Saturday, May 12, 2007

POP Weasels

With a few honorable exceptions, the POP, the Party of Pusillanimity, collaborated with Republicans from the moment the Bush government set out to bring “freedom and democracy” to the Middle East – in other words, to take the offensive in behalf of U.S. oil and arms interests and right-wing Zionists. Some collaborated out of conviction but, being Democrats, pusillanimity and its concomitant, opportunism, were considerations too. After the 2006 elections, the Democratic leadership determined that it was time to move beyond abject collaboration. After all, the majority of voters had finally caught on: Bush’s wars were failures, even when measured against the objectives Cheney and Bush promoted; and it was plain to nearly everyone that their continuation was doing the country and the world grave harm. Voters also realized that Bush’s wars were flagrantly illegal and immoral and therefore indefensible according to even the most generous conceptions of what justifies war. Democratic majorities in the House and Senate could hardly ignore their constituents’ views in these matters. Nevertheless, they have so far been unwilling to rise to their Constitutional duty to stop the wars by stopping their funding, and to rid the world of Cheney and Bush by impeaching them and then bringing them to justice. Pusillanimity alone does not explain their reluctance. Weasel rationales also guide their thinking, even as they become more transparently preposterous with each passing day.

From the time that the Reagan administration took it upon itself to vanquish “the Vietnam syndrome,” the consensus view among both Democrats and Republicans has been that American military power must be projected throughout the world, and must never again be defeated. Another defeat would make it harder for the economic elites Democrats and Republicans serve to have their way. This is why the U.S. cannot “cut and run” in Iraq or, worse still, be thrown out of the country, as it was in Vietnam. Therefore, so long as there is any chance that the situation can be “turned around,” there is nothing to do but the same old same old – with the addition of as much “surge” as a broken army and an increasingly broken treasury can sustain. For those of us who do not salivate at the prospect of perpetual war, this argument is so blatantly unconvincing that even Republicans are turning against it. The fall back position then is to let the new guy, the hapless General Petraeus, have a go at it – at least through the summer. When he fails, we can be sure that the situation will be represented as a partial success and that the political class, if it remains on its present course, will give him or his successor yet more time to wreak carnage – that is, if it hasn’t already done so by caving in now to Bush’s intransigence.

Meanwhile, can anyone this side of Joe Lieberman really believe that the United States invaded Iraq for any morally worthwhile purpose, much less to promote “freedom and democracy?” Nevertheless, the idea continues to be promoted as conventional wisdom by both Democrats and Republicans and in the mainstream media. This has the effect of making it more likely that there will be another war like this one, if only we can figure out how to do it right. [There is still a danger that this will happen sooner rather than later and that Cheney and Bush will again be the perpetrators – this time in Iran.] In this respect, as in so many others, the media is on board with Bush. Even he conceded that “mistakes were made” (not by him, of course). But they were made in good faith. Thus the killing, maiming and torturing must be weighed against the good intentions of our leaders. It’s a familiar story; it’s how conventional wisdom has long cast the Vietnam War – as a “tragedy” in which good men (and women) did bad things for reasons beyond their control. This is nonsense, of course; the Vietnam War was no tragedy, it was a travesty of morality and law. So too are today’s Bush wars. There are now more than a few Democrats in Congress who understand this well. But, so long as the POP leadership stands in the way, only the most courageous of them will do more than talk about it.

The most insidious of the Democrats’ weasel rationales is the argument the leadership employs for standing in the way of principled and courageous positions. They claim that the party must proceed slowly in order to bring along as many legislators, Democratic and Republican, as they can muster. In other words, their declared view is that the way to end a self-defeating, illegal and immoral war is to oppose it lamely while supporting it financially. This is too “strategic” by half. Republicans will bolt from the Cheney/Bush fold when they realize that they must if they want to be reelected. Incremental opposition by the lesser evil party will not force this realization upon them, and neither will it make it easier for them. Unfortunately, that task fell long ago to an intractable Iraqi resistance and an incompetent Bush government.

Democrats can facilitate the inevitable outcome by acting on clear and principled positions; in other words, by “walking the walk.” Or they can continue to make things worse by talking one way and acting another. The 2006 election and the primary campaigns for 2008 have created a situation that calls for principled positions and courageous stands, not for alliances of convenience between POP weasels and their GOP counterparts. The problem is how to get a Clintonized party to see this -- and then to do more, much more, than just “talking the talk.”

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