What Democrats conceded with the Iraq Bill

If one is deciding whether or not to celebrate or bemoan the latest budget for Iraq, passed narrowly in the House, consider the following from Kucinich (Emphasis is mine):

$120 billion for an escalation of the war, the privatization of Iraqi oil assets and a possible extension of the war into Iran. And the President said he will veto this because it's not enough. By showing such a weak position against the Administration and the war, the Democrats have thoroughly undermined whatever bargaining position they could have had.

A valid point, even pragmatically speaking. Knowing that the bill serves zero chance of passing the Bush veto, and will presumably be drastically weakened from the sausage making fest that is the lawmaking process in the US Senate, it is troubling to know what the Democrats have already conceded

1.) The Iran language which wold have forced Bush to go to Congress in he wanted to use force against Iran, was stripped from the bill -- no small matter. To Pelosi's credit she insured progressive congresspeople who were upset about this that she would force a vote on the issue. Still, it is an unfortunate sign that the Blue Dogs are successfully playing this card.

2.) Allowing Bush to use word acrobatics, or outright dishonesty to avoid the benchmark provisions. Pelosi has even said that for this to work it requires the President to be honest about the progress, which is a scary proposition indeed.

3.) $120 billion in funds, enough for Bush to continue this deadly occupation for the duration of his term. Just think about that: we are starting the effort to end the war, by giving a boatload of cash buy the weapons that will inevitably maim thousands of civilians and serves to fuel radicalism and attacks against the US.

4.) Not a word about private contractors, which, as Jeremy Scahill (and Garrett Ordower) note in Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army , make up nearly half of our forces in Iraq. Without accounting for them, we are starting by allowing nearly 100,000 mercenaries to remain there indefinitely, and without any accountability. This can hardly be called an end of the war knowing this.

Now, I should note that I don't think supporters of this legislation, be they David Sirota, or progressive members of the Congress, or the bloggers over at MyDD, are sellouts or wish to continue the war. Most of these supporters, I think, have the right intentions, and indeed we do need to work together on this issue: we are on the same team in a sense. They understand the political obstacles in the way, most notably from the Blue Dogs in Congress. Lord knows Nancy Pelosi has an incredibly difficult job. I just wish more of the leaders of the progressive movement who are not politicians, but bloggers, writers, activists etc ... would keep staunch pressure on the Democrats to do more. We know that we will not get everything we ask for -- but let us ask for it nonetheless. As Howard Zinn noted the other day, as citizens it is not our job to endorse the ends of what is legislatively possible, but to support what is right, and what is just.

If Congress thinks it must compromise, let it. But we should not encourage that. We should speak our minds fully, boldly and say what is right, whatever they decide to do..

And frankly $120 billion for this criminally stupid war, is none of those things. That progressive citizens feel compelled to look at ending this war through the cold lens of political calculation that members of Congress do, is rather disappointing.

So I do think some are overstating (also here) the new power that the progressive caucus has in light of this great "victory." It seems the Blue Dogs were successful in thwarting the will of the American people, who want to end this war. I don't mean to sound too cynical. This was and is a painful process, but at least wheels are in motion, however slowly. Congress is light years ahead of where it was in 2004, for example, and there are signs of progress. But we are not close to ending this war, not with proposals like this, and we ought to understand this as we move forward. .

But move forward we must. So lets get to work.