The House engaged in "impassioned" debate on the Iraq war yesterday. Republicans, taking their lead from House Speaker Hastert, and armed with a "debate prep book" provided by the Pentagon, took a bold stand against "evildoers," (perhaps the prep guide was a comic book?) while the Democratic leader, Pelosi, called the war a "grotesque mistake" rather than a deliberate act.
Although the war has become unpopular with the public, it is the Republicans who are on the offensive, seeking "to put lawmakers of both parties on record on an issue certain to be central in this fall's congressional elections." Congressional Democrats are divided into three camps: some want troops to leave Iraq this year, others object to setting any kind of timetable, and a number of them want the United States to start redeploying forces by year's end but don't want to set a date when all troops should be out.
It is interesting to consider why this apparent paradox exists. There is considerable confusion on the left about the nature of the Democratic Party machine, as evidenced by the frequent charge that Democratic representatives are "cowardly" or "spineless"; one cannot speak of "bravery" or "cowardice" in relation to those who have no principles save to abide the power of the purse.
In this context, it is nearly inconceivable that Democratic VIPs would take note of the rights of the victims of imperial aggression, but if one is to ignore this aspect of the war in Iraq, one must adduce other objections to the venture. Indeed, there are many purely self-interested factors that could be noted: a predictable increase in terrorism against the U.S., the enormous costs, etc. However, here, too, we run into problems – those who wish to uphold the dominant ideological line must be careful not to undermine the system with subversive ideas.
As a result, even the most dovish representatives are unwilling to appeal to their (much more anti-war) popular constituencies with anything beyond lamentations of the "grotesque mistake." The "mistake" was made by most of the Congressional Democrats, as well as Republicans, tricked into it by the devious Bush administration, no doubt.
It's not exactly the strongest argument, even if it were true, pleading one's own susceptibility to transparently false arguments for the war. The Republican accusation is, after all, quite accurate: the Democrats are simply hypocritical and inconsistent in attempting to opportunistically capture the anti-war vote, putting aside, for a moment, that the Democrats' appeals consist mostly of rhetorical flourishes, largely devoid of any policy significance.