Security Council Unanimously Approves Iraq Resolution
After 8 weeks of negotiation, the Security Council has unanimously approved a new Iraq resolution. The approval is considered a victory for the U.S. and UK, though this resolution does NOT give President Bush a green light for war. The stalemate between U.S. and French officials ended yesterday, and the new resolution includes several recent concessions to the French and Russians.
According to the Associated Press, the resolution gives Saddam Hussein “a final opportunity” to work with weapons inspectors, reaffirms Iraq’ sovereignty and holds out the possibility for an end to sanctions (AP 11/8/02). In addition, the resolution requires the United States to confer with the Security Council before any military action can be taken. Furthermore, it allows the inspectors, not the U.S., to determine if Iraq is in violation of the resolution.
The resolution lays out several deadlines for Iraq and weapons inspectors. Iraq has 7 days to accept the terms of the resolution and must declare all chemical, biological and nuclear programs within 30 days. Inspectors have up to 45 days to begin work and have 60 days once inspections begin to report back to the Security Council, though they may report violations earlier. If the U.S. respects this timeline, military action would not occur until late February 2003. However, it remains to be seen whether the Bush administration will allow the UN weapons inspections process to run its course or if it will engineer a crisis to trigger war.
EPIC Director Erik Gustafson Explains Why GOP Gain is NOT a Mandate for War
As you shake off the hang-over of the November 5th election, you may be wondering what happened. In TV land, some pundits will argue that the vote was a referendum on the president’s plans for a war on Iraq and demonstrates popularity for a war presidency.
Even a Democratic leader made this erroneous claim. Senate Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said on NBC, “I think it means that the president has an opportunity here to enact and proceed with the plan (on Iraq) as he has articulated it. The American people appear now to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
However, the facts lead to a different conclusion.
If November 5th was truly a referendum, then one would expect to see significant Republican gains among Democratic voters as well as among Independent and Third Party voters. Although Republicans appear to have expanded the electorate in a few key states, on a national level there was no significant shift.
So what happened?
Republican turn-out between the 2000 Presidential election and Tuesday’s mid-term election remained roughly constant, while turn-out among Democrats declined.
The GOP had a strategy: use national security as an issue to get voters to the polls in roughly the same numbers as they turned out two years ago to elect President Bush. The Democrats had no strategy, no message, and failed to match the GOP’s voter mobilization, particularly among African Americans.
For example, in Georgia, the number of people who voted Republican rose slightly, while turn out among African Americans declined according to the office of Georgia’s Secretary of State. As a result, Republicans ousted incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes and Sen. Max Cleland. A political analyst quoted by USA Today, Bill Shipp, estimates that African Americans made up 18% or 19% of the overall vote in Georgia. Shipp believes the Democrats would have needed that figure to be 22% to win.
Across the country, core Democratic constituents were disgusted by the failure of Democratic leadership to challenge the president on his war resolution and other White House initiatives. They felt they had no one to speak for them. If Democratic Members of Congress had voted, as a party, against the war, they would likely not have suffered such losses at the ballot box.
Using Georgia again as an example, U.S. Senator Max Cleland saw a decrease in Democratic turnout because he played to the Republican White House and voted for another Gulf War. He joined the war faction in the Democratic Party, thinking his vote would paint him as a moderate with voters. This didn’t fool the Republicans, but it did alienate a significant portion of Cleland’s liberal base. Thus, he fell victim to a failed strategy to minimize national security as a national issue, a plan devised by James Carville, Terry McAuliffe, Tom Daschle, and Dick Gephardt.
Lack of Vision
But there is an even larger problem. Democrats have articulated no alternative strategy for our national security to contrast themselves from the “world-be-damned” approach of President Bush. It is not enough to criticize and question the president’s war plans. There needs to be a clear and articulate alternative. Without leadership to build support for more constructive national security initiatives, rallying opposition against a disastrous war in Iraq will become impossible.
Now, emboldened by a perceived popular mandate to wage war, hawks within the Bush administration, and their friends in the Democratic leadership, are already rushing to make war against Iraq a foregone conclusion.
On Election Day at 4 am, before the ballots were even cold, the USS Constellation battle group set sail for the Persian Gulf from San Diego. The group includes an aircraft carrier and three large cargo vessels loaded with the tanks, heavy armor and equipment for the 3rd Infantry Division (a division previously in the 1991 Gulf War).
Time is running out.
What happened on election day can be explained, in part, by a split in the Democratic Party. The split resembles the fractious 1968 Democratic Convention, when the Democratic Party was divided over the Vietnam War, and Republicans uniformly supported it. Instead of uniting with a constituency that largely opposed a war in Southeast Asia, Democrats allowed an unnecessary war, resulting in millions dead in Southeast Asia, and more than 58,000 dead U.S. soldiers.
Winners Voted No
Today, the leadership of the Democratic Party is similarly out of step with its rank and file membership and a majority of Americans. According to an October 30 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Americans oppose a unilateral, unprovoked, first-strike war and occupation of Iraq by a 3 to 1 margin. The war party faction of the Democratic leadership led candidates in close races around the nation to electoral ruin. Having realized this, democratic strategist James Carville put a garbage can over his head live on CNN during the election night coverage.
So who was right among the Democrats? The late Senator Wellstone. Members of Congress who shared his courage and backbone by voting “No” to war on Iraq were rewarded at the ballot box. Contrary to what James Carville, Terry McAuliffe, Tom Daschle, and Dick Gephardt believed, every Democrat up for reelection who stood up against the President and voted “No” won their races – with only one exception. Rep. Jim Maloney in Connecticut lost, but redistricting and a strong opponent had already sealed his fate. Meanwhile, the “No” votes cast by Julia Carson, Rush Holt, Tammy Baldwin, Rick Larsen, Jay Inslee, and even Republican Jim Leach in Iowa contributed to electoral victory. In the Senate, Paul Wellstone’s numbers had risen from 6% behind before the war vote to 6% ahead at the time of his death.
By failing to side with the Paul Wellstones of the party, Democratic leaders allowed the GOP to own issues related to national security and war on Iraq. According to a CBS exit poll, Americans who chose “the war on terrorism/Iraq” as their foremost concern voted Republican by a 2 to 1 margin.
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Using the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the White House used fear as a means to drive their supporters to the polls.
Outspent By the GOP
This method was fueled by massive spending by Republicans, who out-spent Democrats by more than 2 to 1 on the national level (Washington Post, 11/7/02). President Bush used “all-Bush-all-war-all-the-time” TV ads and a large campaign staff to energize his base of voters. The result was a Republican Party turn-out similar to a presidential election.
Hundreds of millions of dollars came from corporations facing a Congress that had threatened to rein in their recently publicized criminal activities, and from oil companies bent on securing a monopoly on Iraqi oil to war corporations set to earn billions from new defense contracts. Bush alone raised more than $150 million used to target a handful of Senate races. So what will the political payback be? A war in Iraq?
Despite the multi-million dollar contributions that went to the GOP, elected officials are obligated to pursue policies that advance the interests and better the welfare of their constituents. If instead the newly elected Congress serve the interests of highest bidder, say Lockheed-Martin and Halliburton, then our democratic system begins to fail.
Consider a war in Iraq. It would endanger the international standing and safety of the American people, and risk serious civilian and American casualties; it should be taken off the table. The framers of our constitution viewed war as a last resort in cases of national emergency, and the president has yet to identify that emergency.
So, as a democratic society, how should we respond?
Leadership on National Security
If the key election ingredients were money, oil, and national security, the prescription for change is obvious. We need candidates and elected leaders who are willing to take bold positions on national security and foreign policy based on American values, not military intervention for corporate gain or revenge.
The issue of war needs to be framed in the context of facts, not fear. For instance, how will a war in Iraq make Americans and the world safer? The administration has yet to provide any answers. Meanwhile, according to realists like Professor John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, 95% of the national security elite in this country and our allies believe a war of aggression against Iraq will undermine our national security. In Mearsheimer’s words, “our allies think we have lost our minds.”
Hopefully our newly elected Members of Congress have not lost their minds and will counsel the administration to work with our allies and through the United Nations to peacefully disarm Iraq.
However, hope will need a helping hand. It will be up to the American people and all those in positions to counsel the new Congress and the administration to urge restraint and rein in the reckless ambitions of Washington’s hardliners.
And that effort begins with you.
See further Election Analysis by Stephen Zunes of the Iraq Speakers Bureau
In the Senate
34 Senate seats were at stake in this election. Republicans gained control of the Senate majority with 51 seats. The Democrats have lost control of the Senate and now have 47 seats. There is 1 Independent. The Senate race in Louisiana is still undecided – a December 7th runoff will take place to determine a winner.
In the House
The entire House was up for reelection. Republicans kept control of the House. Of the 435 members of the House, Republicans now have 227 seats, Democrats 206 seats and Independents 1. There is still one undeclared House race.
Election Explorer: See Who Represents You Now
U.S. Military Buildup in the Gulf Continues
Three massive military cargo shops left U.S. ports earlier this week in yet another sign of U.S. war preparations underway. The three vessels, the USNS Bellatrix, the USNS Fisher and the USNS Bob Hope, are some the military’s largest transport ships and are capable of carrying roughly 58 battle tanks, 48 track vehicles (such as armored vehicles) and 900 other trucks (Reuters 11/5/02).
Eight similar ships are already stationed relatively close to the Gulf, near British base Diego Garcia. This deployment comes as the aircraft carrier battle group USS Constellation left California last weekend, which includes cargo vessels carrying heavy armor and equipment of the 3rd Infantry Division.
Read War Preparations Escalate in Gulf – LA Times (registration req’d)
Iraq War Could Unleash Oil Spills, Toxins
Katherine Stapp reports in The Black World Today on the severe environmental and health costs of another war with Iraq. “Major casualties of a war with Iraq would be the region’s fragile environment and the health of its inhabitants and combatants, if the last Persian Gulf conflict is anything to judge by, arms experts and activists say.”
Collateral Damage Means Real People
Ben Kiernan exposes collateral damage in Foreign Policy in Focus. “What then would happen during a U.S. attack on Baghdad, a city of five million people? A Times/CBS poll suggests that a minority of Americans will support a U.S. invasion of Iraq if substantial Iraqi civilian casualties result. There are good historical reasons to withhold support for operations causing serious ‘collateral damage.’”
Take Action! Get a Resolution Passed in Your Area
Last night, the City Council of Washington D.C. passed a resolution stating opposition to military action against Iraq. Resolutions like this one from city councils, unions and student governments are an important way to for citizens to organize and express resistance to another Gulf War. In collaboration with the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and other groups, EPIC will be providing resources for you to get a resolution passed in your city.
Now, more than ever, it is important for the Bush administration and American public to see widespread public opposition across the nation. Bring the issue home to your city and neighbors. City council resolutions have passed in recent weeks in cities like Ithaca, NY, Santa Cruz, CA, Santa Fe, NM and New Haven, CT. Other resolutions are pending in Baltimore, MD and Madison, WI. Make your city, union or student government next and stay tuned for more information.
Read D.C. Council Opposed Military Action in Iraq