Dec 23, 2006

Congress, the Voters & a Peace Plan

Congress, the Voters & a Peace Plan
By Brent Budowsky December 23, 2006
Editor's Note: When American voters overturned the Republican majorities in the House and Senate on Nov. 7, one of the key messages was pretty clear -- the people wanted the war in Iraq wound down and the 140,000 American occupation troops brought home.
A month later, the voters' consensus was largely reflected in the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton. The group proposed a gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces, direct talks with Iran and Syria, and a serious bid to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Now, more than two weeks later, President George W. Bush has mostly ignored the voters' message, spurned the advice of the Iraq Study Group and appears headed toward an escalation -- or "surge" -- in U.S. troop levels in Iraq. In this guest essay, political analyst Brent Budowsky says Bush's apparent course has laid down a challenge to Democrats and Republicans who want peace:
Memo to Democratic Leaders In Congress, Democratic Presidential Candidates, and Statesmanlike Republicans:
In December of 2006 the United States stands on the brink of a historic miscalculation that could translate a catastrophe in Iraq into a region-wide conflagration, even more deadly than the status quo.As President Bush prepares to announce the policies that will define the final two years of his presidency, what I propose privately and now publicly is this:First, that the President initiate -- and Congress require as a condition for support -- a credible and legitimate attempt to broker a broader and comprehensive Middle East peace.Specifically I suggest that the President state -- and Congressional leaders urge him to state -- that he is sending former Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton on a Middle East peace listening tour. They would meet with Israelis and governments throughout the region, to determine how they define their security needs, consider creative policies to bridge differences, and report back to the President and Congress their findings and suggestions about the possibilities to escalate the search for peace.We should be escalating the search for peace, not stirring the winds of war. A grateful Nation, a generation of young people, and our allies everywhere would applaud the honorable beginning of an American President naming two former Presidents to initiate this effort and explore the opportunities.It is time to end this dialectic of death and offer a better way. Second, regarding Iraq, I suggest Democratic Leaders in Congress and senior Republicans such as Senators John Warner and Chuck Hagel publicly state that the policies announced in the President's plan should be a clear, direct de-escalation of the conflict, not yet another escalation.If the President announces what he appears to be poised to announce, which would be a new escalation in Iraqi without any credible policy for peace in the Middle East, or regional talks including Iraq and her neighbors, it would be a disaster for the United States and for both political parties.The reason the overwhelming majority of our American commanders in truth oppose the escalation, by advising against the troop surge in Iraq, is this:Bluntly, those advocating the troop surge, do so for one of three reasons, all of them militarily mistaken. Some favor the surge to give open support to the Shi'ites against the Sunnis in the civil war they state does not exist. Others favor the surge to support one group of Shi'ites against another group of Shi'ites to make the United States a partisan warrior in sectarian murder between Iraqi Shi'ites. Another group that favors the surge wants our Army and Marine Corps to become the new Iraqi police. This would not only be disastrous military policy but it would be Orwellian politics at home, with contempt for what American voters expressed in the last election, guaranteed to create major divisions within both parties, and create even more disgust by the American people against business as usual in Washington.In the hours before the Congressional election virtually every candidate in both political parties was promising to give general support to the Baker-Hamilton Commission, whose basic policy direction was known months before the election.How many candidates in either political party promised this on election day: "If you vote for me I will support escalating the war in Iraq. I will support overruling the strong majority of our commanders who oppose such an escalation, I will oppose any serious regional diplomacy, I will oppose any significant search for broader Middle East peace, I will support using our troops to do the job of the Iraqi police, intervening to support sides in an Iraqi civil war, and I will show contempt for all Republicans and Democrats on Baker Hamilton?
It is Kafkaesque and Orwellian, as though the American election did not happen, as though the will of the voters does not matter, as though the commitments of candidates in both parties the day before the election mean nothing the day after the election.There have been signs from some Democratic Leaders and some senior Republicans that they want a better way, though they have let the President decide the terms of debate that are now exclusively focused on an escalation that the voters did not want, that the candidates promised not to do, that our commanders now oppose, that our NATO allies warn against.To Democratic Leaders in Congress: the best position in advance of the President's speech is to state that they will support a policy that seeks a genuine prospect for diplomacy and political solutions throughout the Middle East and in Iraq.And: that they will support de-escalation, and oppose any escalation, that prolongs and expands the catastrophe in Iraq. Otherwise Democrats surrender the high and proper ground won in the election in a manner that will divide the Democratic Party and be disastrous for the Nation.To Republican Senators such as John Warner and Chuck Hagel: you have both expressed support for dramatic changes in policy and the time to make your stand, publicly, is now in advance of the President's speech. Otherwise Republicans will continue the politics of acceptance that is not only bad for the Nation but will be disastrous for your party, which will be known in 2008 and for a generation as the Party of the disastrous Iraq war, as Herbert Hoover was known for generations as leading the Party of the Depression.To Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John Edwards, Tom Vilsak, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark, Chris Dodd, Al Gore and any potential candidates for the Presidency, now is the time to draw a line in the sand, in clear and decisive terms.For six full years the United States of America has abandoned the role that every previous President, from both parties, conservative to liberal, has advanced since 1948. It is not enough to draw shades of distinction from a policy rooted in disaster. It is not enough to engage a debate between those who favor a major escalation, those who favor a minor escalation, and those maneuvering around which terms will make acceptable whatever escalation they might reluctantly support.Again: we must end this dialectic of death, this choice between competing versions of failure. This is not what every previous American President has stood for; this is not what the Democratic Party stands for; this is not what the voters spoke in favor of, loudly and clearly, in the 2006 elections.In the Democratic Congress and the campaign of 2008, we should begin battle of ideas at home, with a new dialectic of democracy that honors what voters have called for, and offers change and hope, to lift our vision and our leadership.It is time for those who aspire to be the next President, commander in chief and leader of the free world to issue a clarion call to a new and better way that the advances American power to serve our higher interests, sustain our higher values, and inspire the young generation which deserves to inherit nota permanent war, but a better world.It is time for someone to step forward and lead the charge to seek a true Middle East peace, to call for the first serious steps in the hard but vital mission of ending the cycle of war, poverty, anguish, despair and death.If the United States sends Presidents Bush 41 and Clinton on a listening tour, in search of a new path to peace, they would be met with a resounding call for change and hope from people throughout the region and the world.It is a hard and tough road, indeed, but a road we must urgently begin to travel.This must not be a debate between one way of war versus another; between which terms of escalating bloodshed we will choose; or between a policy of no hope, versus a policy of timidity continuing the carnage.The American people have just voted for a whole new and better way. The American people are right, and await a leader with the courage to lead.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky can be reached at
brentbbi@webtv.net.

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1 comment:

Kat said...

Merry Solstice!