We May Need a Huge March on Washington to Force Democrats to Put an End to the War Instead of Immorally Merely Worrying about Their Political Futures and Putting Forth a Known-To-Be-False Yooian Theory of the Commander-In-Chief Power to Give Themselves Cover
Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
Editor's Note: The following was written by Dean Velvel on January 8th.
When it recently began to look as if George Bush would send more troops to Iraq despite the verdict of November 7th, it was suggested here, only half facetiously, that opponents of the war should begin to plan a two to five million person march on Washington to protest. Now that it is a certainty that Bush, like Lyndon Johnson in Viet Nam, intends to escalate by sending more troops, the suggestion is being repeated, with not the slightest degree of facetiousness. It is entirely serious. For it may well be that only a massive march of unheard of dimensions, one vastly exceeding in size the famous march at which Martin Luther King made his “I have a dream” speech, will cause the American government to stop conduct which furthers the conversion of this nation from a democracy, in which voting results like those of November 7th have meaning, into the political and economic plutocracy it has increasingly become. It is already far enough along this horrible path.
Indeed, it is only because the country is far along this path that members of the Executive and many members of the Congress can seriously consider saying the defacto equivalent of “To hell with you” in response to the results of November 7th. We have not seen flouting like this since Viet Nam, when ultimately there was even a certain amount of violence catalyzed by a government that was out of control under Johnson and Nixon. It may not be wholly outrageous to suggest that, if the Pretexter-In-Chief is allowed his escalatory druthers now, and especially if America’s worldwide interventionism subsequently increases (ala the “fighting spirit” of John McCain, who apparently never met a war or proposed military action he didn’t like), we will one day in the not too distant future have to reckon with a certain amount of internal violence once again.
Better a protest march of unprecedented size in Washington, a march sufficient to succeed in causing this war to be shut down, than an escalation of Bush’s folly with hundreds or thousands more American deaths, many thousands of American maimings, and tens, scores or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths.
There is, of course, a hope that, despite Bush’s obduracy and lack of acumen, this war could be shut down by purely political means, without a protest march. This would require the Congress to cut off funds for use in Iraq, except for funds necessary to protect our troops during a rapid withdrawal by a specified date. Is such a purely political solution possible? One doesn’t know. Pelosi and Reid have, of course, sent Bush their letter saying his forthcoming escalation in the number of troops is a terrible idea, and Pelosi has said she may not approve funds for more troops in Iraq. But both of them equally have said they will not cut off funds to be used by troops who are already in Iraq -- which means we could have 160,000 or so troops fighting in Iraq for years. And after Bush rejects their position on escalation, as he is certain to do, will they follow up by pushing any kind of cut-off through Congress, even a mere cut off of the use of any funds whatever for an escalation in troops, and will they ensure its success by attaching it to a bill that is veto proof? (Veto proof in the sense that, although Bush doubtlessly will veto any bill that contains a cut-off, no matter how crucial the bill is to American government, the bill will be of such importance that Congress will have to override the veto?) One doesn’t know. One does know, of course, Pelosi currently is rejecting the possibility of a bill that cuts off all funds for troops presently in Iraq except funds necessary to protect those troops during a rapid withdrawal by a specified date.
The currently expressed view of Pelosi regarding a cut off of all non-withdrawal funds for troops now in Iraq points to a major political problem standing in the way of such a bill. The problem is that there are Democrats who do not wish to support a cut off bill due to purely political considerations. They are afraid that they will suffer politically if they put a stop to this war. (This is not, of course, the motivating factor for a pseudo Democrat warmonger like Joseph Lieberman, but is the motivation for others.) I would think that, for most of these Democrats, the fear is not warranted. But, more importantly, what this fear means is that, for mere political considerations, they are willing to allow the deaths and maimings of who knows how many more thousands of Americans and Iraqis rather than do the right thing and stop American participation in the war. They know that stopping American participation is the right thing to do, but, being politicians, they are more concerned about their own political futures than about the deaths of thousands. This is, of course, deeply immoral, and they are no better than George Bush, for whom this war is, from the beginning has been, and remains largely a matter of merely political calculation, albeit dressed up in other kinds of (false) claims.
What is more, one of the reasons given by Democrats for not passing a cut off bill is, or is virtually, a fraud, and a lot of them know it. Unfortunately, the inept American media merely quotes or otherwise presents this phony reason without any analysis -- which would quickly show its utter speciousness.
The phony reason used by some Democrats as hoped-for cover for their political cowardice is the claim that, because the President is Commander-In-Chief, he lawfully can continue to fight the war, can send more troops, etc., regardless of what Congress may do. Though they apparently do not recognize it, the Democrats who have said or implied this are doing nothing other than echoing the claim of John Yoo that under the Constitution the President, as Commander-in-Chief, can do whatever he wants regardless of Congressional laws. In other contexts, of course, they wholly reject Yoo and his fascistic, now completely discredited claim. But when it suits their political purposes, they echo it, apparently not even realizing that they are doing so.
Nothing could be further from the truth than the claim that, because he is Commander-in-Chief, Bush has the legal right to ignore a bill cutting off funds. In fact, the claim is viciously ironic. Ever since the earliest days of Viet Nam, we have been hearing that the way Congress can control Presidential warmaking, if it does not like what the President is doing, is to cut off funds. But now we hear, completely to the contrary, that such a cut off is of no legal consequence? And we hear it, yet, from legislators who claim they want to put an end to the war? Oh, boy.
Not to be forgotten is that a fund cut off, enacted over Nixon’s veto (after something of a compromise between Nixon and those who wanted to end the war) was how Congress stopped our remaining military action in Indo China, the bombing of Cambodia. As well, it was established by the Supreme Court, in a couple of cases as far back as 1800 and 1801, that it is Congress which sets the parameters of any war effort. (The cases were Bas v. Tingy and Talbot v. Seeman, with the opinion in Talbot being written by John Marshall.)
Nor was the Commander-In-Chief power ever intended to allow the President, as a military man, to override Congress. To the contrary, it was enacted to ensure that the military remains subordinate to civilian control (just as George Washington, when Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army, was subordinate to the civilian authority of the Continental Congress).
So there is no merit whatever to some Democrats’ Yooian claim that as Commander-in-Chief Bush could legally do whatever he wants in Iraq regardless of enactment of a cut off of funds. For Bush to ignore Congress in this way would be both illegal and precisely the type of high crime and misdemeanor that is intended to be impeachable under the Constitution’s impeachment clause. Democrats’ claim that Bush could legally do whatever he wants is only so much bushwa. It is merely a false attempt to obtain political cover for immoral cowardice that places (wrongly perceived) political interest over morality.
It may be, of course, that even the Democrats who have made the Yooian, bushwa claim will feel they have enough political cover to do the right thing if currently planned hearings quickly show the deficiencies of Bush’s actions. It is not without import that even some officials who privately announced Bush’s forthcoming plan to the press were unwilling to say that the plan will succeed, and some are skeptical. (Imagine -- the Kurds are being depended on to help control Baghdad, when they want nothing more than to be rid of Iraq altogether.) Nor is there even any plan, apparently, for what happens if Bush’s plan does not succeed, as it won’t. Individuals who should know have long told me that Iraq is purely tribal -- a view now borne out to even the stupidest American who pays attention -- and that what the Iraqis are doing to each other now is no different from what the relevant groups have been doing to each other for more than a millennium. The chance that a last ditch U.S. effort will change the teaching of centuries are nonexistent, one would judge. (Even the new pro-Bushian-plan general whom Bush has placed in charge of this folly concedes that success would be two to three years away. That is kind, in reality is probably idiotic.)
True, Bush is going to come up with phony reasons to “surge” (e.g., the claim we can fix the situation, a claim that nations in the area will cooperate with us, etc.) But his phony reasons will be no more valid than his claim of WMDs, his claim on the Abraham Lincoln that the war was over, his claim that the capture of Saddam marked the beginning of the end, the claim that the killing of Zarqawi would put an end to the bad stuff, or any of the other false claims Bush has made. That Bush’s claims are bushwa is not surprising. From the time he was a kid at Andover, Bush has been nothing but an eff up -- in college, in business, in his drunken personal life, as President -- and his entire administration has been one big eff up, especially with response to Iraq, from WMDs to cooperation with the sectarian lynching that turned a criminal and mass murderer into a martyr. (Can you believe it?) (Can you imagine if we had hanged the top Nazis or Tojo in the same way that the Shiites hung Saddam?) Bush is living proof that, in future elections, Americans had better start paying attention to competence and prior evidence of it. And currently, if Democrats wait too long for hearings to show that Bush’s newest plan -- a “surge” -- is nothing but yet another in his unending line of eff ups, they will be immorally condemning thousands of American soldiers and Iraqis to death or maiming in pursuit of a failed and still failing policy.
Make no mistake. Absent a rapidly enacted cut off all funds except those needed to protect troops during a withdrawal by a specified date -- a cut off enacted without, or if necessary because of, a two to five million person march on Washington -- Bush will not only engage in a “surge,” but will continue the war in Iraq until his very last day in office. For the war is, for Bush, the alignment of the stars in heaven. That is to say, it is a product of, and inherent in, his major characteristics and background. He is not smart. He doesn’t read. He is incredibly stubborn (as one might expect from a spoiled brat who is used to always having his way because he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth). He bitterly resents opposition. He had no vision for his presidency, no plan for it, nothing, until 9/11 came around and opened for him the vista of a war on terror and a war in Iraq. He is constrained by no threat of criminal punishment for his illegal actions (e.g., torture), since we do not prosecute our federal criminals in high office, and by no threat of harm befalling anyone in his family in the war zone, since no one in his family is there. He staked his Presidency on the war on terror and in Iraq. If the Iraqi war is a failure (as it is), then his presidency and he are failures (as they are). Yet people think he will quit in Iraq unless he is forced to by a cut off of funds and the imminence of impeachment? Not bloody likely if you ask me. People who think it are fooling themselves, are deliberately blinking the truth as it is said. Unless Congress puts a stop to what Bush is doing in Iraq, there will be at least two more years of war and, possibly, hell to pay at home at some point because, while no draft threatens the average young man as it did in Viet Nam, starting with Viet Nam the people of this country have now had 40 years of knowing that their votes mean nothing, that our putative democracy means nothing, in the face of a plutocratic, lawless political class that does whatever it wants regardless of what voters think. Congress must quickly put a stop to Iraq. If Democratic lack of fortitude is so pronounced that stopping the war requires a march so huge that Washington has never seen anything like it and will in various ways be hard pressed by it, then so be it. Better such a march than two more years of this war, with our country playing a continuing role in causing the deaths and maimings of thousands of our own and tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to respond to this email/blog, please email your response to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection; please tell me if you do object.
(Please include your name so that we may publish your remarks.)
Articles may be quoted or republished in full with attribution
to the author and harvardsquarecommentary.org.