The Real Side
Democrats Against the War
Oh, yeah? Since when?
By Jim Scarantino
Every Democratic candidate for president on down is “against the war in Iraq.” But we wouldn’t be in Iraq if Democrats hadn’t surrendered Congress’ constitutional power to declare war. Then once the war got going, Democrats pretty much abandoned the peace movement. They’ve given Bush every dime he’s requested to get hundreds of thousands of people killed for no good reason.
What they say now is one thing. What did they say before the reality of the Iraq War set in?
Let’s start with the presidential candidates.
Hillary Clinton not only voted for the war, the speech she gave explaining her vote contained phrases echoing some of Bush’s favorite lines. John Edwards and Christopher Dodd voted for the war. Joe Biden still thinks he’s some kind of imperial viceroy, promoting plans to split apart a country he pushed hard to conquer. Bill Richardson initially supported the invasion even though as governor he never needed to say a thing.
Barack Obama opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, starting while he was running for the Illinois Senate seat previously held by a conservative Republican. Dennis Kucinich tried in vain to defeat the war resolution. They showed wisdom and courage at a critical moment in the nation’s history. Standing for peace when the winds of war were howling says something important about the character of these two men.
In the race to replace Heather Wilson in Congress, only one Democrat, Jason Call, has any record of opposing the Iraq War more recently than this year. The other three candidates can’t point to anything they did to oppose the Iraq War before announcing they wanted to work on Capitol Hill.
Call and his wife, then eight months pregnant, marched in February 2003 with millions of Americans trying to avert war. He’s joined other public demonstrations every year since. He’s written letters to newspapers against the war. He showed me documentary and photographic evidence of his passionate opposition to the Iraq War spanning five years. He is a math teacher, and he expressed great disappointment that citizens like him were largely left to oppose the war without much help from career Democrats.
Martin Heinrich’s campaign says he has opposed the Iraq War “from the beginning.” In response to questions about when he first publicly opposed the war, he says he remembers “some kind of debate” about the Iraq War at a Democratic Party meeting in February 2003. He says the war also “came up” when he was going door-to-door campaigning for the Albuquerque City Council. He admits not writing members of Congress on the issue. I haven’t found any statement by Heinrich on the war that was issued until his plans for a congressional race materialized.
Jon Adams says, “I decided to run because of the Iraq war, when I learned that 23-year-old James Akin from Albuquerque had been killed in Iraq.” He says he gave money to anti-war Democrats but was otherwise busy practicing law. He did not write Congress or submit letters to the editor in opposition to the war.
Michelle Lujan Grisham told me I wouldn’t find any statements from her about the war until Oct. 11, 2007, when she announced her candidacy. At the time of the invasion, she was Secretary of the New Mexico Aging and Long Term Services Department. She then became New Mexico Secretary of Health until she resigned to run for Congress. She suggested she was not in the position to make statements on issues outside the purview of her office.
In the Senate primary, only one credible candidate has opposed the war from the beginning. Tom Udall voted against war authorization. He also voted against the PATRIOT Act. His courageous stands can’t be discounted as “easy” for a congressman from a safe seat. Other Democrats with safe seats folded when their country needed them to be strong (examples: Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Diane Feinstein). And, if you study its demographics, Udall’s district is not all that “safe.” Udall’s immediate predecessor in the job was a right-wing Republican.
Martin Chavez never spoke against the war until recently. He has explained he was preoccupied with running the city. But other big-city mayors opposed the war before the first bombs fell. The thousands of anti-war New Mexicans who marched down Central, between rows of Chavez’ police officers, also had other things to do. Back in those days, let’s not forget, Chavez was courting Republicans for his upcoming re-election.
Most likely every Democratic candidate who says they now oppose the Iraq War is sincere. For many, we can only take them at their word. But a few others have proven their opposition to America’s most idiotic war goes deeper than expedient words offered at campaign time.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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