Monday, January 8, 2007
They have failed to take on the principal reason they were elected and, tragically, the US public is unlikely to force them to
Monday January 8, 2007
"........In an attempt to intervene between the supine and the stubborn, the Iraq Study Group last month offered Bush a stern rebuke - but also a way out. This week it will receive his response as he plans to rebuff popular opinion, political opposition and establishment advice and call for a "surge" of between 20,000 and 40,000 troops in Iraq to "stabilise" the situation. The word surge, like every other premise for this war, is misleading. It suggests a brief increase when, in fact, his advisers have told him the extra troops would have to be there for at least 18 months.
"Clearly, this is not a move to shift public opinion," explains Gelpi. "The only thing that Bush can do to turn around public opinion is turn around the situation on the ground. It's a gamble. It's his last chance. This is about his legacy." As such, it poses a clear challenge to the Democratic Congress's legitimacy and to America's democratic political culture.
For if the Democratic Congress is unwilling to use any means at its disposal to fulfil its democratic mandate, then it will be left to the public to make their displeasure known. It is two years and tens of thousands of lives, some of them American, before the next presidential election. The American people clearly don't want this. A CBS poll last month showed that 18% wanted to see an increase in troop levels compared with 59% who want them either decreased or withdrawn completely. The question is: what are they going to do about it?
The tragic answer is probably nothing. For while opposition to the occupation is clearly broad, its depth is more difficult to fathom. "It's rare when people seriously publicly engage," says Leslie Cagan, the national coordinator of the largest anti-war organisation, United for Peace and Justice. "They watch it on TV, they read about it in the newspapers. They get angry, but that doesn't necessarily mean they engage. So it's difficult to know the depth of feeling."
We have been here before. Sensing the unpopularity of the war in Vietnam, Nixon stood for the presidency in 1968 claiming he had a secret plan to end the conflict. It was so secret the Vietnamese hadn't even heard of it. There was no doubt that feelings ran deep then, but it would be another seven years before American troops withdrew. "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" a young John Kerry asked the Senate foreign relations committee in 1971. We have long known it was a mistake. Sadly, the last person to die for it is still a long way off. "