President Bush forced Democrats to "fold," the press reports. He vetoed the Iraq funding bill that set a deadline for getting U.S. troops out of the war. The Republican minority blocked any effort to overturn the veto. Now Congress is about to vote on a funding bill the president will accept, one that doesn't offer a path out of the mess. Bush wins, the Republicans exult, the Democrats "flinch."
But this isn't poker. This is life and death. The president insists on escalating the catastrophic occupation of Iraq. He scorned the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton Commission that offered a way out. He scorns the American people who voted in 2006 to bring the debacle to an end. He scorned the majority of both houses of Congress that voted to start bringing the troops home on a date certain. He sustains an occupation opposed by a majority of Americans, a majority of Iraqis and a majority of the Congress.
He is aided and abetted in this folly by the Republican minority in Congress, which votes en masse to sustain his vetoes and continue the war. They murmur their concerns, clear their throats, profile their independence, but with rare exceptions, they vote en bloc to support the president's ruinous course.
He is aided and abetted in this folly by a minority of Democrats who are afraid to take on the president, fearful of being blamed for undermining the troops, and frightened about being held responsible for bringing the occupation to an end. They, in turn, are misled by the political consultants and the national security "experts" on the Democratic side who have been wrong from the start. They advised Democrats to vote for the war to look strong. They advised Democrats to support the president to look tough. When the folly became apparent, they advised Democrats to avoid being blamed for ending the war. At the beginning of the 2006 election, they advised that Democrats focus on the lack of body armor and the mistreatment of veterans, and stay away from the debate about the war. Now they warn Democrats to keep this "Bush's war" and not get blamed for ending it. Their expert credentials have somehow survived their consistent inanity.
The Congress will now vote on a funding bill for Iraq that offers no change of course. Every legislator open to reason, concerned for the troops, worried about this nation's real security, or accountable to the voters will vote against this bill.
Those who vote for it are voting to enable a rogue president. They are sacrificing the nation's security and the lives of many young soldiers to stand with George Bush.
This vote will be registered. In every state and district of the country, voters will know where their legislator stands. There are no dodges, no excuses. Vote to sustain the rogue president's ruinous course or vote against. This is a question of life and death, not of partisan politics or Beltway political poker. Every legislator is free to vote his or her conscience. Each should be held accountable.
The writer is co-director of the Campaign for America's Future.
© 2007 TomPaine.com