January 27, 2007

Today In DC: This One Counts!

[Some thoughts on the current conjuncture, triggered by reading the FRSO/OSCL statement,
"Deepen the Struggle to Defund the War"]

Who here hasn’t felt the momentum and intensity growing as today’s demonstration against the occupation of Iraq drew closer? I think this reflects many people’s sense, perhaps unconscious, that we are in a very unusual situation. In fact, popular mobilizations right now have the potential to have far greater impact than they might normally.

Briefly, the powers-that-be in the US are finally starting to face the fact that they are in a box--they can’t afford to leave Iraq and they can’t afford to stay in Iraq. And they can’t find anyone with a relatively painless plan to get them out of the box. The dilemma is reflected in the new Congress, where the Democratic majority wants to appear strongly anti-Bush, anti-escalation, even anti-war, but is unwilling—so far--to take decisive action to bring the troops home.

With no program for ending the debacle claiming big momentum so far, it’s up to us, the people of this country, to take the initiative. Our demands will be heard, because they cannot at this point be subsumed into or co-opted by mealy-mouthed, half-stepping, hidden-agenda-laden political projects. If we mobilize broadly and struggle intelligently we can shape in significant degree how this issue gets debated, resolved and brought to a close.

How do we come to be in this interesting conjuncture?

The wholesale rejection of the Republicans in November, fueled more than anything else by a rejection of the war and occupation, created a set of expectations in broad sections of the people that now things would have to change. These expectations were further fed by the dumping of Rumsfeld and the media ballyhoo around the Iraq Study Group report, a complex and worthless plan aimed mainly at covering Bush's ass while it steered him toward a draw-down of troops.

But as the year ended, the Dems showed no signs of doing anything substantive toward ending the war, and Bush was treating the report with evident scorn, increasing popular unease.

Then three things hit hard within a ten day span. First, the botched execution of Saddam (a reminder that the "goal" of dumping him was a worthless one). Second, the death of the 3000th US troop.

Finally, Bush's announcement of "the surge." November’s "anti-war" majority in the 2006 elections had somehow morphed into an escalation in practice. This galvanized broad sentiment that something must be done to stop him and start ending the occupation.

All of this has put the Congressional Democrats in a bind. Their plan was to do the "First 100 Hours" thing of spending January passing popular legislative gimmes, and let Iraq slide as long as possible. Instead, they have been forced to face the issue squarely and watch their big legislative program rendered a sideshow. Now they, along with many Republicans in Congress, are scrambling to figure out what to do.

As argued above, their confusion reflects the confusion in ruling class circles, where the ugly truth can no longer be ducked. The high and mighty cannot afford the catastrophic defeat of leaving Iraq and all that lovely oil and the global power a hand on that spigot carries with it. But they can't afford to stay and become global pariahs while their crisis of legitimation at home deepens and their military rolls toward the breaking point. Finally, like Congress, they have no unity on a way forward.

In such a situation the role of the people becomes key, and our ability to shape the course of events greater.

Let me draw three conclusions from this rough-hewn analysis.

First, this is a time for unstinting activity. However successful January 27 turns out to be, people must redouble anti-war activism at a local level. It would be most desirable if United for Peace & Justice (UFPJ) or a "supergroup"-style coalition like the one assembled at the call of US Labor Against the War in Spring 2006 were to put out a call for an Iraq Moratorium. One day a month where millions of people do something, as much as they are individually prepared to do, against the war, even if that's just signing a petition or calling a Congressional office. Collective actions like vigils or teach-ins are better, militant actions like high school blowouts or building occupations better still (though here clarity around why some person or institution is a target is particularly important).

Second, the target at the moment is Congress. The current situation, with various proposals being floated and entered as bills, is okay for a few more days, but there is a grave danger that "bipartisan compromise" will produce only toothless non-binding resolutions. Never mind holding Congressional feet to the fire, we must run a blowtorch across their soles, demanding a cutoff of funds for the occupation and/or a binding termination of the war powers act or a similar constraint on continuing the occupation. The militant campaign being waged in Scaramento to force Representative Doris Matsui (D) to do the right thing is one impressive model for such an effort.

Third, any resolution of this before 2009, which would be a delay for which history will not forgive us, will involve a final confrontation with the Bush administration. Though not yet the most likely scenario, a real rather than symbolic Congressional stand—be it rescinding war powers or defunding or something else--would doubtless become a Constitutional crisis, as the Preznit refuses to comply. Things could move very quickly toward impeachment, resignation, a "health crisis" or some other resolution if a majority gels in ruling circles that the guy is simply too great a liability to have around for another two years. That said, the main focus at present must remain on Congress and on the demand to end the occupation and bring the troops home now. Slogans and organizing around impeachment help prepare the terrain for a showdown as Bush and his regime grow more isolated, but we still have to win the immediate battle to get to that one.

There’s more to be said on tactics, outreach, slogans and other vital questions, but I have a 5:15 ayem bus to catch...


Anonymous said...

i call for city-wide strikes

Anonymous said...

we have to give them a way to leave and also save face

Jimmy Higgins said...

I think in this brief comment lynneart has captured the sentiment of many in the anti-war movement. I want to unite with two of the things she calls for here. First is the "city-wide" aspect. If nobody is prepared to call a national Iraq Moratorium yet, it certainly couldn't hurt to have some medium-sixed city with a strong locally-organized anti-war movement pull one off as a model.

The other part is "strikes." While I personally don't favor calling strikes that aren't gonna happen, what this is really calling for is creating a situation of "ungovernability" as a way to deepen the crisis of legitimation in the ruling class, so the costs of continuing the war become greater for them than the costs of losing it (which are considerable).