Friday, September 21, 2007

A Disgraceful Week

Not long ago, I speculated that the Democrats would never exclude Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich from their increasingly tedious “debates,” if only to keep the press corps’ interest up. I applauded the prospect. After all, Gravel is the only Democratic candidate who speaks truth about the other candidates, and Kucinich is by far the best of the candidates on the issues – especially foreign policy. But I was wrong: conformity beat out box office. Thus neither of them were invited to appear at several recent events in Iowa, including the AARP candidates’ forum. [Barack Obama wasn’t there either, but his ill-advised absence was voluntary.] Therefore, when the questions turned to health care, and stayed fixed on the subject, nobody was around to advocate single-payer insurance. Hillary Clinton, whose 1993 plan pandered to insurance companies so blatantly that it (she) set the cause of universal health care back a generation, is at it again – this time with a plan that is “simpler,” but that panders just as egregiously. John Edwards has a much better plan. However the obviously right plan is off the agenda; they won’t even let a non-electable advocate for it.

That’s disgraceful, but not nearly as disgraceful as the rest of the Democrats’ week. Their “strategy” was to back down from the timid proposals they advanced earlier this summer for “timelines” for withdrawal; instead they would propose only that tours of duty in Iraq be shortened enough that, as per the old rules, soldiers and marines would spend as much time at home as “in country.” This was the idea of Ronald Reagan’s former Navy Secretary, James Webb, the new Democratic Senator from Virginia. Arguably, this new plan would work as well, or nearly as well, as timelines for forcing Cheney and Bush to change course. But the Webb proposal failed to get the support of enough “moderate” Republican Senators to avoid a filibuster and/or a Presidential veto.

The lesson should have been to act more, not less, boldly. But when the Senate had a chance actually to do what it is supposed to do according to the Constitution – to provide or withhold funds for war – the Democrats folded. As he had done before, Russ Feingold (WI) tried to amend the latest funding bill in order to require a timeline for withdrawal. Twenty Democrats joined with the Republicans and the sanctimonious “independent” (Likudnik) Joe Lieberman to defeat the Feingold amendment 21 to 75. I am ashamed to say that among the Democratic miscreants was the feisty little Babs Mikulski (MD), my own, much despised Senator. But if that wasn’t disgraceful enough, both of my Senators -- the other one is the terminally boring Ben Cardin -- joined with even more Democrats, 25 altogether, to condemn an advertisement had placed in the New York Times that called the vaunted General Petraeus, “General Betray Us.” was right to insult the hapless General, but they were wrong about their claim; it’s not Petraeus, it’s the Democratic Party, who are the betrayers. is wrong about many things; they all follow from a quasi-pathological reluctance to speak truth to Democrats, including the party’s Clintonite/Pelosiite wing. You’d think the lesser evil party would therefore have some loyalty. But, for many Democratic Senators, support for militarism and the mindless "support the troops" shibboleth swamped other, more sensible concerns. It also swamped genuine concern for the troops, for their victims, and for the larger interests of the United States. No one should be surprised. But the Democrats’ doings are no less disgraceful for that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hillary Now

The conventional wisdom, promoted by all the leading pundits, is that, for Democrats to win in national elections, they have to be, or seem to be, tough on “jihadist” terrorism, pro-military, and (lately) against the Iraq War. Since the first two positions seem to go together – in the minds of neoconservatives and their Clintonite counterparts –and since the third is not outright incompatible with the other two, this is a possible, though implausible, configuration. For the time being, of all the top tier candidates, Hillary Clinton has figured out best how to shine in the conventional wisdom’s light. Given her earlier bellicosity when Bush and Cheney went to war against Iraq, and her refusal to repent of aiding and abetting them, she is an unlikely anti-war candidate. And given her still lingering reputation as the “liberal” of the Clinton family, she is an unlikely tough guy too, especially in a world where women are still considered “soft.” Thus the new Hillary image is a remarkable achievement. She and her handlers deserve credit; they’re good.

Since we know from the recent past that many, too many, Democratic voters are too clever by half, there is reason to fear a resurgence of the old theme of Clinton inevitability as voters make the conventional wisdom their own, and set about strategizing again. Obama, they might conclude, is too “unseasoned” to win in a general election (and, if that isn’t enough, is America ready for a black President, especially one who, for all his star quality, still lacks gravitas?); Edwards is too “populist” (and, if that isn’t enough, remember his haircut and the size of the house he sold!). Before Obama exploded onto the scene, the conventional wisdom was that HRC had a lock on the nomination, but that her only hope of winning a general election was for the Republicans to self-destruct. The Republicans have, so far, been most obliging. At the same time, the pundits agree, Hillary has become more Presidential. Thus, we are told that accepting her inevitability is not acceding to a death wish after all. It now looks like she could be a strong candidate in a general election – especially against the creep (Giuliani) or lightweight (Romney) or lightweight creep (Thompson) that the Republicans are likely to field.

But hold on. When Democratic voters strategize, take cover. That’s how John Kerry got the nomination in 2004. It’s also why the Democrats lost -- that, and a few dirty tricks (that weren’t dirty enough to trouble the pundits). Of course, that was then. Maybe now, thanks to four more years of Cheney and Bush, we could have a Clintonite Restoration, notwithstanding the animosity Hillary conjures up (mostly for the wrong reasons). I doubt it, though. So far Giuliani is the only Republican who has seen fit to take aim directly at HRC or indeed any Democratic candidate. When “the vast right wing conspiracy” gets going again, the situation could change profoundly. Then we could be faced with the ultimate nightmare – a Giuliani or Thompson or, Angel Gabriel defend us, Romney Presidency.

This is one of those instances where the best strategy is not to strategize, but instead to choose the best (or, since we’re talking about Democrats, least bad) feasible candidate. That would be Edwards, most likely, if we’re confined to the “top tier,” though it could be Obama; this despite the fact that Gravel and Kucinich win hands down on “the issues.” If the Democrats want a sure winner in 2008, they’d do best by doing good. That means dispatching Hillary ASAP, and putting an end to a dynastic contest that has gone on too long, and with too devastating effects. This would be a first step – an indispensable, though insufficient one – for vanquishing Clintonism altogether; in other words, for truly doing good.

Friday, September 14, 2007


After his well-publicized colonoscopy this summer, there should be no doubt where the Decider’s head is at. But there are always the willfully blind – aka the Republican “base.” As if to show them the light, last night’s (Sept. 13) Speech from the Throne (aka Oval Office) should clinch it. It probably won’t, though. But, for everyone else, the speech provided ample confirmation in a thoroughly stupefying way. The Bush boy came on pretending to be Sir Winnie. We must decide what kind of country and people we are, he declared, and then battle on and on. Yes, the war is “unpopular” (that news has penetrated the bubble!) but we must defend an ally set upon by aggressors whom we must fight there, lest we fight them here. Also, of course, we must stand by our troops. In comparison, LBJ was almost clear headed and honest when he proclaimed that we were in Vietnam to combat aggression. No matter that the aggressors were Vietnamese, and that “we” most certainly were not. At least the Vietnamese struggle for national liberation wasn’t just an artifact of delusional and incompetent U.S. (and French) machinations, like the sectarian and ethnic civil war in Iraq is. In the end, the Cheney/Bush argument comes down to this: we must stay in Iraq (indefinitely, it turns out) because we are there.

To add yet another level of absurdity it is, according to the Decider, the infallible General Petraeus (concoctor first of the plan to introduce Shiite militia members into the Iraqi police forces; concoctor now of plans to do the same for the Sunnis) who has made it so. The Commander in Chief is only doing what his servant in the field tells him must be done. If only the good General, who surely knows better, had enough backbone to stand up against the Mindless Leader! It would make no difference to Cheney or Bush; they’d still “stay the course.” But it would have taken away the excuses our legislators so desperately seek.

For Republican “moderates,” especially if they are not yet up for reelection, the Petraeus report is an excuse for standing by their man. Petraeus did, after all, say that “the surge” could end in another year or so. For the leaders of the Democratic Party, and alas most Democratic backbenchers, downsizing to last year’s levels is an excuse to back off from the shamefully timid “timelines” for withdrawal they’ve been urging -- in order to woo moderate Republicans into helping them “end” the war. This drama will play out in the next few weeks – a struggle for the hearts and minds of a handful of Republican legislators! The Democrats will probably lose. But even if they don’t, the sure thing is that Cheney and Bush will win. They’ll continue their war for -- can one say it without gagging on the hypocrisy and deceit -- “freedom.”

The Democrats’ excuse for becoming even worse than they used to be is that they don’t have the votes to end a Senate filibuster or to override a Presidential veto. True enough. But they do have a modest majority in the Senate and a plain majority in the House. Therefore there is something they can do to end the war: not fund it. There is no doubt that this is their Constitutional prerogative. Let Cheney and Bush launch a Manhattan project led by John Yoo and staffed by the best hacks the Federalist Society can offer. They still won’t be able to mount a single argument to show otherwise; not unless they’re prepared to override the Constitution itself on the grounds that 9/11 “changed everything.” There’s also no doubt that defunding the war would end it because Republicans can’t filibuster funds into being and because Bush cannot “veto” a measure that hasn’t passed; not unless he’s prepared to take the step from “unitary executive” to unabashed dictator. Things are bad, but, even under Cheney’s tutelage, it hasn’t come to that!

Needless to say, defunding the war, like impeaching its perpetrators, is “off the table.” The Democrats figure that, to win in 2008, they have to look tough and, of course, “support the troops” (by assuring that more of them will be killed or injured). These are nonsensical miscalculations. But they may be right in thinking that many, perhaps most, Democratic voters will go along. With our party duopoly system, there’s the familiar argument that progressives have nowhere else to go. There’s also the fact that in a political culture so dumbed down and right-wing that even the Clintons look “liberal,” too few Democratic voters will see the Democrats’ rationale for the shameful excuse that it is.

How can this change? Maybe, since it seems to be on everybody’s lips (if not their mind), it’s time to rethink the whole “support the troops” issue. Of course, fair compensation is due those whose lives are ruined (or lost) by Cheney’s and Bush’s wars; especially inasmuch as our “volunteer” military is comprised mainly of economic conscripts. But the implication that the military is a trusted and revered institution – and that its Petraeuses are beyond reproach – must be contested, not endorsed! At the university where I now work, the marines recruit openly right outside the student union. That they could do so without protest is a disgrace. This would have been unthinkable during the Vietnam War. Part of the explanation, of course, is that now there is no draft (none that affects people affluent enough to attend universities). But the Democrats’ acceptance of the “support the troops” mantra is also part of the explanation. The candidates for President should be questioned relentlessly on this: they should be asked just how having more soldiers and marines die or be maimed for no defensible reason, in cause that is not only plainly wrong but also plainly lost, counts as “support.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Betray Us

Petraeus rhymes with betray us, so it is no surprise that, in the past few days, the name General Betrayus has taken hold. But Petraeus has betrayed nobody. Quite the contrary; as a self-serving and rather flat-footed military man, he has done just what he is supposed to, just what his Commander-in-Chief asked of him. Without quite saying what is obviously false, that “the surge” has pacified Iraq, he has come close enough to saying something similar to keep Republicans in Congress on Bush’s and Cheney’s page. That was his mission. It’s another “mission accomplished.”

You don’t have to go to West Point, or even the local Police Academy, to know that crime or, in this case, violent resistance will diminish in areas that are flooded with cops or soldiers. Of course, like all laws of nature, this “police science” truism governs what actually happens only if there are no countervailing factors that overwhelm its efficacy. In this case, thanks to overwhelming levels of U.S. government incompetence, there were countervailing factors aplenty. But Petraeus and his masters were lucky: in Anbar province, Sunni tribal leaders were willing to be bought off, at least for a while; though it’s far from clear that they’ve signed on to anything that will keep them on board for long. They were luckier still because, with so many U.S. soldiers and marines in place, these same tribal leaders saw that they could seize the moment to go after Al Quaeda, just as they will do, with more long lasting effects, when the Americans finally leave. Thus, for the time being, Petraeus and Company were able to mitigate intra-Sunni violence in Anbar enough to report back that “the surge” is working, albeit slowly. No sane person believes this, but it’s what a lot of our political class wants to hear.

It is from within the ranks of that class that betrayal will come -- not from the Republicans, for they have never pretended to be anything other than a War Party, but from the Democrats. In an interview on NPR (September 10), Rahm Emanuel gave that little secret away. In the coming primaries, Emanuel could end up supporting his fellow Chicagoan and co-thinker, Barack Obama, over Hillary Clinton, but he is and always has been the quintessential Clintonite . Thus it was he who, as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, went to extraordinary lengths to stifle anti-war campaigns within the Democratic Party fold, and to insure the election of “centrist” (that is, right-wing) Democrats.

Emanuel’s remarks were shrouded in the “support the troops” rhetoric that Democrats and Republicans rival each other in exuding. [No need to explain how putting our economic conscripts in harm’s way, turning them into purveyors of murder and mayhem, making some of them torturers and war criminals, scarring them and their families for life, and so on and on counts as “supporting” them. It suffices to declare that it would somehow dishonor those who already died in vain not to have more follow.] There is a corollary to this nonsense that the leadership of the Democratic Party is eager to make its own. They want to make themselves the exponents of a “stronger America” – in plain speak, of a more militarized and outright militaristic America. The army, Emanuel said, is a trusted institution – in contrast to the Presidency (after Bush) and the Congress (no fault of his own, of course!). General Petraeus is an honorable man. We must therefore take his words to heart, after giving them a Democratic spin. The spin is that the commitment to Iraq is not “open ended.” Why not? Because the good General said so; he said that “the surge”, but of course not the occupation, can probably end in another year or so, and that troops, a symbolic number, can begin to come home by Christmas. This is good, Emanuel opined, because the American people have “lost patience” with the war, and you can’t conduct a war if you don’t have popular support. [The Congressman seems unaware that he is living in the midst of a counter-example, but no matter; Clintonites rival neo-cons in obliviousness.]

Emanuel’s view is the Clintonite view and therefore the view of most, but not all, officially anti-War Democrats. It’s not that the war was wrong in the sense that the worst thing that could have come of it would have been a perception of victory, or that now the best thing that can come of it – for the United States and the world -- is a clear perception of defeat. The very idea of going to war against Iraq, when there was still so much to do in Afghanistan, may have been strategically misguided, but there is nothing to fault from a moral or political point of view. There the problem is just that the war and ensuing occupation were badly planned and poorly executed. However, this is not the military’s fault, Emanuel insisted. Our troops have done everything that was asked of them, and they have done it magnificently. The problem is the political leadership, especially the Commander in Chief. In other words, “yea army (and marines), boo Bush; the end!”

Next to “supporting the troops,” the other thing everybody wants to seem to be is “bipartisan.” Lying just beneath Emanuel’s lines it’s clear that, in his mind and in the mind of the rest of the party leadership, Petraeus has given them leeway to wreak of “bipartisanship” by dropping “timelines” and other irksome demands in order to join forces with “moderate” Republicans. Just so long as there’s an appearance of movement in the right direction, the Democratic leadership thinks the Democrats will have it fine. Perhaps they will argue with their Republican friends about the pace of withdrawal, but that’s about as far as they will go in appeasing their anti-war constituents. Anything more would be partisan, and partisan is bad. At one of their so-called candidates’ forums, someone should ask the Presidential aspirants if, in the end, they wouldn’t just prefer a one party state. Someone should ask Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel.

Meanwhile, Petraeus, has given them a good excuse yet again to betray us, the voters who thought in 2006 that they were voting to end the war. Petraeus is no Betrayus; he’s a Cheney/Bush flunky, trying to stay on everyone’s good side until he can publish a tell-all book under his name. The betrayers are Emanuel and his ilk -- the movers and shakers of the Democratic Party, the Pelosiites, , the Clintonite rank and file, and the “moderates” all the others worked so hard to install.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Bumper Sticker War

Before 9/11 – or, rather, before Cheney and Bush expropriated it for their own ends – terrorism was a police problem and a political problem. It was not a military problem. Cheney and Bush saw things differently. Although they’ve failed utterly in just about everything else, they have succeeded in making their “vision” real. The murder and mayhem in Afghanistan and Iraq attest to it. So does the harm done to tens of thousands of American soldiers and marines, economic conscripts mostly, and to their families. Cheney and Bush have not yet killed at Johnsonian or Nixonian levels; though if they get the war in Iran they yearn for, they might yet have a chance. But they beat Johnson and Nixon hands down in another respect. Since they’ve declared perpetual war, and since “a nation at war” must err on the side of “security,” even at the expense of liberty and the rule of law, what began as a willfully malign conceptual error has become the gravest self-inflicted threat to our republic in its history. As even John Dean has said it’s worse than Watergate; worse by far.

Being cowardly by nature and desperately not wanting to seem “soft” on terror, the Democrats in Congress have been, for the most part, inclined to let Cheney and Bush have their way with the so-called War on Terror. They were at their worst just before their August break. By necessity, the candidates for President have been a little better on the Iraq War than their Congressional co-thinkers. But on “homeland security,” they have not been conspicuously more brave. At one point, John Edwards dared call the War on Terror a “bumper sticker.” He was taken to task for that, and temporarily backed down. But now, according to press reports and announcements by his own campaign, he’s about to propose measures that would effectively demilitarize the struggle against terror, turning it back into the (international and multi-lateral) police operation it ought always to have been. The devil is in the details, of course, and those are not yet clear. But this is a hopeful sign, and yet another reason why, of all the “electable” candidates, Edwards is emerging as the best by far. [Contrast his proposals with Barack Obama’s contention that he’d send troops to Pakistan, an ally and sovereign state, to fight Al Quaeda, even against the will of Pakistan’s government. Contrast them with the (classical) Clintonite disposition to bomb first and “feel the pain” later.]

However the best by far isn’t nearly good enough because Edwards leaves the political dimensions of the real terror threat untouched. [Only Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich, the unelectables, dare broach them; and then only superficially.] The point should be obvious. Police exist “to protect and serve”; the reality is often very different, but the aspiration is sound. It is indeed urgent that “the homeland” and the world be protected against terror and that the victims of terror be well served. To these ends, the first order of business is to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to prevent the next one in Iran. Beyond that, Edwards’ proposals may be as helpful as any yet proposed. But they are not enough.

Theocracy is a scourge, and Al Quaeda is nothing if not a criminal organization comprised of theocratic zealots. But, ironically, its grievances are legitimate: the oil-besotted U.S. has no business occupying Middle Eastern (and Central Asian) lands, no business propping up corrupt regimes in the region, and (not that Al Quaeda cares particularly, except for opportunistic reasons) no business supporting ethnic cleansing and Apartheid in Israel/Palestine. No Democrat will touch these issues; they’re much too afraid. If even the Israel lobby holds sway over them, how much more so do the oil interests they, along with Republicans, exist to protect and serve at no matter what cost to the rest of us. It is looking increasingly like it will be necessary, faute de mieux, to try to elect Edwards in the primaries, if only to banish Clintonism, the kinder and gentler – and vastly more competent -- cousin of the expropriators of 9/11. Then it will certainly be necessary to elect Edwards or any other Democratic candidate – even, alas, Hillary Clinton -- to prevent any of that sorry crew running in the Republican primaries from getting anywhere near the White House. But if we really want homeland security, we can’t stop there. Edwards and the rest may be afraid of the Israel lobby and Big Oil. But we mustn’t be. We must let him and the other Democratic candidates, and the Bush collaborators in the House and Senate, know that we are not!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Con Job?

On the Iraq War and the rest, are Congressional Democrats too easily conned, as Rick Pearlstein writes in Maybe, though I suspect that, for explaining Democrats, strategic (mis)calculations about how to position the party for the 2008 elections matter more than con jobs. To the extent that Pearlstein is right, though, it is because, like all easy marks, the Democrats want to believe what Cheney and Bush want them to believe. They want to believe because, in the final analysis, they are of one mind with Cheney and Bush in promoting a neo-liberal economic order at home and an imperialist agenda abroad. This is the essence of Clintonism. If only for the sake of minimal political morality, the party ought to have purged itself of Clintonism long ago. It has not. Indeed, according to current polls, Democratic voters may well foist a Clintonite restoration upon us.

Over the Labor Day weekend, though, the United Mineworkers and the United Steel Workers endorsed John Edwards. He is looking increasingly like the best hope for a change of course – domestically. [On foreign policy, he is no worse than the others – Gravel and Kucinich excepted – but not qualitatively better either.] It would be a salutary development if organized labor would lead the way – not just in dispatching Hillary Clinton and Clintonism’s other “electable” avatars – but in keeping Edwards on-course thereafter. But organized labor has been off-course and enfeebled for decades and what Edwards offers may be too little too late. Still, between now and the early primaries, one can hope.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Impending Catastrophe: Can We Combat It?

It is not necessary to delve very far beneath the surface to realize that Democrats and Republicans are essentially of one mind. But they are also electoral competitors, obliged to appeal to (somewhat) different constituencies for votes and to (somewhat) different sectors of the ruling class for money. Thus they each have an interest in the other side foundering, and since they enjoy an effective duopoly, they each do best, or think they do, by situating themselves as close to the “center” as they can without losing their own supporters. The majority of their constituents may wish they were situated elsewhere, more to the left or to the right, but if their funders don’t, and if their constituents have or think they have nowhere else to go, there is no need to accede to their “base’s” wishes and good reason not to. This is why the 75% of the population now opposed to the Iraq War has gotten only words from the Democratic Party’s leadership. This is why too, should the Cheney-Bush administration decide to launch yet another war, this time against Iran, the Democrats can be counted on to do nothing to stop it. Indications are that plans for a major bombing campaign are already drawn up and that a PR offensive is about to begin . Given how the Democratic led Congress has operated since January, one wonders why Cheney and Bush even feel the need for PR.

Why indeed? Cheney and Bush seem determined to go for broke or, as more capable and saner minds might say, to go out with a bang, not a whimper. But having failed so thoroughly for so long, they must by now realize at some level that in seeking to save themselves by devastating Iran, they’re betting on the longest of long shots. They must also realize what every military theorist since Clausewitz has understood: that wars can’t be fought for long against the manifest will of the people whose soldiers are in harm’s way. Cheney and Bush are battling against public opinion – in Iraq. Should they bomb Iran, PR isn’t going to help them. That could pose an additional electoral problem – not for them, since they are the lamest of lame ducks, but for the Republican Party. They seem not to care. If that is the case, then the only ones who can stop them are in the ruling classes they serve. But, in all likelihood, those characters won’t move until the Republicans’ political problems become generalized social problems that threaten their own fundamental interests in the continuation of the regime. Cheney knows what the stakes are. He got a glimpse of what can happen when the center doesn’t hold in his formative years – when, like many of his hawkish contemporaries, his “priorities” led him to cheer on the Vietnam War without fighting in it. [Bush’s story is similar, though he may have been too oblivious then, and too dense now, to grasp the stakes.] This is why the only thing that can deter Cheney and Bush, besides a revolt in their own ranks, is fear that a spirit of rebellion will be reborn. The Democrats in Congress could deter them by defunding their wars, and they could distract them by impeaching the perpetrators of those wars. But they will do neither. Even if they had the courage, they are too wedded to the regime themselves.

Lying the country into yet another war would seem a fool’s errand, since the word is now out about how they did it before. But the Cheney-Bush forces are not deterred by folly, and their contempt for the public is limitless. With Democrats for opponents, they just might still get their way. Thus the situation is dire. Should Cheney and Bush get their longed for war, they’ll have finally turned on an opponent that can and will fight back – not just in the form of a disorganized resistance, as in Iraq, but in a more coherent and potentially dangerous way. The world will pay dearly.

The Iraq War is part of a larger plan to maintain strategic control over the Middle East and central Asia and its petroleum resources. Somewhat independently, the ideologues the Bush administration empowered also wanted to use the war to turn Iraq into a neo-con utopia – subservient to American and Israeli interests, exemplifying neo-liberal economic policies and as much American-style (i.e. capitalism and especially imperialism friendly) “democracy” as possible. Ironically, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. To be sure, there are American firms in industries close to the Cheney/Bush administration making bundles of money off of the murder and mayhem. But, for the most part, the war has harmed the economy more than it has helped it -- though the full extent of the harm may not become manifest for a while. This will redound eventually even back to the Halliburtons and Blackwaters. A low tide lowers all ships.

The war has also removed a potential, though minor, strategic threat to Israel. However, in doing so, it has set in motion a process likely to lead to a failed state in Iraq (an outcome far worse for Israel than Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship was). Worse still, the Cheney/Bush wars have destabilized Middle Eastern governments friendly to American imperialism. Should some or all of them be replaced by islamist governments, Israel will rue the day the neo-cons got their way. From an Israeli point of view, there have already been setbacks. The election of a Hamas government in the Gaza Strip and the failed military adventure in Lebanon in the summer of 2006 are portents of things to come. To be sure, the Israeli economy is doing well, thanks to a burgeoning “homeland security” industry supported by the United States and Europe, and Israel still has overwhelming military superiority in the region. It still has unquestioning U.S. diplomatic and military support as well. But even if all this lasts for a while longer, it would be hard to make the case that, on balance, Israel has benefited from the Iraq War. In the not too distant future it may look instead like that war advanced processes in Israel/Palestine and outside it that make the prospect of a two-state solution – and therefore the indefinite survival of an ethnically cleansed “Jewish state” – more remote. The Israeli government and their representatives in the United States think a war against Iran can salvage all this. As much as Cheney and Bush, they are dreaming.

In fact, the main beneficiary of the Bush wars has been Iran. With the experience of the Iran/Iraq War still fresh and with its core issues still unresolved, the Iraqi army and the Saddam Hussein government posed a far greater strategic threat to Iran than to Israel. That threat is now gone. Of course, there is now a new threat from the Americans that spells trouble for Iran in the short-run. But, in the longer term, the situation the American invasion of Iraq brough about is a godsend, as it were, for the Iranian mullahs. Thanks to the Iraq War, Iranian influence over large segments of the Iraqi population has become enormous. Should Cheney and Bush get their way, it will become more enormous still. Should the U.S. bomb Iran, this will become evident immediately in Iraq, where, even with the vaunted “surge,” the occupation is enfeebled to the point of powerlessness. But Iraq is not the only place where Iran can cause trouble for the United States. The United States itself is such a place. But, then again, for Cheney and Bush, “homeland security” was never much of a concern.

The other main beneficiaries of the Cheney-Bush wars are, of course, the promoters of political Islam, including Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda suffered heavy losses in the early stages of the Afghanistan War. But the “coalition’s” incompetence and the Cheney/Bush government’s collusion with pro-Al Qaeda interests in Saudi Arabia and in the emirates of the Persian Gulf negated that advantage soon enough. Meanwhile, the perpetual war the U.S. has unleashed has exacerbated the threat of Islamic terrorism everywhere. The War on Terror – actually a self-inflicted war on American Constitutional principles and traditional liberties and on the rule of law itself – has been as abject a failure, in its stated aims, as the other Bush wars have been. Here too, the likely consequence of Cheney’s and Bush’s plans for Iran will be catastrophic. Should they get their way, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

If it we leave it up to the Democrats, they will get their way. Perhaps, if Cheney and Bush had it in mind to start a war against some other country, Venezuela perhaps or Cuba, having already failed so conspicuously on their own terms in Afghanistan and Iraq, common sense might prevail over Democratic “principles” and electoral calculations. But Iran is and has long been Israel’s first and foremost bugbear and the Democrats are in AIPAC’s pocket. On the “need” to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and/or impeding American efforts in Iraq – the two components of the coming PR campaign Cheney and Bush are about to launch – every Democratic contender in the current primary cycle, except of course the “unelectable” ones, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich, have been unequivocal. Iran must be stopped; anything goes. Should Cheney and Bush go on the offensive, expect Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden to be more abject and therefore more bloodthirsty than the rest; but they’ll all go along.

The call has gone out many times to support no Democrat who supports the Iraq War. As the nature of the Democrats’ support has become increasingly obfuscated though no less real -- to the point that they even Hillary Clinton is now officially “against the war” -- that call has fallen increasingly on deaf ears. But surely even types can demand of every candidate at every venue that they speak out against a war with Iran, and resolve to hold elected officials accountable should they, yet again, be Bush aiders and abettors in this latest, most dangerous, neo-con adventure. Public pressure alone will not suffice, however; not so long as it is confined to an electoral arena that marginalizes all but the palest dissent. To stop Cheney and Bush, it will be necessary to escalate the social costs for the regime, not just the political costs for the incumbents or would-be incumbents of its offices. That was the lesson of the anti-Vietnam War movement. It is a lesson that must be learned by the anti-war movement today. With the Democratic leadership dead set against impeachment, it makes no sense to play for time. There is no choice but to play for real.