The public announcement stated, “Democratic Policy Committee Announces Major Iraq Oversight Effort; Hearings to Identify Changes Necessary to Move Forward in Iraq.” And so last Monday, September 25th, a colonel and two generals, all retired from the military, all Iraq war veterans, testified before a C-Span-televised, Democrats-only Senate hearing.
There were a number of good things said by the colonel and the two generals about how badly the war was planned for and run. It was interesting to hear them report that, overwhelmingly, top levels of the U.S. military are very upset with Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney.
However, when Hillary Clinton asked what turned out to be the last question, “What do you think about the idea of setting a date by which U.S. troops would withdraw?,” not one of them had anything good to say. Earlier in the hearing the colonel had said we should plan to be in Iraq for another 10 years. Though the generals didn’t use that number, they made it clear that they thought the U.S.A. had an obligation to stay as long as necessary, until there was a stable, U.S.-friendly Iraqi government.
None of the other Senate Democrats responded. Hillary and the former brass got in the last word, although once the hearing was officially adjourned and C-Span coverage was wrapping up, a woman’s voice from the audience was heard to say something like, “There is no way to peace except through peace; end the war now.”
Does this latest example of Democratic Party pro-war-ism mean that, as some on the Left believe, when it comes to the war, it makes no difference whether the Democrats win one or more houses of Congress on November 7th?
No, it doesn’t mean that. There are differences between the Republicans and Democrats. Primarily, the Republicans are the ones who are brazen in pushing their repressive and warlike agenda. The Democrats usually go along with much of that agenda, trying to smooth over the hard edges, unless there is strong, independent grassroots pressure which forces them to do something different.
You can count on the Republican Party to do the wrong thing virtually always.
You can count on the Democratic Party to be weak in its positions on many major issues, absent that mass pressure and even with it, far too many times.
That is why we must continue to be about the work of building both a strong “The Bushites Must Go” movement and an issue-oriented, independent political movement that over time can develop into an explicit and strong alternative to both parties of empire, war and injustice.
But the U.S. peace movement needs to be doing more than just calling for U.S. troops to be brought home, a dismantling of U.S. military bases in Iraq and economic aid-reparations-to rebuild a shattered country. It must also demand an end to U.S. support of Israel’s illegal occupation and U.S. support of repressive Arab regimes, and it must call for urgent steps toward a clean energy revolution.
There will be no U.S.-imposed military solution in the Middle East that bring peace. There will be no end to widespread and justified anger at the U.S. throughout that region-and no end to terrorism-until the U.S. changes its oil-imperialistic policies that have put it on the side of injustice and oppression for decades.
And to those who say that our economy needs all that oil and natural gas, we must say that you are wrong. You are wrong because the burning of oil, gas and coal is dangerously over-heating our planet, and it must be drastically reduced as soon as possible. And you are wrong because there are concrete alternatives.
Wind power is economically competitive with the cheapest fossil fuel, coal, and the U.S. has several times the amount of wind needed to provide for all of our electricity needs.
Solar power technology is rapidly advancing in quality and lowering in price. There is tremendous waste of energy; estimates are that between energy conservation and efficiency measures, we could reduce our use of it by between 30-50% with no real economic downside other than for greedy and short-sighted oil and energy corporations.
Indeed, the worldwide clean energy revolution will see many square miles of solar energy collectors installed in the deserts of the Middle East, providing clean and renewable energy and decreasing the need for dependence upon oil on the part of Arab governments.
There is no other option. The issues interconnect. An end to endless war, torture and repression will be built upon demanding justice for Palestinians and wind, solar and other renewable energy as much as by the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the shutting down of U.S. bases.
Unfortunately, the progressive movement in the US is not yet strong enough to elect a government which makes this approach central to its policy agenda. That is why we need to engage in both on-going grassroots organizing and public, demonstrative actions that encourage people to stand up, to speak out and to vote come Nov. 7th. We need to keep visible the reality of a progressive movement that makes the connections and focuses on the issues, that keeps us on the path toward that powerful independent political alternative.
Fortunately, there are two nationally-coordinated actions happening before Nov. 7th for people to participate in. One, organized by Not In Our Name and the World Can’t Wait
(www.worldcantwait.org) is happening in a few days, on October 5th. This is a very timely day for action, coming right after the U.S. Congress voted to allow Bush to decide upon what interrogation tactics are “legal,” suspended habeus corpus for anyone he and his people consider to be supporters of “hostilities against the U.S.,” and provided for blanket amnesty from prosecution of all who order or practice torture, past, present and future.
And about five weeks from now, in 45 or more countries around the world, there will be an International Day of Climate Action (www.globalclimatecampaign.org) on November 4th, just before a major U.N. climate change conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Organizing is taking place in the USA, and there will be many localities where actions will take place.
Coming right before the election, this is a way for us to remind voters about a key issue they should keep in mind when they vote, as well as to participate in a critically-important international grassroots movement.
To paraphrase, there is no way to peace; peace, justice and clean energy are the way.