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March 16, 2007

Today's Emotion: V. V. V. V. V. V. Cautiously Optimistic

I'm encouraged to see the big online liberal organizations are getting involved in the fight over the current supplemental appropriations bill. It's important that they're making trouble for the Democrats on this.

FIRST: True Majority is asking people to write to their representatives to tell them to vote no on the bill next week, because it doesn't do enough to stop the war. You can do so here.

SECOND: Moveon is stepping up their campaign "Congress Must Rein In Bush on Iran," with a full page ad (pdf) in the Washington Post. Whether it's connected to this or not, Pelosi has now "quietly promised" that—after folding on attaching it to the supplemental appropriations—she'll introduce a freestanding bill prohibiting Bush from attacking Iran.

We're a million miles away from what politics should be in the U.S. But you start where you are. Which in my case is in an Einstein Bros. bagel store.

Posted at March 16, 2007 08:54 PM | TrackBack

I'm not getting why that's even necessary, much less any kind of concession, since the Jones and DeFazio bills are already there with a bunch of cosponsors.

She ought to be "quietly promising" to lean on that AIPAC shill Lantos to let them out of committee and bring them to the floor. But I guess this is more 'way of the world' stuff: the little guys do the groundwork and the leaders take the glory.

Posted by: Nell at March 16, 2007 11:33 PM

Also, while I agree I'm cheered not to see the online organizations not just going along, this current situation is a free-for-all.

TrueMajority is urging a no vote, while the site and coalition that they're part of is promoting something that doesn't really describe the current bill.

I wish I were in an Einstein Brothers bagel shop. Maybe I'd be happier.

Posted by: Nell at March 16, 2007 11:55 PM

i would like the bill to read,

"we the congress will agree to authorize the executive branch to use force to disarm iran if the president and the vice president resign immediately as a show of good faith"

sort of a symbolic impeachment.

Posted by: hibiscus at March 17, 2007 12:27 AM

I hope they're spelling it "rein".

Posted by: darrelplant at March 17, 2007 01:24 AM

The Aleister Crowley Faust Alan Moore motto has 5 Vs, not 6. (I know you meant something else, I just have no clue what.)

Posted by: hf at March 17, 2007 03:36 AM

@darrel: They are. It's on the website again, at the top of 'current campaigns'.

Posted by: Nell at March 17, 2007 10:02 AM

I sincerely (desperately) hope these all work to stop this adventureism. Surely enough blood has been shed. The people of Iraq are going to be killing each other and us, and we them for a while, perhaps that can satisfy AMERICA'S thirst for now. It's what were paying for.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 17, 2007 12:51 PM

Act now to stop war and eat bagels!

(with lox!)

Posted by: Rojo at March 17, 2007 04:38 PM

TrueMajority polled its members before urging a 'no' vote. Now MoveOn is doing the same thing. Email I received today:

We've got a big decision coming up this week, and we need to make it together, as a community.

As early as Wednesday, the House may vote on a Democratic proposal on Iraq. The proposal was put together by Speaker Pelosi and Congressmen Obey and Murtha. It is going to be a close vote—the Republicans are against it and some conservative Democrats are uncomfortable with the bill.

Most, but not all, of the progressives in Congress are planning on voting for the bill. These progressives, like many of us, don't think the bill goes far enough, but see it as the first concrete step to ending the war. And President Bush is threatening to veto it for the same reason.

I've told Rep. Murtha that this was a decision for MoveOn's members to make. Now I'm asking you to help make it. Should we support or oppose the Democrats' plan?

The choices are 'Support', 'Not sure', and 'Oppose'. First vote counts. Responders have a chance to elaborate their position with comments. I allowed as how my preferred scenario would be for leadership to allow a vote _before_ the vote on their proposal on Rep. Lee's "fully funded withdrawal" measure. That might clear the way for a few more progressive votes for the leadership version, since it's easier to settle for half a loaf if you've had a shot at the whole loaf.

I look forward to learning how the vote went; I hope they'll be transparent enough to give the actual numbers for each position.

Posted by: Nell at March 18, 2007 03:20 PM

The MoveOn ad sucks. The message is that the US shouldn't attack Iran because of all the things Iran can do in retaliation to hurt the US--and Israel, which apparently rates a special mention, as though it is the 51st state. The subject of every sentence in this list of what Iran can do is "it". So Iran is reduced to an "it" which is of concern only because it has the capacity to hurt American and Israel. Not a beautiful land populated by 70 million people (2/3 under the age of 30), with thousands of years of recorded history, a rich cultural heritage, a high literacy rate, a vibrant, dynamic and thriving civil society (which incurious self-centered brainwashed Americans are too ignorant to know or care about), and btw, no WMD or aggressive intentions towards the US. Oh, and I love the little extra bit in the final line: "Congress must not allow the president to attack Iran WITHOUT THEIR AUTHORIZATION." So if Congress gives permission, like they did with Iraq, well, that's all right then.

And I also love MoveOn's blurb about the Iraq War Anniversary Vigil: "We’ll solemnly honor the sacrifice made by more than 3,000 servicemen and women..." Because of course it's all about America, and American lives "sacrificed" (I believe the proper word is "wasted"). Never mind Iraqis.

Fuck you, America, and fuck you, MoveOn.

Now, pass the bagels, please.

Posted by: Jean at March 19, 2007 05:20 AM

Jean, your points about the way the arguments are framed in the MoveOn/PSR ad is correct, as far as they go. But don't you think your scorn is better poured on those who oppose legislation to assert Congressional war powers, rather than those who are actively working to pass it?

Maybe this anecdote from Phyllis Bennis at the United for Peace & Justice lobby day training on January 28 helps explain why the ad has the emphasis it does: Last fall, she and several other left and antiwar experts were called in by members of the progressive and Out of Iraq caucus -- the closest thing we have to friends in Congress -- to brief them and lead a discussion about policy toward Iran.

After laying out the evidence that the Bush administration is planning airstrikes against Iran, Bennis asked the members of Congress: "How do you think Iran will respond?" The answer truly stunned her. They said they hadn't thought about that. After recovering her balance, Bennis listed a variety of the retaliations availabe to Iran. Antiwar members of Congress had never really considered what Iran might do if attacked.

You and I both believe that there is a huge moral component to foreign and military policy, that it is criminal and wrong to contemplate, much less carry out, the murder of hundreds of thousands of people. But (and Bennis made this point in her UfPJ briefing, too) that argument carries almost no weight at all with members of Congress.

A veteran of a decade of lobbying Congresspeople to end funding for the U.S. war in El Salvador, I'm here to tell you that's absolutely true.

As with issues of torture and human rights, I'm prepared to offer every argument that has a chance of having an effect. I'm not going to avoid making the moral case, but I'm also quite willing to make the tactical, legal, and strategic cases as well.

Where discussion with friends, family, and co-workers is concerned, it's important to use both pragmatic and moral arguments. These are people in a personal relationship with you, who will take seriously your deeply held beliefs if you discuss them with respect. But members of Congress are not in a personal relationship with you. They respond to power (numbers, votes, money) and pragmatic policy arguments (why bill X is good for their district or for the country).

Don't let that stop you from making the human and moral case for what you're asking, but don't expect that to be enough. And please don't give up on allies, much less turn on them, simply because they use pragmatic arguments.

Posted by: Nell at March 19, 2007 01:58 PM


Interesting/horrifying story re Bennis.

Where discussion with friends, family, and co-workers is concerned, it's important to use both pragmatic and moral arguments.

Yes. In fact, I'd say using only moral arguments actually is, in the final analysis, immoral. People are built so that only when they understand the practical implications will they even be able to hear/understand moral claims. If you don't recognize and work with that, your efforts are basically just personal vanity.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at March 19, 2007 02:39 PM

I know, Nell, I know, and I appreciate and respect your explanation above and even more, your efforts to nudge things in the right direction using all means and arguments available. For a variety of reasons, including geographical, I am no longer able or willing to accept the framing of the issues foisted on Americans by the sorry realities of American politics. I like the work of Bennis and IPS; her February 15th talking points on Iran are right on the money. But I have a very low opinion of MoveOn. While living in Indiana from 2002-2004, I traveled twice to the Indianapolis office of Senator Lugar as part of a MoveOn delegation, before and after the invasion of Iraq. But that organization has time and again (and especially during election campaigns) revealed itself as nothing more than a lobbying group and PAC for the Democratic Party (which I have an even lower opinion of), willing to go silent or timid when it comes to calling for real action to end the war, because this might put leading Democrats in an awkward position. As for these current actions—call it a pet peeve of mine, or the perspective of someone outside the US who considers the lives of Iranians and Iraqis to be just as worthy as those of Americans, but it irks me no end to see this dimension completely excluded from both the Iran and Iraq texts. Plus the careful choice of the word “sacrifice” in “we’ll solemnly honor the sacrifice made by more than 3,000 servicemen and women”—this makes it sound like they died in the pursuit of some noble cause, which buys directly into the Bushies’ narrative of the war, which we all know is bullshit.

Invading Iraq was wrong. Invading Iran is wrong. A country that commits such acts, murdering, maiming, and traumatizing hundreds of thousands if not millions, destroying a country, ravaging a society, is a pariah and an outlaw. This is why humans have developed institutions like international law and Geneva Conventions and war crimes tribunals—to try to prevent such acts from being committed, and to punish those who flout the agreed on civilized norms and commit them anyway. These institutions and arguments have a moral underpinning, and for most of us, the immorality of these acts is sufficient reason not to commit them. But I guess that line of reasoning doesn’t count for squat if you’re lobbying in a political environment poisoned by the bipartisan ideology of American supremacism and exceptionalism. So you’re forced to shift attention instead to the cost America would incur when the victims of its aggression retaliate.

Posted by: Jean at March 19, 2007 05:42 PM

MoveOn are merely beards for the party, I agree. More evidence is their decision, 24 hours after polling their members by email, to back the Dem leadership's version of the supplemental funding bill. Tom Mazzie professed to be unable to cite the vote tally -- I call bullshit.

Greg Sargent promises to try to pry the numbers out of them, but I figure they put the 'not sure' option into their vote for a reason: to be able to put those votes on the side of going ahead to do what they wanted to do, back the Dem bill.

I'm only inches from where you are, Jean, and envy you being outside this poisonous fog right now. Here's to future tribunals!

Posted by: Nell at March 19, 2007 11:36 PM

Yes, MoveOn is really disappointing (I could use stronger/ruder words, but I'm feeling more restrained today). After I posted here last night I got an alert from Voters for Peace about the MoveOn vote, and also read the Stauber/Rampton article:

Norman Solomon has written some good critiques as well.

Do you have a link for Greg Sargent?

Right, here's to tribunals, then. And to the US paying Nicaragua the reparations already awarded by the verdict of the International Court of Justice. (Let's just leave it at that--I'll refrain from finishing with a snarky cynical comment)

All the best to you, Nell. And the others here as well.

Posted by: Jean at March 20, 2007 03:31 AM

Thanks very much for the link to the Rampton and Stauber piece, Jean; I wouldn't have seen it otherwise. It explains a lot.

Posted by: Nell at March 20, 2007 07:50 AM