We Always Owned The Iraq War

Politically speaking, the war in Iraq has always been a Republican war. Back in the 1990's, the vast majority of people who sent a now famous letter to Bill Clinton urging him to invade Iraq were Republicans. In Bush's 2000 campaign platform, there was a promise to use WMDs as a pretext to for an invasion of Iraq. Had Al Gore taken office, there would have been no invasion of Iraq. About 60% of the Democratic House caucus voted against the AUMF. Before the war began, Republicans used the drumbeat to seize control of Congress in 2002. When the war started, with the American-led expulsion of weapons inspectors, it began in a way that almost no Democrat, even the vast majority of those who voted for the AUMF, probably would have done. In 2004, Bush won re-election almost entirely because 85% of those who supported the Iraq war voted for him. In 2006, Republicans lost control of Congress because almost none of them were willing to back down from their support of the war. The only reason the war isn't over now is because Bush is still in the White House instead of Al Gore or John Kerry, and because almost no Republicans in Congress are willing to withdraw their support for the war (even though their base is now doing so). Throughout this entire process, Republicans repeatedly used the war as a means of quelling dissent and stifling public debate. This has even continued with the bogus "to defund the war means to defund the troops." Politically speaking, Republicans own this war, and none of that isn't going to change because, after a three month fight that included a Democratic Congress sending a bill to end the war to Bush's desk, because Democrats have temporarily capitulated and allowed the war to continue for another three or four months. People may think Democrats are weak-kneed for not doing more to bring the war to an end, and they may not think that Democrats own the opposition to this war, but about 90% of the country still considers this a Republican war.

But that's politics, and politics is not everything. There are other ways to own this war. In fact, there are many other ways in which, as American citizens, we have all owned this war for some time. We grew up in, and actively participate in, a culture that led to this war. We operate in a political system that resulted in this war, and in many cases our inaction in electoral and media politics in the 1990's did not help prevent it. We consume news programs that helped lead to this war. We pay taxes that fund this war. Some of us serve in the military that carried out this war, and we all live in areas from which the personnel for the military are recruited. Our passports, social security benefits, and interstate highways all come from the government that has carried out this war. This war represents us all around the world, and impacts all of our lives here at home. When the politics of our country are set aside, there is really no way of denying that this is an American war, not just a Republican war. As much as I think I personally like to often think otherwise, American soldiers overseas are not flying a flag with an elephant on it. They are flying the stars and stripes, and they represent me.

I am writing this piece to remind myself that a current claim flying around the blogosphere--"Democrats now own the war, too"--is wrong for two different, and seemingly contradictory, reasons. First, in the wide-angle view of American politics, we still don't own this war politically. We might own it if we keep folding and if our nominee decides keeping 75,000 troops in Iraq is a good idea, but right now we don't own it, at least in a political sense, just yet. Second, the claim is wrong because in other, less political ways, we always owned this war, not just now. Back in 2002 and 2003, my full-time entry into politics was largely fueled by this realization. Even though I marched in opposition to the war, voted for candidates who opposed the war, and joined groups like "Not In Our Name," that fact was that to a very real degree, like all Americans, I still owned the war and was partially responsible for it. The idea that Americans who happened to be Democrats only now own the war is wrong simply because we always owned it. No matter what we do to try and stop it, as long as the war continues, we are all still at least partially responsible.

Of course, I am writing this piece not just to remind myself of this fact, or to remind everyone reading this post of this fact. Also, I want to remind those Democrats in Congress who have so far failed to end, or even deescalate, the war of this fact. If we aren't bringing the war to an end, then we are still responsible for it. That is a concern that should supercede any polling data, and any concerns about Republican talking points over Memorial Day weekend. It is a concern that more of our members need to keep in mind when crafting strange voting rules to try and skirt responsibility for the war, and something we need to remember going into the next fight over Iraq war funding this September. Even then, after nearly a decade of this being a Republican war, there will be very little we can do to shift political ownership of the war onto our backs. As such, that should not be our primary concern. Politics aside, the only way we can stop owning this war, and stop being responsible for it, is to end it. Over the next three days, as we are supposed to be remembering Americans who have died in service of their country, including the nearly 4,500 Americans who have died in Iraq (include the contractors and the journalists, too), remember that we are all partially responsible for those deaths, and we always have been. If that is something we want to change, then we are going to have to act differently this September than we acted this spring. Let's start owning opposition to this war as well.

Tags: Culture, Democrats, Iraq (all tags)

Comments

33 Comments

Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

Rant, rant and rant. Another long-winded piece without much meaninging.

If you really want to be a netroots leader, you need to cut back on those writings and do some meaningful things.

Just as Kos reminded us in the past, 101 keyboarders won't change everything on the ground.

by sashacohen 2007-05-25 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

If you really want to be a netroots leader, you need to cut back on those writings and do some meaningful things.

Like?

by Silent sound 2007-05-25 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

First of all, find a REAL day time job, and get in touch with real people. Anti-war sentiment is not as strong as lots of folks on these boards seem to think. Many people have other priorities, and they don't spend endless hours in debating some meaningless bills.

When we have a democratic president, the war will be ended. But that does not mean Americans should or will not have military presence in Middle East or even in Iraq.

by sashacohen 2007-05-25 01:40PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

How long have you been here?  Of course our total presence in Iraq will not end.  Have you seen pictures of the new embassy there?

by Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle 2007-05-25 03:46PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

You are very quick to blame the Democrats but what have you done to try to get the Republicans to vote with the Democrats to override the Bush veto?  If you were around during the Nam years you would realize it was the American people who ended that immoral war not the Pols.  

by changehorses08 2007-05-25 10:06PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

It's a genuine moral problem:  how much must a person resist their government, to not share in the culpability?  

I pay my taxes and keep out of trouble, doing my part to make sure we all go about our routine without disruption.  Knowing full well that time and again, massive evil is not perpetrated by a few diobolical people in isolation from and in resistance to the larger world, but tolerated by the masses of basically decent people who will only go so far in their resistence to evil, before stopping.

The first snarky post is ironic in that it also doesn't solve anything, but does sort of get to the point.  Voting against the war, sending money to anti-war candidates, but then paying taxes and generally Not Raising Absolute Hell is only a partial resistence to an absolute evil....

by Transmission 2007-05-25 12:59PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

There are two things we all can do -- 1. Go to Washington and let them see the American people care or 2. Call your Republican Representative and tell him or her how angry you are that they have rubber stamped this war. Let them know how you feel.  Everyone gives Republicans a pass and they have completely ignored the will of the American people.  If these Republicans, who have rolled over for Bush for 6 years get back in again it will be because we Democrats have fallen for another Rovian dirty trick.

by changehorses08 2007-05-25 10:14PM | 0 recs
Sorry Chris

The Dems DO now own the war.  The silver lining here isn't that our Congressional Dems have even a ghost of a backbone, it's that all our Presidential candidates except Biden voted the right way.

by Nonpartisan 2007-05-25 01:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Sorry Chris

Yeah, but the dark lining is that Obama and Clinton even had to think about it.  How could they not know that neither of them would win the primary if they did vote for it?

by Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle 2007-05-25 03:47PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

It would be nice to feel the Democrats don't own the war -- but it would very, very wrong.

What the Democrats did was like the kid who has a friend who steals a wallet.  The kid says "you know, you shouldn't do that".  Then he scratches his chin wondering what to do. Then he says "well, let's take the money out of it and throw the wallet in the trash".

They dump the wallet but someone sees them and calls the cops.  The cops grab them both but the kid says "I didn't do it".  Too late, he had his chance but chose to be an accessory to the crime.  

That's what the Democrats did -- they had their chance to say no, to not let a bill through, but they didn't.  You can't turn back the clock and forget what happened, and you can't go and make excuses.

Actually, the Democrats owning the war could be OK if they really act like they now own the war.  As owners of the war they have two choices: they can continue to collaborate with Bush (the most likely scenario, unfortunately), or they can say to themselves "look at the mess we've created, what can we do to end this asap".  With that attitude they can move quicker to de-fund or de-authorize the war.

But pretending they didn't just take ownership of the war is simply pretending yesterday didn't happen.

by PageUp 2007-05-25 01:33PM | 0 recs
I don't agree

Bush owns the war.  Why?  Because he has the last word - it's called the veto.  With the veto, the bush pig-headedness and the Repukeliscum noise machine, he has crammed this war down our throats.

We can either agree that we own it and lose in 2008, or make lemonade and dump Repukeliscum in 2008.  It's framing, folks.

by dataguy 2007-05-25 01:49PM | 0 recs
Re: I don't agree

These Democratic Senators, the vast majority of the caucus, voted for the war yesterday:

Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Levin (D-MI)
Lincoln (D-AR)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Webb (D-VA

You can't "frame" a "yes" vote as a "no" vote.

The war is a reality, not an issue to be finessed.  I don't give a damn about helping the Democrats win in 2008 if this is the performance we can expect.  

I don't want Democrats to because they are not Republicans, I want them to win because they will represent me on the issues of importance to me.  When they fail to do that they lose my support.

Finally, Bush can not veto a bill that does not get introduced and voted on.  Pelosi and Reid went the extra mile, even bending the rules of the House. to make sure Bush got his funds.

by PageUp 2007-05-25 02:19PM | 0 recs
Re: I don't agree

Yes, exactly.

by NM Ward Chair 2007-05-25 06:09PM | 0 recs
Re: I don't agree

You didn't tell us which Republicans voted against the war funding. But I guess you don't hold them to the same standards. Didn't the Dems send Bush a bill calling for a timetable which passed both houses of Congress.  Bush vetoed it and the Dems could not get enough Republicans to vote with them to override that veto.  Did you take note of every Republican who could have voted to override that veto but didn't?

by changehorses08 2007-05-25 10:36PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

This is Bush's war.  He told his biographer Mickey Herskowitz in 1999 if he became President he would attack Iraq and he would stay there longer than his Dad did.  If that isn't ownership--what is?

by changehorses08 2007-05-25 10:16PM | 0 recs
Pin the tail on George

Over this memorial day weekend, we need to get George to own the war.

1) We passed the bill to support the troops.

2) Bush made this bill, and we had to pass it.

3) It is Bush's war.  He owns it.

We don't want to have President Richardson blamed for losing Bush's War.

It's Bush's War.  Call it that.

by dataguy 2007-05-25 01:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Pin the tail on George

It's nice to see "President Richardson" in print.  Thanks, dataguy!

by NM Ward Chair 2007-05-25 06:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Pin the tail on George

Amen to that--As one American soldier put it -- this is their Alamo.  Our soldiers are in the midst of a Civil War.  They are being shot at from all sides.  However, when Jim Baker tried to tell Bush that that this war required diplomacy to bring it to an end. Bush's answer was a surge of more troops.  Now that the surge has failed he wants a double surge.  Thats what I call ownership.

by changehorses08 2007-05-25 10:24PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War


Good post.  One thing that made selling the Iraq war was that many liberal democrats were and are war mongers.  They bought into the whole humanitarian war idea.  They thought attacking Serbia was in America's best interest.  They had a mind set that made them suckers for the build up to Iraq.

I hope we can learn something from this fiasco.  If so, it may be useful to re-visit our decision to invade Serbia and maybe see that that wasn't such a good idea.  (And no, the fact that we won did not justify that action).

by syvanen 2007-05-25 01:39PM | 0 recs
Serbian lies

No, we didn't invade Serbia.  And no, it wasn't our idea to retaliate. In point of fact, Serbian war mongering fascists started the war (Milosevich, Karadcich, etc).  In point of fact, Serbian butchers were in the field when retaliation commenced.

And who was it who retaliated?  Why it was NATO.  

You may wish to check your facts.  You sound partisan.  Are you a Serb?  If so, checking facts wouldn't help.  Serbs have as much trouble with the reality problem as do the repukeliscum.

by dataguy 2007-05-25 01:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Serbian lies or US propaganda?

You simply repeat the prewar propaganda items that were issued prior to the bombing campaign and our subsequent occupation.  Would you be surprised that those propaganda items were largely untruthful.  Could that even happen in the US?

It was the US.  We managed to get NATO fig leaf coverage, but we all know who led the bombing campaign.

by syvanen 2007-05-25 02:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Serbian lies or US propaganda?

You must have been a tiger.  Ah, to run around, shooting albanians, that was the fun time, eh?

It was a good day when Arkan was killed.

by dataguy 2007-05-25 02:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Serbian lies or US propaganda?

Actually I am not a Serb. My ancestors came from Finland.  You are yet again simply repeating prewar propaganda points without showing any real understanding of the issues.

by syvanen 2007-05-25 02:20PM | 0 recs
Oh, I dunno

I actually understand the issues pretty well.

Do you know who Arkan is?  You didn't seem to pick up on that.  

What was Karadcich's profession pre-1991?

What is the name of the general who is on the NATO Most wanted list?

I believe that my command of the issues is actually pretty deep and wide.

You seem to be a reflexcive anti-NATO person, on the other hand.

by dataguy 2007-05-25 02:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh, I dunno

Arkan was militia leader (one nasty character if I recall) and if you mean Karadzic and Mladic they were Bosnian Serb leaders.  Neither of them were factors in the US attack on Serbia in 1999; both acted independently of Serbia itself and were indicted for war crimes committed in 1995.  Though they did make good propaganda copy in the lead up to US bombing attacks.

My point, in a followup to Chris's post, was that there are many liberal democrats who are war mongers.  And I simply mentioned the war that a democrat pursued and sure enough one of these datapoints came bursting out of the underbrush yelling prewar propaganda one-liners.  I rest my case.

by syvanen 2007-05-25 03:00PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

It wasn't a nice thing, but it was arguably a necessary thing. Speaking personally, I'm happy that there's nowhere in Kosovo with the same dread ring to it as Srebrenica has.

Slobodan Milosevic was the first European leader in nearly fifty years to attempt to commit genocide and he was surrounded by a collection of psychopathic nutters with deep links to organised crime. Serbia isn't perfect now, but it's an improvement.

You can hate the consequences of war all you like, you can disagree with the wars entered into and the strategy and tactics used, but if you're going to claim we should never have recourse to war, I'm going to have to break out Godwin's Law on you.

by Englishlefty 2007-05-26 04:24AM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

Milosevic did  not commit genocide.  Not even responsible for some of the worst massacres.  There were two international trials -- one against him and the other against the Serbian state.  Neither one made the case.  You are simply repeating the propaganda that was used to justify the US attack against Serbia.  This story is well documented.  You can start here.

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/internati onal/story/0,6903,1323864,00.html

by syvanen 2007-05-26 10:30AM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

Another good post, Chris. Now, if we could just get the Democrats to use a peace frame (instead of using Republican talking points):

The war ended 4 years ago. There is now an occupation going on with the US occupying a country we call a "democracy." But most members of the Iraqi parliament want the US to leave as do 70% of the Iraqi public.

The Iraqi "democracy" has a constitution written by the Coalition Provisional Authority (the US).

The invasion was illegal under international law since Saddam Hussein's regime did  not pose an imminent threat to any other country and especially not to the US. In fact, as was later revealed, the regime did not pose any threat to other countries.

Bush cherry-picked intelligence reports and lied in order to launch his war. The Downing Street memo and other insider information clearly shows that Bush was hellbent on overthrowing Saddam Hussein and probably long before 9/11.

The focus of the occupation has been on controlling oilfields and dominating Iraq and the Middle East, not on establishing a democracy. The US embassy in Baghdad is the largest in the world. The US is building permanent military bases in Iraq. When bands of people first started ransacking the country, the US protected the oilfields, not the museums. Unemployment in Iraq is sky high, but contracts go to Halliburton, not to Iraqis who need jobs.

The situation in Iraq is continually deteriorating. It is not at all clear that the US military is helping matters in any way. Just because we broke it does not mean we need to keep stomping on the shards of the country.

Wouldn't you like to hear your favorite Democrat making these points (and backing them up with authoritative references)?

by RandomNonviolence 2007-05-25 05:27PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

There is one little item in this bill which Bush has just signed which states that if the Iraqi Govt wants us to leave -- we will. Well they do --but I bet Bush will not leave.  

by changehorses08 2007-05-25 10:30PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

The Democrats Forge Behind

http://www.salon.com/opinion/conason/200 7/05/25/bush_iraq_plan/index.html

Quote from the last paragraph of the Salon piece:

>Now the Bush administration can turn around -- as Washington Post defense expert William Arkin predicts -- and accept the Iraq Study Group recommendation to begin withdrawing troops. After all the carnage and waste, the Republicans may yet escape responsibility for the most significant strategic failure in decades, because the Democrats hesitated and dithered.<

Today in Drudge:

http://www.drudgereport.com/  Headline at 8:41 a.m.

>White House Is Said to Debate '08 Cut in Iraq Troops by 50%<

It would be sadly ironic, wouldn't it if G.W.Bush manages to bring the troops home...and keep the military bases in place.  In other words the Republicans will end the war -- which is very kind of them ...I mean we Democrats don't want to appear weak....and  I guess the Republicans can end the war and still look strong.

by jd2 2007-05-26 07:00AM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

My preferred framing for a while now has been "the Republican war on Iraqis", at least since last november, that is the way I generally refer to the fiasco.

"on Iraqis" because the only measurable accomplishment of accomplished mission, it sole effect so far is dead Iraqis...certainly not WMD, certainly not the vanquishing of Al Qaida, certainly not bringing a stable working democracy to Iraq

by greensmile 2007-05-26 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

A very thought provoking post.

What I don't understand about our community is the reflexive opposition to Democrats who have voted on every previous effort in this Congress to end the war.  

Jack Reed, Joe Biden, Carl Levin, Sherrod Brown, Klobuchar, these folks aren't hawks, but they do seem to make a distinction between making a point and making a decision.  Democrats passed the right bill, the President vetoed it and based on the Reid-Feingold vote, Democrats clearly didn't have the votes to either override the veto or resend an alternative.  So they had a decision to make, and as much as we claim that decision was to "support the war", I believe that they made a decision to co-opt the GOP effort to deride Democrats for not supporting the troops which will be crucial if we are to competitive in red states for Sen and Pres in 08.
I am concerned that while we won the battle in getting almost all of the Pres candidates to vote "with us" we may have a hand in contributing to their defeat or at least making our effort to win that much harder.

by Tony Rose 2007-05-26 12:28PM | 0 recs
Re: We Always Owned The Iraq War

A very thought provoking post.

What I don't understand about our community is the reflexive opposition to Democrats who have voted on every previous effort in this Congress to end the war.  

Jack Reed, Joe Biden, Carl Levin, Sherrod Brown, Klobuchar, these folks aren't hawks, but they do seem to make a distinction between making a point and making a decision.  Democrats passed the right bill, the President vetoed it and based on the Reid-Feingold vote, Democrats clearly didn't have the votes to either override the veto or resend an alternative.  So they had a decision to make, and as much as we claim that decision was to "support the war", I believe that they made a decision to co-opt the GOP effort to deride Democrats for not supporting the troops which will be crucial if we are to competitive in red states for Sen and Pres in 08.
I am concerned that while we won the battle in getting almost all of the Pres candidates to vote "with us" we may have a hand in contributing to their defeat or at least making our effort to win that much harder.

by Tony Rose 2007-05-26 12:29PM | 0 recs

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