May will likely set a new high for American deaths in Iraq. On Memorial Day alone, 10 more U.S. soldiers were killed, joining more than a hundred others who have died this month. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress just voted to authorize more than $100 billion in new spending to continue the Iraq War under the phony excuse of “supporting the troops”—a phrase taken right out of George W. Bush’s playbook. Considering that Democratic majorities were elected last fall specifically to stop the war, it’s no wonder this breach of contract with the voters has outraged our war-weary nation.
To put it in perspective, let’s say you hire someone to build a house for you. Plans are drawn up that show where everything will go, timelines are set for when the foundation will be poured, when the roof goes on, and when you get to move in. You dig deep to meet the significant up-front costs, but it’s all done knowing the terms of your contract will be met. But then, the contractor takes your money and never builds the house…no foundation, no roof, no nothing.
For all practical purposes, that’s exactly what just happened. Voters emptied their pockets to support candidates who ran on the promise to end the wars into which Bush foolishly and scandalously took the nation. “If we knew then what we know now, we wouldn’t have voted with the president” was the well-worn excuse of Democrat incumbents. For their part, the new candidates, knowing now what the incumbents supposedly didn’t know then, pledged to end the war.
Given the polling numbers that showed the populace’s extreme dissatisfaction with the Iraq debacle, it made good electoral sense to be against the war, against the administration’s spying and lying, and against the corruption and collusion of the rubber-stamp, Republican-dominated Congress.
As it turned out, it made good sense indeed, and voters across the nation literally flushed away the Republican Congressional majorities like used toilet paper—and with just as little remorse to see them go down the drain. Even here in Montana we dumped Conrad Burns from his nearly two decades of incumbency and sent Jon Tester, avowed anti-war candidate, to the U.S. Senate, secure in the knowledge that he would do the right thing once he got to D.C.
Well, surprise, surprise. In spite of nearly 70 percent of the populace opposing the war, not only haven’t the Democrats done the right thing, with their vote to continue to fund the senseless slaughter of American troops and countless more Iraqis, they have done exactly the wrong thing. And that says nothing about all the other promises upon which they rode into office—like repealing the Patriot Act—but have since seemed to forget.
First there was the bluster and huff about “The First 100 Days” and how the Democrats were going to remake the corrupted political landscape of Washington, D.C. Then came the series of nonbinding war resolutions that weren’t worth the paper upon which they were written. Then came the brass tacks—actually opening the Treasury’s purse strings once again for what will surely be looked at as one of the worst, most useless mass expenditures of modern times. And finally, stymied by a president whom they should have been able to outsmart, out-strategize, out-poll and out-maneuver, the weak-kneed Democrats instead capitulated completely, even pulling their meaningless, unenforceable “timelines” from the war funding bill and substituting pork appropriations for pet projects. Like tossing popcorn to the pigeons, Bush was able to get all the votes and all the spending he wanted for only a few billion in pork scattered among the Democrats who are supposedly running Congress.
Liberal commentator Keith Olbermann was joined by literally hundreds of other commentators, columnists and editors across the nation in condemning the Democrats for their breach of contract with the American people. Of the spineless Democrat spin thrown out in the aftermath of their disastrous vote, Olbermann nailed it: “The Democratic leadership has, in sum, claimed a compromise with the administration, in which the only things truly compromised are the trust of the voters, the ethics of the Democrats and the lives of our brave, and doomed, friends and family in Iraq.”
But wait, cry the Democrats as their angry constituents revolt, we have benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet or there won’t be any more funding beyond September. Oh really. If you want to know what the primary benchmark for the Iraqi government turns out to be, it isn’t anything about the previous fallacies of “exporting Democracy” or “stabilizing the Middle East.” No, it’s about what this war—and the Bush-Cheney cartel—has always been about: oil. The primary benchmark our brave Congressional Democrats included in their war funding bill was the imminent privatization of Iraq’s oil fields—most of which, under the conditions of the bill, are to be opened to corporate plunder.
That Montana’s senior U.S. Sen. Max Baucus would vote for continued war funding is no surprise—he has, after all, given Bush everything he’s asked for on the war. But that Montana’s new senator, Tester, would likewise vote to steal another $100 billion from the future in deficit spending to continue an immoral and un-winnable Iraq War is like a gut punch for all the Montanans who trusted him, supported him and gave him our votes.
In response to one of the many columns prior to the war vote last week, a reader urged that we e-mail our congressional representatives to vote against the war. “Email hell,” wrote another reader, “we voted.” I agree. We paid in advance for what we thought was a contract with those we sent to Congress. But in the end, while Bush is authorizing black ops to destabilize Iran and rattling sabers with aircraft carriers in the Straits of Hormuz, Congressional Democrats, including our own, breached that contract. And that is something we will not forget.
Helena’s George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at firstname.lastname@example.org.