Obama, Clinton, Dems: Show Leadership, Make Change Happen, End the War Now

Next year, or more likely 2010, will be too late for the thousands more who will die or be maimed in Iraq

I must confess a dirty little secret - I don't care what presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama say they will do to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq if they become president next year. Thousands more Iraqis and hundreds more U.S. troops will be dead by then, and for what? I want to know what Senators Clinton and Obama are willing to do to end the war this year. Surely I'm not alone in this desire, am I?

While George Bush, aided and abetted by a supine Congress, does his best impersonation of an extremely unpopular yet omnipotent emperor, especially on Iraq and foreign policy, Obama and Clinton are far from powerless in their current positions. As Senators, they could lead a filibuster to end funding for Bush's occupation of Iraq. This would show real leadership, and if they succeeded, two grateful nations would sing their praises for generations, regardless of whether either ever became president.

Even better would be for there to be no bill for them to have to filibuster. Obama, Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha and other Democratic leaders should agree to simply not draft a bill to continue the war. They should tell Bush, "Sorry, the bank is closed; you'll get no more of the taxpayers' money to continue your quagmire" other than funds to safely and swiftly withdraw all of our troops and bases if money already appropriated needs to be augmented for this purpose (the merchants of death, I mean contractors, can pay their own way home from the windfall profits they've made in Iraq).

Furthermore, as a down-payment on the enormous debt we owe the people of Iraq and our veterans, the money that otherwise would go to continue the occupation (and Bush is expected to ask for well over $100 billion more for this year alone, on top of the more than $600 billion already spent over the last five years) should instead be appropriated for an interim United Nations or Arab League peacekeeping force (if the leaders of various Iraqi factions agree it is needed), reconstruction of Iraq's devastated infrastructure and economy, and greatly enhanced health care and other benefits for our returning veterans. Besides being the right thing to do, peace is cheaper than war.

Unfortunately, it looks like a war funding bill will be put forward by the Democratic "leadership," so we need senators to step up and lead a filibuster, which would require only 41 senators to sustain.

Many allegedly anti-war Democrats, including some who voted against the war (unlike Senator Clinton of course) in 2002, have voted to appropriate every penny for the war and occupation of Iraq, cowed by Bush , Cheney and the Republicans' smear that they would be "abandoning the troops" if they vote against war funding.

My advice on dealing with this despicable political blackmail is to get over it. Senators, you know how to do photo ops - stand on a flag-draped stage in front of the Iwo Jima statue with leaders from Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, the Appeal for Redress (comprised of active duty military personnel who oppose the war) and retired generals and military officials to announce you are ending funding for the occupation, and dare Bush, Cheney and the chicken hawks to call you abandoners of the troops. C'mon, you can do it!

My main purpose is to end the occupation of Iraq, not to get Democrats elected to the White House or Congress, but it's no-brainingly obvious that in this case, with a historically unpopular president, a solid majority of the country against the war, and a presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, who thinks it would be fine if our troops remained in Iraq for 100 years (!), good policy is also good politics. Obama and Clinton should be tripping over each other running to the well of the Senate to announce they will filibuster to end funding for the war. The first to get there would doubtless become president in a landslide. It would be easy political ju jitsu --make Bush, McCain and others defend their indefensible desire to perpetuate an endless, bottomless (money-wise) occupation, instead of your having to defend doing the right thing, ending it.

Senators, get your act together. March 19 will mark the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Iraqi people, our troops and their families can't wait another year, or longer, to end this calamitous occupation. And seriously, wouldn't you rather have this problem resolved before one of you becomes president?

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