War, budget cuts ignite voter rebellion

WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush’s smear tactics failed to silence his growing opposition as the peace movement and defenders of the poor stepped up their fight against the Iraq war and a Republican proposal to cut $50 billion from federal programs for low-income Americans.

Antiwar forces vowed to step up their efforts to bring the troops home while the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) hailed its recent victory in blocking cuts in food stamps, Medicaid, and other benefits. The overlapping movements scoffed at Bush’s attempts to question their patriotism and vowed to keep the pressure on the House and Senate in an election year.

Bush, speaking on Veterans Day to a captive audience at a military depot in Pennsylvania, accused his opponents on Capitol Hill of sending “the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America’s will.” His critics are attempting to “rewrite the history of how the war began,” he charged.

But a mountain of evidence has surfaced that Bush lied to push a war resolution through Congress. A recent poll found that 57 percent of the people now believe Bush “deliberately misled” the people into the war. Bush’s approval ratings have plunged to 37 percent, the lowest of his presidency, and opposition to his Iraq war has soared to 60 percent.

Bush’s policies “are out of step” not only with the nation but also with millions in the Republican base, Tim Carpenter, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), told the World. “We need to remember that in less than a year, we have become the majority. Even Republican senators like Chuck Hagel of Nebraska are calling for an Iraq exit strategy,” he said. “The antiwar drumbeat is going to continue through the 2006 elections and right up through the 2008 elections.”

Bush and the Republican right took a severe beating in the 2005 off-year elections largely due to anger against the Iraq war, soaring fuel prices, and oil company profiteering while the nation’s poor face savage cutbacks.

“We are organizing and mobilizing support for Rep. Jim McGovern’s bill to cut off funding for the armed occupation and bring the troops home,” Carpenter said. McGovern’s bill would limit Pentagon funding to the costs of rapid transition to full Iraq sovereignty and for reconstruction of that war-torn country, but not for armed military operations or occupation.

PDA, with close ties to the Progressive Caucus of Congress, mobilized grassroots support for a congressional hearing on the Downing Street memo last summer. It also promoted a hearing on an “exit strategy” from Iraq convened by Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and others.

CHN Executive Director Debbie Weinstein told the World, “People who care about human needs scored a big victory in the House last week. The leadership was forced to pull their budget bill off the floor because they didn’t have enough votes in support of cuts to vital services like Medicaid, food stamps, foster care, and Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled.”

She pointed out that the GOP leadership, desperate to win over a bloc of moderate Republicans, removed a section that would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. “But that was not enough. The moderates were opposed to cuts in benefit programs as well.”

The CHN, uniting 750 organizations, is insisting that Democratic and moderate Republican lawmakers reject any compromise and hold the line against cuts of any kind in these benefit programs, especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“Poll after poll shows that the American people don’t agree with these right-wing budget priorities,” she said. “The battle is not over. We were successful because of the huge outpouring of telephone calls and e-mails to congressional offices. These lawmakers have to know that we are still out there and we still care.”

Republicans can be forced to stand against the right-wing budget cuts, she said. “Rep. Sherwood Boehlert of New York, a Republican, was quoted as saying he couldn’t support the GOP budget, and I quote: ‘I’m against euthanasia, because what we are being asked to do is preside over the orderly demise of the Republican majority.’”

The Senate, likewise feeling the angry heat of their constituents, voted 79-19 Nov. 15 for a non-binding resolution calling on Bush to “explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq.” They also approved language in the Defense Authorization bill — fought by Vice President Dick Cheney — that would prohibit “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees,” clearly a reaction to the torture of detainees by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the U.S. Naval station in Guantanamo Bay, and other secret detention facilities around the world.

Earlier, the senators killed by a vote of 58-40 a far stronger Democratic resolution calling for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.