Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy, Friday, November 10
The election defeats of Republicans on Tuesday, with Democrats taking control of the House and Senate for the first time since 1994, have been widely described as a referendum on the unpopular war in Iraq. Certainly, most Americans told pollsters before the election that they expected a Democratic victory to result in withdrawal from Iraq and most Americans told pollsters before the election that the U.S. should set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, 61% in a Newsweek poll.
However, now that the election is over and the Democrats have won, while everyone concedes that the unpopularity of the war was a main driver of the Democrats' victory, the battle lines are being drawn over whether the election victory means that the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq. George McGovern, the former senator and Democratic presidential candidate, is meeting the 62 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to present a plan for removing U.S. troops from Iraq by June. Meanwhile, Iraq's president says that he has been reassured by Democratic leaders that they have "no plans for a quick withdrawal of U.S. forces." So the battle is on over whether the elections mean "withdrawal" or a yet to be determined "change of course."
This was predicted, and that's what makes the actual referenda that occurred on Tuesday calling for withdrawal so important. There were referenda in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Illinois. All of the 58 local ballot initiatives calling for withdrawal of US troops and bases were successful. (The Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice tallies the results.) Now, we need to make these results stick, by raising them at every opportunity with members of Congress, and by using every opportunity to get them into the media.
With all the talk of putting deadlines on the Iraqi government, it's time to put a deadline on our own government. I suggest Groundhog Day as the deadline for Congress to set a timetable for the withdrawal of all US troops and bases from Iraq. The new Congress convenes in January, so this will give them some time to find their new desks. And we don't want to become like the Bill Murray character in the movie "Groundhog Day," who experiences the same thing day after day -- needless deaths in Iraq, in this case -- even though we voted overwhelmingly for something different. And everyone can remember Groundhog Day -- every time a local newscast does a silly puff piece on this holiday, they'll be carrying our message: time for Congress to set a deadline for withdrawal from Iraq.