Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Tom Hayden:
The leadership of the Democratic Party this week issued a unified position calling for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq before the end of 2006.

The import of this decision is a Democratic Party willingness to draw the line in the November elections against the White House position of “staying the course.” That means Iraq will be the battleground for the American elections in 2006, although events in Lebanon will alter the equation in unknown ways.

The Democrats’ new unified position is a result of angry public opinion, anti-Iraq electoral campaigns, the mobilizations of the peace movement, and inside advocacy by the “Out of Iraq” Caucus and the Democratic-oriented think tank, Center for American Progress [CAP].

The new platform reflects the recent compromise between those Democrats demanding a withdrawal deadline, and those supporting a deadline for beginning to withdraw.

Of the several pillars required to sustain a war, this means the Democrats are pulling down the pillar of bipartisan unity, taking the political cover away from Republicans and Democratic hawks like Joseph Lieberman. The other pillars – public opinion, troop morale and availability, Congressional funding, international allies, and moral reputation – already are strained to the breaking point.
The peace movement, and autonomous anti-electoral movements more generally, will not be satisfied with anything less than “immediate withdrawal” and will be extremely suspicious at any channeling of public discontent into political channels. Their concerns are valid, while also limiting their ability to take credit and capitalize on the breakthrough.

Common ground may lie in the fact that the debate over Iraq, now partisan, will intensify as November approaches. At this point, neither the Republican Party nor the mainstream media have taken a position that withdrawal must begin this year. The stakes are very high, which may draw groups like Move.On and others into the battle for public opinion in key battleground states.

As to the issue of partial versus complete withdrawal, all that can said for now is that partial withdrawal begins a threatening, and perhaps irreversible, disengagement from the Bush and neo-conservative agenda in Iraq. But it could stall.

If the Republican prevail, or perform above expectations in November, the new Democratic unity could fray after the elections.

In the meantime, a delegation of peace activists, including myself, departs this week for Amman, Jordan, for meetings with official Iraqi parliamentarians and human rights activists to discuss the Iraqis proposals for reconciliation. These proposals, including amnesties for many insurgents forces, are crucial to any negotiated settlement in Iraq. Recently, both Democrats and Republicans have expressed strong political concerns about amnesty for anyone involved in fighting the US occupation. An immediate challenge facing the peace movement will be to argue that amnesties always have been included in comprehensive settlements, including the amnesty for Jefferson Davis at the end of the American civil war.

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