Defying the vast majority of the American public and top military leaders, the president of the United States is about to announce an escalation of his failed war in Iraq.
It appears to many that it comes down to the president's not wanting the failure of the Iraq war to occur on his watch, that the images of Americans being evacuated from the Green Zone be reserved for his successor in the White House. Without the character and fortitude to accept a difficult reality, the president has decided to prolong the agony with the commitment of additional US troops. This would mean that thousands more of our soldiers and innocent Iraqis will die for a failed policy, a character flaw and a cynical political calculation.
What is astonishing is that the president might actually get away with it. Some in Congress, like Senators McCain and Graham, have launched a vigorous public campaign to support the president's escalation. Others, like Senator Biden, believe that there is nothing that Congress can do about it.
That leaves a fed up American public, who issued a mandate in November for political leaders to start bringing our troops home, with only one option - hit the streets. We can begin this week 24 hours after the president announces his escalation.
The Win Without War Coalition, www.winwithoutwarus.org, and allied groups opposed to the war are urging Americans to flock to their town squares, churches, synagogues, neighborhood centers and parks 24 hours after the president announces his escalation of the war. They can sign up and learn more by going to the web site www.americasaysno.org hosted by Win Without War member True Majority. Those gathered will pause to recognize soldiers from their state who have lost their lives in Iraq. They will take a group photo of themselves and their answer to the president's escalation of the war with a simple and clear message: "NO!" The photos will be sent to their local newspaper and to campaign web site: www.americasaysno.org. where participants will be able to watch the response come in from neighborhoods throughout the country. Many will make a short video - "Why We Are Saying NO in 30 Seconds" and upload it on the web site and YouTube.
This will mark the beginning of a series of public actions against the war including a march in the nation's capitol on January 27 organized by United for Peace and Justice and a national "Meet Up With Members" in the district offices of Representatives and Senators during the first Congressional District Work period of the new Congress.
Voters took to the polls in November to demand that the government start bringing our troops home. A recent CNN poll indicates only one in ten Americans support sending more troops to Iraq. Fewer than a third of Americans support the war, with a clear majority saying that they want U.S. troops out of Iraq within a year. Before the November Congressional elections, Americans told pollsters that if the Democrats won they expected Congress to end the war.
Here is what General John Abizaid, our top commander in Iraq and the region, told the Senate Armed Services Committee a few weeks ago: "I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the Corps commander, General Dempsey... And I said... if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no."
Last month US soldiers stationed in Baghdad told the Associated Press that the city "is embroiled in civil warfare" between Shiites and Sunnis that "no number of American troops can stop." They worried that "dispatching a new wave of soldiers would result in more U.S. casualties," and questioned whether "an increasingly muddled American mission in Baghdad is worth putting more lives on the line."
There are, of course, options to the president's military escalation. Most sober analysts - and the majority of Americans - agree that there is no military solution to the conflict in Iraq, only a political one. The United States needs to work with regional governments, including Iran and Syria, to achieve reconciliation in Iraq. In a recent poll conducted by the University of Maryland, 82% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans said we should directly engage with Syria and Iran to establish a political solution in Iraq, as was unanimously recommended by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
The fate of our troops and any hope for turning around the disaster in Iraq now rests clearly with us. Whether or not Congress will allow the president to get away with his attempt to "double-down" his failed gamble in Iraq will depend on a clear and robust rejection by the American people.
When President Richard Nixon announced in April of 1970 that he would escalate the Vietnam War by invading Cambodia, Americans reacted with shock and disbelief. Protests erupted throughout the country, and Congress later banned US troops from operating in Cambodia and Laos. Today, more of the American public, including top military brass, is against this war and President Bush's proposed escalation than was opposed to the Vietnam War in 1970.
It is time for an American surge to stop the Bush war in Iraq. We can begin this week with a simple and clear message: Mr. President, Members of Congress, read our lips: "NO!"