Democrats: Stuck Between Iraq and The Anti-War Left

Between the proverbial rock and a hard place stands the leadership of today’s Democratic Party. Though you wouldn’t know it from mainstream media coverage, much of the Democratic base, though war-weary, supports the troops and is uneasy about an over-hasty withdrawal from Iraq. But a vocal, small, and increasingly influential anti-war Left revels in maligning the troops and unabashedly rooting for U.S. defeat in Iraq.

For months, Democrats have been trying to pacify both constituencies.

Consider Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who insists he supports the troops and understands that "America’s security must come first," but is also leading congressional efforts to force President Bush to withdraw prematurely from Iraq. Reid has for months declared the current mission "lost," and has called the Iraq war the "worst foreign policy mistake in U.S. history."

Reid’s is an untenable position. While a person can criticize the war and still support the troops, Reid surely understands that as majority leader his public actions and remarks have served to undercut troop morale and embolden an enemy galvanized by such blatant signs of defeatism by America’s political elite.

The ridiculousness of Reid’s contradictory positions (which anti-Iraq war columnist Joel Stein has called "one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have taken") underscores the power struggle within the Democratic Party between the fringe anti-war Left and mainstream Democrats.

Two recent incidents help illustrate that struggle’s manifestations.

Two weeks ago, Democratic leaders tried to attach an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that would have mandated sending terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay to the United States. The amendment was eventually pulled and replaced with a Republican amendment that did the exact opposite, prohibiting sending terrorists to the United States. That amendment passed overwhelmingly, and, revealingly, every Democrat sponsor of the original amendment to shut down GITMO ended up voting for the alternative.

Such apparent capriciousness was the by-product of a keen insight: despite the cries of the anti-war activists about alleged, inhospitable conditions for terrorist prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, most Americans are more concerned about having terrorists living next door.

Here’s another example. Last year, U.S. Airways removed six Imams from a flight due to passenger complaints about their very erratic and unusual behavior. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a lawsuit against U.S. Airways, seeking unspecified monetary damages for false arrest, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other alleged offenses. But CAIR went even further, actually naming several of the airline passengers who reported concerns about the imams’ behavior as defendants in the case.

In response, conservatives in the House of Representatives introduced legislation to protect "John Doe" citizens who report suspicious behavior from frivolous lawsuits. In March, House Republicans forced a vote on the bill, and it was approved, 304-121.

But, last week, liberal Democrats, in negotiations with their Senate counterparts, stripped the legislation out of the final Homeland Security bill. An attempt in the Senate to attach the "John Doe" protections to an education bill failed to overcome a Democrat filibuster.

So Democrats voted for the bill on the House floor, but then waited until the dead of summer, at the end of the week, to strip it out in a conference committee when they thought no one was paying attention.

Why would they do that? Democrats know this bill is overwhelmingly popular with the American people. It received strong majority support in both the House (304 votes) and Senate (57 votes). Yet, Democrats were set to cave in to the extreme elements of their party. (Fortunately, the conservative media was paying attention, and after a flurry of bad press, liberals in Congress finally acquiesced to Republican demands to include the “John Doe” provision.)

The anti-war movement began four years ago as smug anti-Bushism, but the movement has evolved. It is now animated by something far more nefarious: the obscene belief that America and Israel are the source of all that ails the Middle East and that Americans, not the Islamofascists, are the enemy.

One need only visit leftwing websites like and the Daily Kos to understand how much the extreme Left desires America’s defeat in Iraq and beyond. Recent revelations that scurrilous stories in The New Republic and The Nation portraying our soldiers in a very negative light may have been fabricated can be seen as the effects of the Left’s uncontrollable desire to think the worst of its fellow citizens.

But you will rarely hear criticism of the anti-war Left by today’s Democrats. That’s because, as Time magazine’s Joe Klein has written, "a fierce bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. Anyone who doesn’t move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed…" Appeasement of the anti-war fringe was behind the Democrats’ fruitless legislative session last week, held through the night even though everyone knew Democrats didn’t have enough votes to pass an amendment calling for the draw down of troops starting in four months. But Reid and the Democrats needed to show their Leftwing that they were trying.

Despite all their kowtowing to the Left, Reid et. al. are keenly aware that most Democrats who believe Iraq is a mess also understand, as a fresh study from the liberal Brookings Institution states, that a precipitous withdrawal could bring "a humanitarian nightmare" in which "we should expect hundreds of thousands (conceivably even millions) of people to die." Many responsible Democrats, though they want our troops to come home, also refuse to believe the worst about the troops and do not support bringing terrorist suspects to the U.S. or penalizing concerned citizens for reporting suspicious behavior.

Today’s Democrats are trying to appease two distinct constituencies, which may explain Congress’s all-time low approval numbers. But, with 2008 looming, they will have to decide whether to stand for victory against Islamofascism and take their lumps from the extreme Leftwing or whether to align with the anti-American bullies who hope for their own country’s destruction. For most Americans, that would not be a tough choice.