Shattering the War Consensus

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Why, for God’s sake, does nothing change? The war goes on, the money flows, the blood flows, the lies stay exactly the same. Have you noticed? Have you ever wondered, with a stab of transcendent confusion, why a self-correcting rationality hasn’t kicked in by now, why a saner awareness hasn’t made itself evident in the macro-affairs of the nation by now?

Folks, we have a seriously dysfunctional situation on our hands, more pervasive, I fear, than most of us realize. Deep into Bush II, our government appears to have taken on a crack house dysfunctionality. The institutional checks and balances that Americans are so proud of — including, of course, the watchdog media — have been so compromised by the war-junkie administration they’ve served and enabled they have almost no objectivity left with which to challenge or counter it. And thus the national war addiction permeates every facet of governance, and the media’s coverage thereof.

I say all this by way of talking about Cindy Sheehan, who has decided to run for Congress as an independent against one of the Bush administration’s prime enablers, Nancy Pelosi, the second- or third-most powerful Democrat in the country. Nothing in our political system — or rather, in the mainstream of political awareness as it now constitutes itself — is prepared to take such a candidacy seriously. This strikes me as a judgment on that awareness, not on Sheehan or her candidacy; and is a symptom of the dysfunctional system the antiwar activist has taken it upon herself to address.

If the dial on your give-me-a-break-o-meter is entering the red zone — if the voice in your head is saying c’mon, you can’t just run against somebody like Pelosi, and (if you’re a Democrat) what’s so bad about her anyway? — consider that our prejudice toward power, our inclination to trust it and let it have its way, is serving us poorly right now, and somebody has to take it on and spearhead, you might say, an intervention.

Consider this recent USA Today story, headlined “Dems Try To Load up ‘Money Train’ War Funding Bill”:

“Democrats in Congress,” the paper informs us, “are seeking to attach tens of billions of dollars in domestic spending to President Bush’s latest $108 billion war funding request, setting up a political battle that could put U.S. troops and their families in the middle.

“Plans to add money for such things as transportation, unemployment insurance, aid to states, food stamps, public housing and veterans’ benefits has prompted veto threats from the White House.”

Speaking about the same measure, an AP story adds: “The war supplemental appropriations bill is one of the few must-pass legislative vehicles to leave the station this year. That has lawmakers in both parties eying it as an engine to tug funding for their pet programs into law.”

Think about this. The disastrous war that the public has turned against by a huge margin — that we voted in a Democratic Congress two years ago to end — is not winding down or running its course but rather, in the accommodationist reign of Pelosi, defining the terms of government so completely that the ordinary appropriations of a viable social structure must attach themselves like leeches to the “must-pass” bill to fund that war or die.

All we are doing is waging war, in other words. The focus and function of government is to feed the war habit. Run-of-the-mill newspaper coverage has already accepted this as a given and casually ridicules the pathetic Democrats as opportunists — to put it charitably — for “loading up the money train,” slowing that sucker down, risking an imperial veto by seeking alms for “transportation, aid to states, veterans’ benefits” and so forth.

This is completely nuts. The Bush-Cheney-Halliburton-Blackwater war axis, hell-bent on dragging the country into the maw of its addiction, must not be accommodated any further. We need resolute, principled opposition to the whole game.

Pelosi, though she is, like the Clintons, sneered at by the thug right (and thereby gains street cred in ultra-liberal San Francisco, the district she represents), has paved the way for Bush’s war-funding requests to pass time and again with her political gamesmanship in the House. Among many other acts of accommodation, she was also secretly briefed, along with a few other members of Congress, on CIA torture practices in 2002, and in the spirit of bipartisan amorality saw no problem with it.

“This is a progressive, populist campaign. Every day that we exist and bring up these issues is a victory for us,” said Sheehan, the grieving mom who became the public face of opposition to the war in Iraq.

Now, with a staff of two, she is turning her challenge to that war into a political campaign. To the extent that politics is about winning and losing, yes, hers is probably a lost cause. But I see it as something else. I see it as a clarion stand for principle and rallying point for all who want to see the war consensus shattered.