Democrats Lie to Prolong Iraq; Reporters Go Along

Americans don’t know how their government works. Democrats, in control of Congress, are taking advantage of our ignorance to continue the Iraq War. Which brings up two questions: Why won’t the “antiwar” Democrats act to stop the carnage? And why aren’t reporters calling them on it?

“Democrats,” writes Charles Babington in an Associated Press item that appeared in hundreds of newspapers, “control both chambers [of Congress] but lack the numbers to override President Bush’s vetoes of bids to mandate troop withdrawals from Iraq.” It’s a half-truth at best: the Democrats’ narrow majority is less than the two-thirds majority they’d need to override a presidential veto. Here’s the full truth: it doesn’t matter.

The Constitution grants Congress, and only the Congress, to “raise and support armies.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could meet over cocktails right now and cut off the funding tomorrow. Within a few months, the Pentagon would run out of money for the war. They’d have to start bringing home troops. The occupation of Iraq would be over in less than a year.

In June Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s Extra! Magazine wrote: “If the Democrat-controlled Congress wanted to force the Bush administration to accept a bill with a withdrawal timeline, it didn’t have to pass the bill over Bush’s veto–it just had to make clear that no Iraq War spending bill without a timeline would be forthcoming.”

Democratic leaders know that. And here’s how I know they know: days after taking control of Congress, on January 30, they invited five constitutional law experts to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask them how they could end the war. Four out of five of the experts swore that the Democrats could stop the Iraq War just…like…that.

“I think the constitutional scheme does give Congress broad authority to terminate a war,” affirmed Bradford Berenson, Bush’s White House associate counsel from 2001 to 2003. “It is ultimately Congress that decides the size, scope and duration of the use of military force,” added Walter Dellinger, former acting solicitor general and assistant attorney general.
“Today we’ve heard convincing testimony and analysis that Congress has the power to stop the war if it wants to,” said Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). Yet eight months later, there’s still no end in sight.

The Dems won the 2006 elections with promises to end the war. Weeks after taking over Congress, however, Republicans spooked them with one of the most ludicrous talking points of all time. Cutting off the money, they said, would abandon U.S. soldiers at the front, their ammo dwindling as Al Qaeda insurgents swarmed over them. (Actually–the fact that I have to write this speaks to the American right’s intellectual dishonesty–the troops would go to the airport. They would board airplanes. They would fly home.)

Democrats worry that they’ll be portrayed as weak on defense if they act unilaterally to pull out of Iraq. Irony of ironies, they’re wussing out to avoid looking wimpy. Forcing Republicans to vote with them to end the war, they calculate, would give them political cover. Extra! continued: “Democrats may not have wanted to pay the supposed political costs of [cutting off funding], but news coverage should have made clear that this was a choice, not something forced on them by the lack of a veto-proof majority.”

Rather than set the record straight, the media continues to spread the Democrats-can’t-stop-the-Republican-war meme this week:

Michael Duffy, Time magazine: “If Democrats had more votes–particularly in the House–they might be able to force Bush to change course. But Bush will fight any resolution fencing him in with a veto that, as things stand now, the Democrats cannot override. But the President’s critics will continue to try, hoping to attract moderate Republicans who are fearful of losing their seats next year.” Occasionally Time invites me to its Christmas party. If I score an invite this year, my present for their fact-checkers will be a copy of the Constitution.

Marcella Bombardieri, The Boston Globe: “In the Senate, Democrats have only a 51 to 49 majority, far from the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster and the 67 needed to override a presidential veto. All efforts to force a troop withdrawal have failed, and the party will have to count on substantial Republican defections to make any further progress this fall.” I’ll be checking the Globe for a retraction.

Brian Knowlton, The New York Times: Knowlton dutifully quoted Democratic Senator Joe Biden’s claim that there were “political limits on his party, even with the Congressional majority it has held since the November midterm elections. ‘This is the president’s war,’ [Biden] said. ‘Unless we get 67 votes to override his veto, there’s nothing we can do to stop this war…'” Not only did the Times fail to call Biden on his brazen lie, it gave him the last word.

You’d think the Democrats would want to end the Iraq War before their likely retaking of the White House, but that’s because you’re a human being, not a politician. Politicians are happy to dispatch hundreds of young American men and women to certain death (along with thousands of Iraqis), if the bloodshed squeezes out an extra half percentage point at the polls. Reid and Pelosi prefer to run against a disastrous ongoing Republican war than point to a fragile Democratic-brokered peace.

Why are so many respected journalists parroting the Democratic party line? I suspect that corporate media culture, rather than Judith Miller-style malfeasance, is largely to blame. Ink-stained newsrooms have been replaced by bullpen offices indistinguishable from those of banks or insurance companies. Reporters used to come from the working classes. They distrusted politicians and businessmen, and politicians and businessmen loathed them. Today’s journalists are products of cookie-cutter journalism schools. Because graduate schools rarely offer scholarships, few come from the lower or middle classes. They look like businessmen. When they meet a politician, they see a possible friend. They wear suits and ties. And when a U.S. senator like Joe Biden feeds them a line of crap, they gobble it up.

(Ted Rall is the author of the book “America Gone Wild,” which includes a detailed behind-the-scenes look at the most controversial political cartoons of the post-9/11 era.)


  • Yet another reason neither party is fit to govern. The 3rd parties & indies get my full attention next election, no more of that "your just wasting your vote" crap.

  • "…Republicans spooked them with one of the most ludicrous talking points of all time. Cutting off the money, they said, would abandon U.S. soldiers"

    When I learned about this trick in polysci 101, I thought "how could this shit ever possibly work again, now that even freshmen know about it."

    That was long before the 2004 election, when I still thought this country had a chance in hell. Now I know that all of the education cuts have had their intended consequence. (looking down on so many people is not as empowering as I would have thought. It's a really sad feeling I have in my heart for the world.)

  • Because we're so desperate for 'Republican Light' that we miss the reality that we have the legal and moral authority in a democracy to throw them all out, arrest a good portion of them and try them for war crimes, and replace the government with people who aren't completely and utterly bought by the military industrial complex.

    Who REALLY benefits from ALL OF THIS?…military contractors…that's what's behind the American economy and political machine. Joe Biden is one of the worst in this regard. He plays the game so insidiously…you saw him on Meet The Press? It was such a horrific cop out.

    The reality is that this is a machine we can't begin to think about fixing within the current structure of our economy, political apparatus, and ultimately within our culture itself.

  • If America were to demand Bush's resignation, then begin the process of prosecuting Bush and his thugs for their ongoing crimes, the world would see America in a different light, not as a weak nation, but one that finally found the SPINE to get rid of the world worst virus: the Bush administration. The world's worst, because we have the most guns and bombs and prestige.

  • "Reid and Pelosi prefer to run against a disastrous ongoing Republican war than point to a fragile Democratic-brokered peace."

    What makes this line of thinking particularly stupid is that even though an ongoing war might help Democrats in 2008, it would immediately become a liability to them afterward. If the war is still going when a Democrat becomes President, that person would be stuck with the impossible job of cleaning up Bush's mess. Republicans and conservatives would call that person weak on defense, a non-supporter of the troops, an enabler of terrorists, and so forth. They'd be able to make it look as if the Democrats were the ones who lost Iraq, and of course the media would help them.

    People hate Bush and anyone else who supports continuing the war. Even if Democrats ended the war tomorrow, in 2008 the country would still remember who kept the war going for so long, and they'd remember who ended it.

    It's too bad that politicians can't see past the next election. The war might have already ended if they could.

  • Hi Ted–Great column! But you forgot to mention, one Democratic Candidate, Gravel, HAS proposed a workable legislative plan to end the Iraq War. He can be seen unveiling it at the National Press Club here:

    How come none of his fellow candidates, 4 of whom are in the Senate, and 1 in the House, have introduced the Gravel plan to bring the troops home as soon as possible? I think it's clear those other Democratic candidates don't really believe in ending the war.

  • Politicians are easily scared by accusations of not supporting "the troops". Their political power is what is most important to them, and I doubt any elected official of any substance would risk sacrificing re-election in order to bring the situation in Iraq to a conclusion. War supporters have achieved their desired effect of silencing dissent to their cause. After all, how can anybody argue with an angry reactionary (who won't listen to a shred of reason) shouting, "We're at war! I don't like it but that's the way it is! I guess you just don't support 'the troops'!" Americans have proven time and again that moderation and reasoned debate and discussion are just too boring, so the most extreme always wins. Sad but true.

  • I agree Owen, but the problem with people who say "you don't support the troops" is not they are too extreme. The problem is that they are extremely dishonest.

    I'd just tell them about how I personally contribute hundreds of dollars a year to the prosecution of the Iraq war.

  • Hallelujah! Testify brother Ted!

    Once again, you show common sense that should be available to any 6th grader, but seems missing from our congress critters.

    This week's column illustrates why:

    1. I'm looking to get out of journalism as a career. I'm ashamed for the way they botched coverage of this war and the squatter in chief.

    2. I changed my registration from Democrat to Independent. I've given up hope on that party. I keep waiting for another "Give 'em Hell Harry" Truman and I keep getting pussies.

    3. I'm forgoing lunch to use the money I save to contribute to Cindy Sheehan's congressional run against Pelosi. Besides, I need to lose weight, anyways.

    4. I'm such a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment. I fear it may one day become necessary for the People to rise up and restore Constitutional Democracy.

    5. I'm looking at some rural land. Quite seriously, I think we're looking at a coming time that will make the Civil War and the Great Depression look like Sunday picnics. I want a place to wait out that storm until the smoke clears.

  • angelo,

    It always amazes me how the most obvious and simple answer is the best one. I've been asked before how I support "the troops", and it always escapes me that my hard earned tax dollars support the troops, the war, and everything/everyone in between.

  • Not all Democratic presidential candidates are trying to pass off the two-thirds-veto-proof lie. Dennis Kucinich has said repeatedly to just cut off the funding.

  • I'm sure there are a few Repubs who want to do the same thing, they just don't argue about it in public. The problem being, a few good men & women of conscience does not good government make.

    -the other anonymous

  • Thank god someone is paying attention-read this column in the Aspen daily news today (here as a rugby spouse)
    you have hit it all on the nail- friends are visiting our alleged Democratic senator, Evan Bayh in DC next week am asking them to take your column to him
    an unhappy hoosier

  • Ted Rall thinking and the comments
    here assume that the Democratic party and the the Republican party
    are really different opposing parties. The truth is they are not.
    They are the same
    They are two different masks for
    the military/industrial complex party which is benefiting handsomely from this war.

  • Owen, yeah. I left out the fact that I tell them that when I am alone later.

    I think that the current state of affairs has done to discussion what a huge black hole does to space. We are still standing aroung having discussions only because it is hard to comprehend how wrong the other side really is. The other side stopped seriously debating ages ago. They keep throwing a fit and knocking the checker board off the table. We keep picking it up and asking them to play nice. It is time for blood.

Comments are closed.