Monday, December 25, 2006

Author of "Why Mommy is a Democrat" and I Debate

I actually like Jeremy, and this was a mostly civil exchange, but the debate between the progressive anti-war Greens and the "stay the political course" Dems continues:

Jeremy Zilber writes:
Happy holidays to you as well, Pete.

I agree that many factors played a role in the Iraq war, and some Democrats MAY have had something to do with it when SOME of them authorized a use of force AS A LAST RESORT, but even that isn't clear. It isn't at all clear that a lack of authorization from Congress would have stopped this war. Bush didn't heed the words of the authorization itself, as it clearly required that he exhaust peaceful strategies before taking military action, which he didn't do. Moreover, Bush has demonstrated time and time again that he believes himself above the law and the Constitution, and he claims to be getting his instructions directly from God. I sincerely doubt that if Congress has not voted for that authorization he would have suddenly said, "ok, then I guess I can't invade Iraq., because whatever Congress wants, Congress gets." He'd have gone anyway, knowing full well that once the invasion were underway, Congress would feel obligated to support it. All he'd have to do is make a bunch of speeches (as he did), claiming that Iraq posed an imminent danger, which, in his mind, gives him the authority to respond. Do you really think he wouldn't have?

Just read this headline and first paragraph, and there's your answer: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A61040-2002Aug25?language=printer

Members of Congress, regardless of party, are not stupid. They realize that when something is going to happen with or without their support, it probably makes sense to be on the popular side of the debate, whatever that happens to be. That's what happened here, and that's what's happening with Democrats who continue to vote for the war funding. It's going to happen with or without them, so what is the value of taking an "anti-troop" position and losing the next election to a Republican? Will that bring the war to an end? No, it will actually have the opposite effect. Kind of like Nader's run for president.

If you're in a group of friends and 3 of them want to see movie A and 2 of you want to see to see movie B (and you know these are the only two movies you can possibly see), when it become apparent that the group is going to see movie A with or without you, do you call your friends "idiots" and refuse to see the movie on principle? Or do you do what most people would do, and say to yourself "it's in my long-term interests to go to this movie and maintain my friendships with these people -- and perhaps the next time there's a decision like this I'll be in a better position to affect it."

That's essentially what a lot of Democrats have done. Now that they're actually the majority party, they may actually start using the funding as leverage to get us out of there. But you ought not blame the minority party for going along with what the majority party was going to do with or without them.

You are correct that a number of people played a role in getting us into Iraq. And I suppose we could blame all of them equally, or we could say that Bush is the only person who bears any responsibility. But that's silly. It's silly to blame the doctor who helped Barbara give birth to George, because the doctor could not have been expected to understand the consequences. Likewise, it's silly to blame only Bush, because he couldn't have done it alone. In 2000, the likely consequences of Nader's campaign were pretty obvious. I wrote letters to all of my liberal friends urging them not to support Nader in any way, because, as I pointed out, a strong Nader campaign (even in states that weren't considered toss-ups) could essentially hand the election to Bush, and, I argued, a Bush presidency would be an absolute disaster for the people Nader supposedly cared about. If I could see this coming, then surely Nader could. Nader openly stated that he didn't care whether his campaign got Bush elected, and I believe him. He knew what he was doing, he knew there was a good chance his presence in swing-states could help Bush win, and he knew what a brutal man Bush was. Is Nader the ONLY responsible person? No. But as someone who could easily have foreseen the effects of his actions, Nader (and the Green party) should be held accountable.

Your argument is like the guy who randomly shoots a gun in a crowded room and says "but I didn't MEAN to hit anyone, so you shouldn't blame me for killing the guy I happened to shoot." But we do. We don't call it first-degree murder, but we also don't accept "I didn't MEAN to hit anyone in that crowded room" as an excuse for irresponsible actions with foreseeable deadly consequences.

Jeremy

I wrote:
Defunding and bringing the troops HOME is not an anti-troop position. Bringing them home to their families and communities is incredibly pro-troops.

Seriously the issue needs to be reframed. The only real power Congress has in this quagmire is the power of the purse.

Frankly, I see this as a winning issue -- several polls are now showing 71% of Americans disapprove of the way Iraq is being a
handled, 8-9% more than the number disapproving of Bush's performance as president. Other polls show between 51-61% think the invasion was never worth it.

In peace and respect,
Pete

Jeremy wrote:
Yes... NOW the polls show that. And NOW the Democrats are starting to push to get the troops home quickly. But go back and take a look at the polls two years ago, or even one year ago, and it was a very different story.

And regardless, cutting funding from the military is ALWAYS going to be spun as "anti-troop" by the people who oppose the decision. Have you not noticed the way the Republicans frame everything the Democrats do as "anti-troop" or "anti-American" no matter what it is? How many times did the phrase "cut and run" appear in the national news -- merely because some Democrats (and others) were suggesting that maybe, possibly, perhaps, we might want to consider a timetable for withdrawing troops. How many times did we hear it said that Democrats are weak on defense? And now you want Democrats to stick their necks out and CUT FUNDING for the troops who are actually in harm's way? You want them to vote AGAINST body armor and AGAINST upgrading weapons? You want them to vote AGAINST funding to attract new recruits and pay raises for the current troops? You want them to vote AGAINST giving the generals on the ground everything they ask for? How do you think that's going to be framed by the Republican radio and corporate media? How do you think that's going to play in, say, Virginia, where practically half the state is working in some way for the military?

Again, it seems as if you're acting as if politics takes place in the world you WISH you lived in, instead of the one you DO live in.

jz

I wrote:
Hi Jeremy,

The world is what we as a people make of it. This ideal goes back to the foundations of our democracy. I guess I am still an idealist. And I want my children to also be idealists. I believe in working for a better world I want my children to live in. I suspect you probably agree with these ideals. Or do you simply believe in defering to those "in power" thus accepting the one we "DO live in" as a permanent existence?

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I am not the only one..."

There has already been enough money appropriated to safely bring the troops home. If there was political willpower, they could be home safely within 90 days. It is pro-troops. I want their lives to be preserved and be put to better use. If we have another massive natural disaster -- do you realize that over 40% of the national guard is deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq? Bringing them home and defending lives here and helping to protect communities here IS patriotic.

Why can't the Dems see this? It would be nice if they took the initiative and reshaped the whole dialogue... Do I want them to stick their necks out politically? Sure! Lots of men, women and children are having their necks slit in Iraq on a daily basis -- literally not just in a political risk-taking sense. Defunding is the only way to end most of the bloodshed and bring the troops home -- Congress is not the commander in chief, but it does hold the purse strings. Also if you take a look at Vietnam, defunding was actually one of the primary reasons it finally came to an end.

So I am for defunding the occupation and military offensives, funding a safe and rapid withdrawal and the institution of regional peace talks and reconciliation talks (perhaps guided by the U.N.) between Sunnis and Shias. I am also for funding basic infrastructure rebuilding efforts and the defunding of permanent military bases (there are plans for 14 right now).

By the way, why aren't many troops getting the proper body armor NOW (and for the last three and a half years)? Because billions of dollars are going into the pockets of Haliburton, KBR and the like. By the way, I live next door to Virginia... Also many retired generals want us to leave -- the ones still in the field certainly don't want MORE troops and have basically said so.

This is something I've been helping out with recently:
http://declarationofpeace.org/

I pray the new year will bring much more peace and understanding.

In peace and respect,
Pete

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