Four long years. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people dead, thousands more wounded and their country destroyed. More than 3,200 U.S. soldiers dead, some 40,000 wounded. Over $408 billion wasted.

Now, finally, there is some end in sight. For the first time in these four bloody years, the congressional leadership has put forward an exit strategy with a firm end date. This movement in Congress comes as a result of the volcanic pressure exerted by the American people — many with sons, daughters, cousins, aunts and uncles in the armed forces or National Guard. The volcano erupted last November, booting the Republican majority out of Congress. It signified that voters wanted a new direction on Iraq and for our country.

But the Republican ultra-right still holds executive power and still has significant power in Congress to stall, block and gridlock any decent piece of legislation — from minimum wage or the Employee Free Choice Act to setting a date to withdraw our troops from Iraq. That’s the reality that the antiwar movement has to deal with at this time.

So what to do? Condemn Democrats for not moving on an “out now” or “cut the funds” demand that may make a statement but can’t get passed? That leaves our troops right where they are with Bush calling the shots. Or, welcome this advance and press Republicans and Democrats to sign onto a timetable for troop withdrawal and an end date to this war?

There is a lot of work ahead to push, prod and convince those who are reluctant to go against the president’s disastrous policies. It’s going to take a broad coalition effort to do it, focused on the grassroots, in alliance with congressional Democrats and even moderate Republicans.

While the bill may have some weaknesses, pushing through this timetable plan — in both the House and Senate — would be a major step forward to ending the war. It would open the doors to actually bringing the troops home instead of just wearing the slogan on our peace buttons.

Isn’t it better to have troops out of Iraq by next year, through a concerted coalition effort, than to still be holding anniversary vigils with the slogan “Out Now”?

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