Given the inability of Congress to pass a timeline to withdraw US troops from Iraq or put significant limitations on the funding, the 2008 presidential election could be our best chance to end the US occupation of Iraq as quickly as possible. The public’s deep dismay at the war has made it a defining issue for the presidential race.
We have pushed and will continue to push Congress to force a withdrawal from Iraq. The new Democratic Congress has brought about both progress and frustration in regards to ending the war. Working with slim majorities, particularly in the Senate, the Democratic leadership worked to pass a war-funding bill that tied money for the war to a timeline for withdrawal of troops. The pro-peace movement became outraged when in late Spring 2007, Congress responded to Bush’s veto of the Democrats’ bill with another bill that funded the war without restrictions.
The Democratic leadership responded to pressure with an effort to increase the political cost of supporting the war and gain more votes for withdrawal. Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi took a tough stance, saying that they would only offer funding that included a timeline for withdrawal of US troops. Facing the prospect of a veto for the entire 2008 omnibus spending bill, Congress once again caved to the President’s demands, this time offering another $70 billion in unrestricted funds for the war in Iraq.
This prospect of another legislative stalemate means that our best chance to impact Iraq policy may be with the election of a pro-peace president and Congress. Iraq has been one of the most dominant issues in the presidential campaign thus far. With the exception of Ron Paul, all the Republican candidates are running on a platform of continuing the war in Iraq, while occasionally offering mild criticism of the Bush administration. The Democratic candidates have been campaigning aggressively on ending the war, though few candidates support a swift and complete withdrawal from Iraq.
In response, Peace Action West is working to get the candidates on the record through Voters for Peace and Security, our campaign to mobilize people who are committed to voting only for candidates who stand for a quick and complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq, opposition to the development of new nuclear weapons in the US, and US leadership toward a nuclear free world.
We aim to demonstrate to the candidates that these voters comprise a powerful block. We are showing that voters want to hear concrete details about their plans to turn US foreign policy around. We are already seeing the results of this work as candidates spar over their respective plans to withdraw troops and stabilize Iraq. There is considerable range even among the Democrats, with some advocating withdrawal of all troops starting immediately, and others refusing to commit to removing all troops by the end of their first term in 2013. These distinctions are critical, and our staff and volunteers are doing invaluable on-the-ground organizing to illuminate these differences and push the candidates closer to our position.
By demonstrating constituent support for a progressive foreign policy in key early primary states like Nevada and California, Peace Action West is showing the candidates that our agenda is not just moral and pragmatic; it will galvanize voters and win elections. We want to make sure that between now and the presidential primaries, the candidates cannot appear at an event without being asked about key foreign policy issues, like how many troops they will leave in Iraq and how they will work to stop the development of new nuclear weapons.
On Election Day, the peace movement must use its ability to turn out voters who can help propel a candidate to victory. We have an opening, and an obligation, to demonstrate the breadth and strength of the peace movement and help shape US foreign policy for the next four years. Peace Action West will be on the ground, on the phone, online and at the polls to make sure the peace movement’s voice is heard.