Polls continue to confirm a key part of the 2006 election results: a growing majority wants U.S. troops out of Iraq according to an agreed-upon timetable. People no longer believe our presence there serves any good purpose. Nor do they believe Bush’s military plans can change the situation for the better. Most believe the continued U.S. military presence will only result in more U.S. military and Iraqi civilian casualties, more billions lost while domestic needs go unmet. Although there is not yet a consensus to end the funding of the war nor a consensus on when to leave, there is growing impatience with the war’s continuation.
While the president or the Congress has the power to bring the troops home, it is public opinion and the political activity of the people as a whole — especially the core social forces of labor and the working class, the racially and nationally oppressed, women and youth — that will determine who exercises that power and when and how it is exercised. The role of the peace and the much broader out-of-Iraq movement is played out in the context of the powerful currents of these social forces. Tactics that promote united action to mobilize the people as a whole will compel our government to take action.
In the Senate, the Democratic caucus has a 51-49 majority over the Republicans. If all senators vote their party leadership position, the Democrats can pass bills but cannot muster the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster, or the 67 votes needed to override a Bush veto. In the House, the Democrats have a 233-201 majority. They need 291 votes to override a Bush veto, which would require the votes of some 60 Republicans.
The congressional struggle to end the war must be analyzed from many levels to achieve the goal of ending the war. In the first place, all of us, in the peace movement, labor unions, church groups, among the left and in the Communist Party, need to take into account what demands, forms of struggle and activity will mobilize the core social forces.
At the same time, tactics must provide a basis of united action in Congress by centrist Democrats, moderate Republicans, and progressive Democrats who also advocate more advanced demands. Only a combination of congresspeople of varying political views can overcome Senate Republican filibusters and presidential vetoes.
The House and Senate each narrowly passed a supplemental bill to finance the Iraq war with amendments setting a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, strongly opposed by Bush. Although the deadlines are not immediate, and although the bills contain other shortcomings, these bills are the basis for a new level of struggle to bring the troops home.
Now a conference will reconcile the two versions. All indications are that both houses of Congress will probably pass a final reconciliation bill with deadlines.
If that happens, Bush, in a weakened position, could capitulate and agree to get out according to the timetable in the reconciliation bill, but clearly this appears highly unlikely. Or, he could actively seek negotiations with the congressional leadership. Or, and this is what he has vowed, he could veto the reconciliation bill.
If he were to agree to a timetable, it would represent a substantial victory won by peace-minded people everywhere. If he chooses to negotiate with Congress, we will have to consider the question of when is a compromise good and when is it bad. In U.S. and world history, often defeats of imperialism have not been acknowledged by its spokespeople. Such setbacks have often been framed as a “compromise,” a fig leaf so the dominant class is not forced to admit defeat.
Finally, in the event of a veto, which will be very difficult if not impossible to override, the struggle will continue in new conditions. Congressional Democratic leaders have indicated that they will introduce new measures to set a deadline for troop withdrawal and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that he will press legislation that not only sets withdrawal deadlines but cuts off funding for the war by March 2008.
No matter what the result is, the struggle against the war has been transformed since the new Congress convened in January. It is being fought out on higher ground, now that the majority in both houses has aligned itself against Bush’s war policies.
The antiwar movement in all of its diversity must continue to pressure, prod, nudge and persuade wavering Republicans that there’s still time to get off the sinking White House ship. There’s still time to give their full support to a reconciliation bill with a withdrawal deadline and to override Bush’s threatened veto if need be.
If even a few more Republicans break away, it will gravely diminish Bush’s political authority and greatly strengthen the next steps in the struggle to end the occupation. We should not assume that congressional Republicans, and especially the 21 Republican senators up for reelection in 2008, are all in lockstep with Bush. With the elections looming on the near horizon, their support for an extended occupation could prove to be very fragile.
It is clear that there is no way for the Bush administration to achieve its original objectives in Iraq with military means. Most military experts agree that Bush’s and the neoconservatives’ hope of cutting U.S. losses by continuing armed aggression is not possible. It will only worsen the human and material losses.
Differences within the anti-Iraq-war movement have arisen over tactics, what demands and bills to support, what kinds of approaches to take.
Every mass movement will have differences that need to be discussed and narrowed or resolved. At times, the differences will simply be put to the test of time and new developments.
We in the Communist Party support a total and complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops now. However, after four years, the struggle has now reached a stage in which winning intermediate demands is necessary and realizable to move toward the overall goal of ending the occupation.
Intermediate demands are needed to mobilize the class and other core social forces and movements to achieve a majority in both houses of Congress that can pass bills over filibusters and vetoes. Intermediate demands are needed that limit Bush’s actions and lay the basis to then defeat his policy completely.
We supported the passage of the supplemental funding bills with deadlines because our estimate was that the most advanced amendment authored by Rep. Barbara Lee, which we also supported, could not garner the support of a majority in Congress. The struggle around that amendment was important nevertheless.
The main struggle within Congress was between passing the supplemental bill requested by Bush with no limitations or one with the deadlines for troop withdrawal.
A defeat of the amended supplemental or passage of the supplemental alone would have strengthened the hand of Bush and his supporters in the ongoing struggle. What has happened puts Bush on the defensive and changes the focus of debate to when and how the troops should be withdrawn from Iraq.
Everyone opposing the war is motivated by moral outrage. The debate is over how to best end this immoral policy of endless war. If the amended supplemental bill had been defeated, the immoral war funding would continue, but under worse circumstances.
Pressure organized by the broadest forces opposing the Iraq war, involving the core constituencies mentioned above, influences the congressional struggle. A movement that employs broad tactics — that presses for intermediary demands alongside the full demand for Congress to act now to bring the troops home — will succeed.
This statement represents the conclusions of an April 5, 2007, meeting of the Communist Party USA National Board. For more information, e-mail cpusa @ cpusa.org.