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No Reason for Optimism on Iraq/Democrats Haven’t Helped

July 19, 2007

an op ed piece by Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince
Denver, July 19,2007

(Kazerooni is an Imam for the Muslim Communityh in Denver. He is also the executive director of the Abrahamic Initiative, a Denver based inter-faith dialogue. Prince teaches International Studies at the University of Denver. He publishes the Colorado Progressive Jewish News [www.cpjnews.com])
It is very unlikely, despite a substantial majority of Americans now opposing the war in Iraq, that the United States will soon be leaving.

Remember the euphoric atmosphere that prevailed after it became clear that the Democrats had won control of both houses? The election results combined with the release of the Baker-Hamilton Report suggested that the United States might change course in Iraq. Eight months later, if anything the situation has gotten worse with no improvement in sight. There were high hopes among many that the war in Iraq might soon end as the message to President Bush was quite clear: Get Out Now!

Call it cynicism or realism but we were not particularly surprised that the situation on the ground in Iraq has only gotten worse.

Our assessment then (as now) was that the U.S. had accomplished its goals in Iraq and was unlikely to make any fundamental changes. The Bush Administration had overthrown Saddam, established a network of elaborate military bases in the country from which it could monitor events in Iraq and beyond. It had destroyed an oil producing nationalist regime and sent a warning to others. It was in the process (still) of pushing through an oil law, model for the future, which would open up the country to private oil companies, reversing several decades of nationalist control of oil production. All that had been done with largely bi-partisan support.

So when the Democrats won a decisive victory in the November elections we could not quite understand the rational for the euphoria. While the Democrats did not start the war in Iraq, from the outset in the aftermath of the September 11 attack, they went along with virtually every move towards war. How can people expect the Democrats to do anything constructive and concrete given their history, a history of which few of them can be proud?

Weren’t most Democrats involved, along with Republicans in authorizing this unjust and illegal occupation of Iraq? Weren’t they a key part of a Congress that didn’t challenge the Bush Administration’s bogus claims of evidence (weapons of mass destruction, al Qaeda links) – that amounted to little more than fabrication and lies – to justify occupying a country that posed no threat to any one? Weren’t these the same Democrats who voted for both the Patriot Act and its extension, which has done much to undermine civil rights in the name of fighting terrorism? Weren’t these the same Democrats who sheepishly followed the administration’s lead in every step of its efforts to legitimize and sell this illegal war to the American people?

So why such high expectations from these politicians after the November election? Did people expect a miraculous transformation or some kind of political epiphany? Apart from few national and local Democrats (Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Ken Gordon) with a conscience, the rest had sold their souls for few pieces of silver and considered doing anything as “un-patriotic”. The record was clear enough, but, given crumbs and empty promises, many people still `find a way to believe’.

To understand the depth of the problem, we need to go back to the period before the last election and remind ourselves of the promises that most Democratic candidates made about ending the war only to dismiss them after the election. Remember the talk on impeachment, of withholding funds and all other steps? Some Democrats tried to claim ignorance when they were criticized for voting for the war. Are they still ignorant about what is happing in Iraq now?
It is with such a history in mind that the recent efforts to force the Bush Administration to set a deadline for troop withdrawal from Iraq are viewed with considerable cynicism.

Although they create a sense of drama in Congress and give the appearance that `something’ (but what?” is being done in Iraq, a closer inspection suggests the debate is not especially serious. At the same time Democrats and Republicans throw harmless barbs at each other, 14 major US military bases are being built in Iraq, four of which compare to medium sized American cities – modern versions of crusader fortresses of yore. The US might pull back some from Iraqi cities, but these bases, first called `enduring’ to avoid the more apt term `permanent’ are not coming down anytime soon.

They and the US military are in Iraq to stay.

So is there a reason for optimism? We do not believe so.

The Democratic Party in the US is going through a crisis similar to what the Labor Party in UK went through in the late 80’s and early 90’s, a crisis of “electability.” How to become “electable” has become the only goal for the Democrats, not as a mean to serve the people, but as an end in itself. This crisis has paralyzed the Democratic members of the House into doing nothing concrete at all to change the current American foreign policy and to remedy its on-going tragic and violent consequences. The superficial attempt earlier this year to force this administration to think of an exit strategy was to appear to be doing soothing, in other words, a P.R. exercise.

In the absence of miracle and in the line of the current paralysis that has taken over the Democratic Party, what can we, the American people do to end the violence and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and to prevent another one being stated? It is highly unlikely that the upcoming Democratic Party convention in Denver next summer will change this situation. And miracles don’t happen often in Denver.

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