes from before the 2003 invasion of Iraq by then-president Clinton and other prominent Democrats, showing that their actual record has consistently been in support of Washington’s course toward war.

“If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear,” said Clinton in 1998, as quoted in the business paper. “We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.”

The liberal media itself has added to the factional and caustic tone of the debate in U.S. ruling circles. Daily papers ran misleading headlines about Clinton’s Dubai speech that portrayed him as an opponent of the Iraq war.

The actual news reports, however, contradicted the headlines. “Saddam is gone. It’s a good thing,” Clinton said. He expressed support for overthrowing the Iraqi government, the ratification of a new constitution, and the holding of parliamentary elections in U.S.-occupied Iraq.

Clinton added that he didn’t “agree with what was done.” What was the disagreement? “We never sent enough troops and didn’t have enough troops to control or seal the borders,” Clinton said. Washington should have left Iraq’s “fundamental military and social and police structure intact.”  
Murtha’s bluff exposed
Similarly, the Washington Post and other liberal papers portrayed Democratic congressman John Murtha’s November 17 call for removing U.S. troops from Iraq as a “turning point,” as a November 18 Washington Post column by Howard Kurtz put it. “The landscape is changing as politicians scramble to catch up with polls showing a majority sees the war is a blunder,” Kurtz wrote.

Murtha, described by the press as a “hawkish Democrat with close ties to the military,” called for a U.S. pullout over six months. He advocated replacing the current troops with a Marine quick-reaction force, possibly based in Kuwait. His argument was that “our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency.”

House Republicans responded to Murtha’s statement by calling for a vote on November 18 to reject any immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. “We want to make sure that we support our troops that are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” stated the Republican speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

In response, Democratic congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, complaining that the quick vote was a maneuver, “sent word to the rank-and-file to vote with the Republicans against immediate withdrawal of American troops,” AP reported.

The debate leading up to the vote was rancorous as Democrats and Republicans tried to outdo each other on who is more patriotic. Republican congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio, for example, said she had spoken to a Marine colonel who asked her to “send Congress a message: Stay the course.”

The colonel also asked her, Schmidt said, “to send Congressman Murtha a message: Cowards cut and run. Marines never do.” Democrats erupted in boos and shouts. “You guys are pathetic!” yelled Rep. Martin Meehan of Massachusetts.

Despite the heat, however, nearly all House Democrats, including Murtha, joined their Republican colleagues in voting down the motion to rapidly withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.
Related articles:
Bipartisan commitment to war
U.S. Congress ready to renew antidemocratic Patriot Act

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