What You Need To Know: A Summary For You Lazy Asses
· On the Day of Action (March 3 2006), I attended a panel discussion intended to discuss the continuing war in Iraq.
· As the panel and crowd largely supported immediate commencement of withdrawal of military forces from Iraq and the impeachment of President Bush, both of which I currently oppose, I was basically put in the rather unusual position of being the most conservative Democrat in the room.
· I opposed Operation Iraqi Freedom to begin with, but now that we’ve already done the damage and “broken it”, we’ve “bought it”, and we need to finish the job, i.e. make sure that the Iraqi military can independently defend its country. So I oppose commencement of military withdrawal at this point.
· Impeaching Bush right now would be jumping the gun. Let’s investigate and find out fully what happened, then see if impeachment is necessary, and if it is we need to see if we can muster the support that we need to do it (impeachment doesn’t just come out of thin air, despite what the crowd seemed to think).
On Friday, March 3 2006, the UCSD College Democrats hosted its Day of Action, which featured an anti-Iraq war protest rally, followed by a march through the campus, a concert by local bands Vegetation and Viceroy, a panel discussion, and a candlelight vigil honoring the fallen armed servicemembers in Iraq. I did not attend the rally and the march but I did attend part of the concert, the panel discussion, and the candlelight vigil.
The concert was… eh alright but not too exciting. The vigil felt kinda pointless other than giving me the opportunity to socialize with friends. It’s the panel discussion I want to talk about.
The panel discussion, called “Dispelling the Last Myth: A Panel Discussion”, was mainly centered around the war in Iraq as an injustice in and of itself as well as unjust war practices committed as part of the war effort, and how the USA could end the war and extricate its military personnel from the country. It was hosted by local Air America radio jockey Scott “Scooter” Tempesta, an entertaining and foul-mouthed host, and featured as panelists filmmaker Mark Manning, writer-activist David Swanson, former State Department official Ann Wright, and anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.
“Following a protest of the Iraq War at Villa La Jolla and La Jolla Village Drive, Sheehan spoke at a discussion for the UCSD College Democrats’ Day of Action on March 3.” (Source for both the picture and the caption: UCSD’s The Guardian (Photographer: Greg Dale))
So, my reactions. First, I really don’t like how Cindy Sheehan received rock star treatment by the audience and the organizers. (Her name was even put in bold on the cover of the discussion program.) I mean, yes she did lose a son in the Iraq war and she has done and sacrificed much in her chosen cause but, isn’t all the attention and adulation a little bit silly. I think I don’t like “hero-izing” political figures in general – which is why I’m also really annoyed by similar treatment given to Rudy Giuliani, Condi Rice and Barack Obama.
Second, I was in a rare and strange situation where I was probably the most conservative person in the room. That doesn’t happen very often. I’m left of just about every national Democratic figure and probably many ordinary Democrats; I constantly call for larger and more active federal government on economic issues; I constantly call for smaller and less active federal government on cultural/personal issues; I supported Dennis Kucinich in the 2004 Democratic Presidential primaries. For chrissakes, I was against the Iraq war before being against the Iraq war was cool! But the panel and apparently the “vocal majority” (or minority? I couldn’t tell) were all beating the drum on two things: immediate commencement of troop withdrawal from Iraq and impeaching President Bush. I couldn’t stomach either of those two thoughts and the stupendous amounts of support for those two causes and the loving adulation of the crowd for Cindy Sheehan (whom I was always cool or indifferent to) made me feel like the black sheep of the audience. Unlike most of the audience I could see, I didn’t stand up when Cindy Sheehan was introduced/spoke, not only because I was too lazy, but because I really didn’t think Sheehan was someone worth standing up for. Sorry.
And while I agreed with most everyone there that the Democratic Party needs to keep moving to the left and develop a strong cohesive central ideology that encompasses all issues (including the war), I didn’t appreciate it when Sheehan knocked on one of my favorite Senators, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) for voting for renewing the USA PATRIOT Act the previous day. Okay it might have been a bad vote but why are you [Sheehan] knocking on Boxer, of all people? This is the woman who was leading the fight against going to war in Iraq while you were still a regular Jane at home peacefully reading Casey’s letters.
Moving on to the two aforementioned issues. First, on immediate commencement of withdrawal of military forces from Iraq. I say no. In fact, as I wrote here, “That said, I do, for the time being, agree with Lieberman (and Bush) that we need to stay the course in Iraq and make sure the Iraqi military is trained before our own military pulls out.” I keep an open mind and am willing to have my beliefs challenged, but I really am what you might call a “stay-the-course Democrat”. I’m sorry I’m on the same side as President Bush on this matter, but I really think the Iraq war debate was over once the war began. I do regret not talking more about the Iraq war before now; it was mainly because 1.) I don’t really pay attention to it anymore 2.) I don’t really feel like I know enough about the issue (hence my open mind).
The reason I don’t pay attention to it is because, like I said, the debate ended two years ago. We had a debate on the Iraq war prior to its launch. Apparently, people like Cindy Sheehan didn’t see fit to camp at Crawford back then. National Democrats right and left were voting for the war (that includes, btw, DEMOCRATS John Kerry, John Edwards, Richard Gephardt, Joseph Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Thomas Daschle, Evan Bayh, Christopher Dodd, Joseph Biden, and the “left’s darling”, “far left loony manipulative liberal queen ice-bitch” Hillary Rodham Clinton. How sweet.) Anti-war people like myself were considered in the American political scene to be wacko crazed far-left lunatics who would drive our Volvos to the Starbucks and sip on hazelnut caffé lattes before going to the hospital and aborting a set of twins and then proceeding to burn a gun shop, marry five gays, sell the DoD to al Qaeda and fly to Iraq to suck Saddam’s cock. And thank you, 126 Democrats, 6 Republicans and 1 independent in the House and 21 Democrats, 1 Republican and 1 independent in the Senate, that voted against the war. And bless the hearts of all those millions who protested on the streets in the USA and countries all over the world, the same people who were ignored by the Democratic Party establishment and denounced as traitors by the Republican Party establishment.
But once the war started, and the USA showed the world its moral uprightness by carpet-bombing Baghdad and slaughtering an estimated 30 000 (give or take a few thousand) Iraqi civilians, the debate was over. The logical stance was to support our troops, vote for funding to support our troops and reconstruct Iraq (ahem, John Kerry…), and reconstruct Iraq and get a government and military going as swiftly and efficiently as possible so we can minimize the amount of time we spend as – yes – occupiers.
I’m not saying that we’re doing everything right as of now. The training of the Iraqi military is going WAY too slow. I remember last fall (apparently it’s October 5 2005 – more information here) hearing on The Daily Show only ONE battalion was independently combat-ready. Hopefully there’s more now but if there’s any way to speed up the training than it should be done. (I have a cynical feeling that the Bush administration may have been slow to train the military out of incompetence, or, before last year, deliberately slowing it down so it could use the continuing war as a political tool. Obviously that second option is no longer credible.) But otherwise, the U.S. military needs to stay in Iraq to make sure the military is trained and the “job is done”, so to speak. As Colin Powell might have said, we broke it, we bought it. If you break something at Pottery Barn you stay to pay the store for it; you don’t hightail it outta there like some drunk troublemaker. I don’t see why this is so hard for people to understand.
The program, incidentally, identifies the “Last Myth” as the following (this is a direct quotation):
· Our presence is NOT providing security
· Our presence is NOT for the benefit of the Iraqi people
· We must NOT stay the course
During the discussion not a lot of attention was given to what really might happen if the U.S. troops leave. What the panelists did agree on was that U.S. troops leaving would not result in civil war and it would pacify the resistance forces and satisfy the Iraqi people. I am VERY doubtful that is true. It seems way too simple and sweet to think that everyone will be happy and peaceful if U.S. military leaves. What about the Baathists? What about al Qaeda which might want to undermine and destroy what it’s surely to perceive as an American collaborationist government? Besides which, it’d be irresponsible to abandon Iraq when it’s still not fully self-sufficient. Until and unless I see real evidence that Iraq can support itself and defend itself, it seems to me that immediate commencement of troop withdrawal would be an irresponsible abortion of a critical duty.
And the drive to impeach President Bush? What a load of nonsense! First of all it’s not going to happen with the Republican-controlled 109th Congress. I like how everyone was all gung-ho about impeaching Bush until it became apparent that most everyone didn’t know how impeachment even works, and that it’s the House of Representatives that has to do it. So we got a nice civics lesson from the panelists, and that sobered things up considerably. The panelists were forced to admit that the only real way we can get impeachment through is to elect pro-impeachment Democrats to Congress. Okay, but are there really enough of them to get it done? And even if Democrats do take back both houses of Congress – which is gonna be hard enough – you can’t expect to replace all of those wimpy, spineless Democrats with brave impeachment warriors. Plus, the impeachers need a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict the President (unless the impeachers merely wish to impeach and not try him…?) and that majority is not going to materialize at this point.
More importantly, does the President deserve to be impeached? The impeachers usually use either Iraq – which would be a dubious case, I think – or wiretapping as their grounds for impeachment. The wiretapping controversy would be much stronger grounds for impeachment, but on what charge? Abuse of power? Violating FISA? Violating individual liberties? I don’t know if those charges will go through. And has there even been a full investigation done yet? Let’s investigate and find out the truth first. (This will be much easier once we have a Democratic Congress.) Right now, impeachment seems to be an attractive option but it’s way too early – let’s not jump the gun like we always seem to do. Seriously, I’ve seen Democrats – and Republicans too, but I’m not really concerned about rectifying their depravity – jump the gun and get ahead of themselves SO MANY TIMES in my time following politics. I mean, I appreciate bold action on certain legislative issues but accusing a sitting President of crimes is not something you want to do impulsively. I mean, I’m normally as much a fan of moderation as an enraged bull in a Spanish bullfight, but I think this is one of the rare cases where it is warranted.
Of course, I appreciate the energy and passion that Sheehan and the other panelists and activists in the audience brought to the cause of the Iraq war. They are all on the right side of the spectrum – both on this and other issues. (Another issue brought up repeatedly by Sheehan was the disgraceful performance of the Bush administration in responding to Hurricane Katrina – an outrage I sympathize with wholeheartedly.) I don’t agree with them on the specifics, and I don’t agree with them that we should immediately pull out of Iraq and impeach Bush, but I do agree with them that both the Iraq war and the Bush presidency are two of the most needlessly wasteful and tragic enterprises this country has gotten into.
March 8 2006 edit: Added the Sheehan picture and caption.