Elections are over, but the war is not

NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – Now that the Democratic Party has gained control of the U.S. Congress both domestic and international eyes are keenly focused on the government’s plan to get out of Iraq.

“The election to a large extent became a national referendum on Mr. Bush and the war in Iraq, according to exit polls,” stated a Nov. 8 story in the New York Times. Sixty percent of voters leaving the polls said they opposed the war in Iraq, and 40 percent said their vote was a vote against Mr. Bush, the story stated.


The writer then mentioned comments from California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who has been elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives: “Ms. Pelosi took note of the importance of the war in the outcome in her own victory speech. Nowhere did the American people make it more clear that we need a new direction than in Iraq. So we say to the president, Mr. President, we need a new direction in Iraq.”

The first woman to serve as Speaker said the war in Iraq “must be stopped,” describing it as the “biggest ethical issue” of America.

The reaction around the world was varied, but most op-ed writers questioned if anything would really change.

“Unfortunately, the Americans’ realization of how catastrophic their foreign policy has been has come too late,” wrote an editorialist for the Gulf Times in Qatar. “The appalling damage done to Iraq cannot be reversed and the dangerous instability that the U.S. and its allies have created at the heart of the Middle East will plague the region for years,” the paper continued.

“Ms. Pelosi has served notice that the Democrats will press Mr. Bush to change his stay-the-course strategy in Iraq,” wrote an editorialist for the South China Morning Post out of Hong Kong. The writer noted that the Democrats would control committees and set legislative agendas. “They can also hold oversight hearings, for example into whether Mr. Bush manipulated intelligence to build support for an invasion of Iraq,” the editorialist opined.

The Chinese paper also noted that Ms. Pelosi has questioned human rights in China in the past. “It is hoped her political elevation will not provide a platform for antagonism towards China that would be unhelpful to the Beijing-Washington relationship.”

British journalist Ian Williams, also a UN correspondent, writes that there was a lot of interest than usual in the United Kingdom around the U.S. mid-term elections, “because they see it as a referendum on Prime Minister Tony Blair.” However, he also wrote that, “Many Europeans have unrealistic expectations about what Congress can accomplish.”

“Whether the Democrats can manage Congress better than the Republicans is an open question. Concerning Iraq, it is clear the party has no stomach for staying out of the conflict as made clear by the [Dem.] party’s euphemistic talk about a “new direction”, states an editorial in The Australian.

The Khaleej Times, published in the United Arab Emirates, stated that it was “important to understand what the Democratic victory of 2006 will say about the American political mood.” The editorial continued by saying, “a high-takes chapter is now opening for the Democrats.” The story mentioned a New York Times/CBS poll that asked what Party the voter trusted to get the U.S. out of Iraq. “The response was Republicans 12 percent and Democrats 76 percent,” the story stated.

An editorial in the Irish Times noted a “decisive shift in the U.S. political mood, but cautioned that, “it is too soon to say a major realignment in U.S. politics is thereby heralded.”

Judith Latham of the Voice of America News stated on Nov. 9: “Many foreign analysts suggested that the outcome would influence both domestic and foreign policy during the final two years of Pres. Bush’s second term.”

In her story, she mentioned that Matthias Rueb, Washington Bureau Chief of the Frankfurter Allgemeire Zeitung, said there is a “misconception about how much of a difference the Congressional elections will make.”

“He says most Germans feel vindicated,” Ms. Latham writes, “that the American people have finally come to grips with what a big mistake it was to invade Iraq.”

Domestic disillusions

In the meantime, U.S. anti-war activists meeting in Harlem say they are not waiting to see what the democrats will do; and call for stepping up the pressure in the streets.

“The elections are over and now it is time for us in the anti-war movement to get back into the streets,” Larry Holmes of the Troops Out Now Coalition stated at the emergency Anti-War Summit in Harlem on Nov. 18.

“Yes, Donald Rumsfeld has been pushed out as Secretary of Defense and both political parties have vowed to change the course of the war and occupation of Iraq, but we must not be fooled. The war will go on unless we take this struggle back to the streets,” he argued.

At every table in the room, discussion centered on building unity within the activist community, not only in the anti-war movement, but also with the movements against racism and immigrant workers’ rights.

“We must include the movement for justice for Hurricane Katrina survivors; and fight for economic and social justice in a way that goes beyond symbolism,” Mr. Holmes told the gathering.

Present in the room were activists Pam Africa of the Free Mumia Movement, Theresa Guttierez of the immigrants’ rights organization, The May 1 Coalition, City Councilman Charles Barron, Lawrence Hamm of the Peoples Organization for Progress and Brenda Stokely of the Millions Worker March.

“We need to fight the ruling class that wants to squash all of our hopes and dreams and, in fact, our lives wherever they are,” Ms. Stokely said. “We have to fight better, more seriously and on a daily basis.”

Councilman Barron told the gathering that the anti-war movement was the reason why the Democrats were back in office. “You have to keep marching. We need a shift in policy,” he stressed.

Lawrence Hamm concluded the program by informing the group that he had just left Elizabeth, N.J., where activists blocked the entrance to the military recruitment center. “Citizens’ first responsibility,” he insisted, “is to stop this horrific war.”