A foolish headline in today's Politico suggests that the anti-Iraq War movement is planning a retreat. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm the national director of one of the largest anti-war coalitions in the country, Win Without War, and I can tell you we're not retreating one inch. MoveOn.org and other coalition members are not backing off and no anti-war organization of any size that I'm aware of (and I keep up on these things) is planning to ease up.We have an unprecedented opportunity in this election year to press our point as aggressively as we can. Opposition to the war is at an all-time high. Its chief proponent, the President, is more unpopular than ever. A rash of Republican Senators and House Members who have supported the war have seen the handwriting on the wall and have decided to end their political careers voluntarily rather than wait for their constituents to send them packing in November.
Despite the fact that more than two-thirds of Americans want Congress to stop the bleeding and get our troops out of Iraq, Congressional war spending is likely to eclipse the one trillion dollar mark in 2008. Doesn't seem to me that this reflects the priorities of most Americans, including those who are planning to go to the polls to vote for a new president and a new Congress in November. Last I checked, most Americans want Congress and the administration to start making the impact of the collapsing American economy a priority and start taking action to deal with the unfolding disaster in cities and towns across the country. But how much action is possible when you are spending upwards of $10 billion dollars a month on an endless war that the Iraqi Defense Minister wants us to drag on through 2018? Where do you think the priorities lie of the average American who is facing a declining pay check, runaway gas prices and the increasing possibility of a pink slip? Which way would they want their member of Congress to vote when it comes to pouring endless amounts of their tax dollars into an endless war in Iraq?
The Politico headline is as true as last Sunday's New York Times front page headline about the so-called de-Baathification law that was passed on Saturday by the Iraqi parliament: "US Benchmark is Met". The President declared that the vote was "an important step toward reconciliation". Iraq war backers hoped that this would take the sting out of charges that the military surge had failed to deliver on any of the benchmarks promised more than a year ago by the Bush administration. This, in turn, would help turn back opposition to yet more war funding by allowing war supporters to declare that the surge is "working". It turns out that in reality, this so-called "step forward" is much more likely a step backward and could add even more fuel to the sectarian fire in Iraq. Sunni and Shiite officials said that the law could actually throw more Sunnis out of government jobs than it allows back in. Some Shiite officials were bragging on Saturday that the law would even stop Sunnis who belonged to the lowest levels of the Baath Party from working in the most important government ministries including Interior, Defense, Finance and the Foreign Ministry.
Wouldn't it be nice if Congress demanded accountability for the Bush administration's continued manipulation of the media and deception of the American people? It won't happen with an anti-movement in retreat - yet another reason why we're not!
The weakening American economy and the limits that the trillion dollar Iraq debacle put on Congress to respond on behalf of Americans caught in its downdraft, demand that we stand up and fight for accountability in Washington and press our point to end the war in Iraq at every opportunity - including every vote cast to spend yet more money on this madness.
Retreat is not an option for the anti-war movement and it is not on our agenda.
Tom Andrews, a former Member of Congress from the first Congressional District of Maine, is the National Director of Win Without War, a coalition of forty-two national membership organizations including the National Council of Churches, the NAACP, the National Organization for Women, the Sierra Club, and MoveOn. Win Without War led the national campaign opposing the US invasion of Iraq and is now leading opposition to the Bush administration's policy there.
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