In November 2005, as the women of CODEPINK New York were planning our Bird-dog Hillary campaign, we watched the video of Hillary’s March 2003 meeting with CODEPINK in Washington, D.C.
What struck me most was the moment at the end of the meeting when Jodie Evans handed Hillary a pink slip—a token of CODEPINK’s disapproval of Hillary’s stance on the war—and Hillary barked, “I am the Senator from New York and I will never put my people’s security at risk.” But it was clear to CODEPINK Women that her vote for the Iraq war authorization and her subsequent support for the disastrous invasion and occupation have made her constituents in New York less safe and not more.
Recently Hillary’s rhetoric has shifted—in small part because of our campaign to show up at all her events highlighting her hawkish position and in larger part because the country as a whole is fed up with Bush’s war. A few weeks ago on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Hillary said that if the war weren’t over by 2009, she would end it when she is president. But what is she doing right now to bring our troops home?
I am a relative newcomer to legislative activism and political lobbying and as such I have been on a steep learning curve these days. Through meetings with aides of my elected representatives and conversations with other peace activists involved in lobbying Congress, it slowly dawned on me that the current Democratic leadership—by which I mean the Democratic National Committee, Rahm Emmanuel, the Clintons, et al—is not interested in ending the war in Iraq before 2009. They have calculated that the ongoing war will help their chances at winning the Presidency and at consolidating control of both house of Congress. As one congressional aide put it, “We were out of power for 12 years. Now that we’re in the majority, we’re looking to the 2008 elections. Iraq is only one of the issues we’re dealing with.”
So when in mid-February Hillary Clinton introduced her Iraq Troop Protection and Reduction Act of 2007 (S670)—with no co-sponsors and with no specific timetable for withdrawal—it was difficult to see it as anything more than a public relations ploy to get the grassroots, anti-war base of the Democratic Party off her back. Her so-called “Road Map Out of Iraq” should rightly be called “Road Map to the Nomination.” She wants to cut off funds to the Iraqi government. She wants to redeploy troops “by the end of the current President’s term in office.” She wants to make it appear that she’s against the war without doing anything to actually end it.
Mainstream Democrats in Congress are terrified of Republican mud slinging accusing them of not supporting the troops. So they are afraid to use the one power they have: the power of the purse. Why can’t they stand up and reframe the debate—joining Progressive Democrats such as Russ Feingold, Maxine Waters, Dennis Kucinich, and Lynn Woolsey—to say cutting off funding for the war will not take one penny away from our troops? The money already in the pipeline is more than enough to bring them home. Any more appropriations will simply extend the occupation—and our troops won’t have any more or less body armor or underwear than they already have or any better or worse care at the crumbling VA Hospitals when they are maimed and wounded.
As far as I can see, our job is to keep pressuring Hillary and other mainstream Democrats on Iraq. We can’t let up now or we could end up with another Lyndon Johnson, who promised an end to the Vietnam War but instead escalated it. We can’t accept empty rhetoric in the place of action. We need to make the inability and unwillingness of the Democrats in Congress to use their budgetary power to put an end to the war into a political liability.
If Congress continues paying for it Bush’s war it becomes their war. If the Democrats don’t have the guts to reframe the debate about troop support by showing that bringing them home is the best thing we can do for our troops, then we have to shout it from the rooftops ourselves. If Hillary won’t stand up and use her power as the current presidential front runner and one of the most powerful people in the Democratic Party to help end this war, then we need to stand up wherever she is and say, “Hillary Stop Funding the War!”
Please sign CODEPINK’s letter to Hillary