The Mix

Conservative, old Pentagon pals are the Dems who lead on Iraq

It's odd, isn't it, that the Democrats who are out front on getting out of Iraq are Ike Skelton and Jack Murtha?
"The Democrats -- led by two of their most conservative, pro-military members in the House - Ike Skelton and John Murtha - are unified in the need to begin rapid redeployment of the troops and bring the costly occupation of Iraq to an end." -- That's a pointer from Bob Borosage at Campaign for America's Future, and of course, he's right. Kucinich and Lloyd Doggett are great guys who want peace, but they aren't Iraq's most vocal or visible critics.

Skelton has been around forever, and so has Murtha. Both are living, breathing extensions of the Army brass -- and are lifelong adherents of the idea that a great nation equals a empire with hundreds of garrisons, control of global finance and currency, etc.

Part of why Murtha and Skelton are "leading" on Iraq has much to do with their being part of the establishment, which gives them a kind of legitimacy Kucinich is not likely to enjoy any time soon. To the pundit universe, Murtha is quotable, talkshowable, and Kucinich is invisible. But here's the kicker -- with the cover of establishment guys like Murtha and Skelton taking the early fire of being pro-'redeployment' months and months ago, why haven't the roughly 200 Democrats with views ranging somewhere between Kucinich and Murtha said en masse "Let's redeploy"? It's not like the idea isn't held in favor by a massive majority. It's not like the idea of redeployment from Iraq (which of course, doesn't change the idea of American empire in the Middle East, it just rearranges it) isn't the Democrats' best issue in this general election.

So what gives? Well, I'll tell you what I think: there is a little subculture/groupthink residue from the patriotic exuberance of 9/11 among the mainstream political class that still hasn't worn off. It's not much more than that, I'm pretty sure. Just a monolithic Political Mind shared by a few hundred people, their staffs of a few thousand, some consultants, etc.

I'm actually more optimistic that by mid-October, this mindset will have worn away enough for all the House Democrats (Senate's another issue), to more or less say what Murtha has. The question is, will the House Republicans buck their leadership and say the same thing too?

I honestly don't think that public opinion will shift even if Bush and congressional Republicans announce a troop drawdown, which is what the GOP seems to be planning as its November salvation -- that's not the same thing as saying we want less to do with Iraq.
Jan Frel is an AlterNet staff writer.
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Election 2018