WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) –Moved to action by the quiet but consistent dissent from members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Democratic Party’s most prominent White liberals have themselves now moved from the congressional “rubber-stamp-society”–that was poised to give President Bush “maximum flexibility” to use unlimited authority to take whatever action he sees fit, including the use of force, against Iraq–into a small but “loyal opposition.”
Former Vice President Al Gore was the first prominent White Democrat to speak out.
Just one week after he was seated adjacent to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan at the 30th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Awards Dinner, Mr. Gore sharply challenged Mr. Bush on Iraq in a speech Sept. 23, warning that the administration’s policies will “severely damage” the overall war on terrorism and “weaken” U.S. leadership in the world.
Mr. Bush’s concentration on Iraq has squandered worldwide support the U.S. received after the attacks last Sept. 11, and turned this country, instead, into a focus of “anger and apprehension around the world,” Mr. Gore said Sept. 23 to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, according to published reports.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) was next.
In a surprising outburst Sept. 25, the normally low-key Senate leader attacked Mr. Bush for “politicizing” the debate about national security by claiming in a campaign speech for a Republican senator that “the Democrat-controlled Senate is not interested in the security of the American people.”
Senator Daschle’s face flushed red as he told the Senate chamber: “That is outrageous! Outrageous!” The emotional display sent a buzz around Capitol Hill among Democrats who were beginning to complain publicly about the quashing of dissent against the war and about feeling leaderless against the administration’s political juggernaut in favor of military options.
Calling on Mr. Bush to apologize, Senator Daschle said, “That is wrong. We ought not politicize this war. We ought not politicize the rhetoric about war and life and death.”
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) was next to break his silence.
In a Sept. 27 speech, Mr. Kennedy presented a comprehensive case against armed intervention in Iraq, calling instead for the United States to give UN inspectors a chance to find and disable Iraq’s banned weapons.
“The administration has not made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral, pre-emptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary,” he said in a speech to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
The first aim of U.S. policy should be to get UN weapons inspectors back into the country, and the anticipated UN Security Council resolution supporting U.S. policy should authorize the use of force only if Baghdad tries to block inspections aimed at finding chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, Mr. Kennedy said.
At the same time, the CBC leadership continued to speak out against the tide favoring war. In a joint statement, the 38-member body issued a caution against what many of its members fear has become a headlong rush into the use of military force.
The statement opposes any unilateral U.S. first strike “without a clearly demonstrated and imminent threat of attack on the United States.” It said no military move should be contemplated until every diplomatic option has been exhausted.
CBC member and Civil Rights movement veteran, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) was particularly emphatic Sept. 27, saying he “cannot and will not” support U.S. military action. Speaking at Howard University’s 135th annual Convocation, Rep. Lewis confronted President Bush and his administration’s policy on Iraq.
“We cannot look to our president to address these problems. He is too busy pounding the drums of war. Bombing Baghdad may make us forget about our nation’s poor schools, but it will not educate our children.
“He (Mr. Bush) proposed that we, the strongest nation on earth, invade a sovereign nation,” Mr. Lewis said. “He asks that we go to war un-attacked, unprovoked and unilaterally. This I cannot and will not support.”
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) was just as blunt. Mr. Bush, he said, “needs more than legal authority. He needs moral authority, and moral authority can only come by building an international team to confront Saddam Hussein,” Mr. Jackson told reporters along with 48 national religious leaders during the CBC Legislative Conference.
“I know this president knows how to build a team, he was an owner of the Texas Rangers. So as a former owner of the Texas Rangers, he should stop acting like the Lone Ranger,” Mr. Jackson said. Mr. Bush appears to be on the verge of potentially using U.S. military power without moral authority, he warned.
CBC members–including CBC Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Tex.), and Lewis–have been speaking out, writing opinion articles for prominent newspapers, going on radio and television, and bringing up the irony of the administration’s ability to find endless financial resources to fund war priorities, while at the same time not even requesting appropriations of all the funds Congress has authorized for domestic priorities like schools and mass transportation, according to a Capitol Hill source.
Saddam Hussein is a weakened dictator and is surrounded by hostile states like Iran and Turkey, said anti-war activist and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, adding that Mr. Hussein’s military is one-fourth of what it was and can’t get spare parts.
“He’s only a threat to his own people. The neighbors don’t think he is a threat, yet, Bush is beating the drums of war,” Mr. Nader said. “I think the proof that Saddam Hussein is not a threat to the neighbors is that if he was five years ago, eight years ago, three years ago, the Israeli military juggernaut would have destroyed his aggressive military capability. Since they haven’t done so, why is George W. Bush beating the drums of war?” he asked.
Black activists at a Newark, N.J., anti-war protest also voiced their opinion.
“The Peoples Organization for Progress (POP) stands opposed to the plan of President George W. Bush to invade Iraq because it is wrong, unjustified and unjust. Mr. Bush says he needs to make what he calls a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. We say this amounts to nothing more than an unjust war of aggression,” Larry Hamm, chairman of the Newark-based organization said during a Sept. 28 demonstration.
“I know my voice will be heard,” said Melody Inman of Bridgewater, New Jersey. “War is wrong, when it is for nothing but political gain,” she said, adding, “And according to the president, it is personal.”
“There are a lot of people who do not support the war, and our voices are not being heard by the pollsters,” Bukyo Ogunsanya, 20, a Biology major at Rutgers University explained. “A lot of young people my age think that it is un-patriotic to speak out against the war, so those of us who do not want war need events like this to give us a platform,” she said.
The latest speeches by prominent Democrats came as Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and two other House Democrats spent the day in Baghdad to plead for Iraqi cooperation in resuming weapons inspections.
The Democrats’ steadfastness began to have an effect on the administration’s policy. President Bush narrowed his request to Congress on Sept. 26, offering to impose some limits on a broad resolution he proposed just the week before. The new language was an effort to forge a quick agreement on a war resolution that Congress is set to debate.
The new Bush proposal would still give him the authority to invade Iraq without requiring him to first use all possible diplomatic and peaceful means to avoid war. That wording fell short of what many Democrats were expecting, however.
Despite the growing public dissent, approval on Capitol Hill is expected within two weeks.