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Monday, January 29, 2007

Democrats, Iraq and a Cuba Card

By Circles Robinson*

The US Congress will be debating resolutions regarding the war on
Iraq this week, but President Bush made his position clear Friday:
"I'm the decision-maker!" and practically told the legislators they
can stick their non-binding resolutions wherever they please.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates played the patriotic card on Capitol
Hill warning congress members that failing to support the president's
troop build-up would "certainly embolden the enemy and our
adversaries," tantamount to treason.

That's powerful stuff for legislators worried about how they will be
seen by the voters in 2008.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
issued a joint statement saying ""While the president continues to
ignore the will of the country, Congress will not ignore this
president's failed policy."

But will they have the backbone to put an end to the senseless

The Democrats may well be in the majority but it appears very
unlikely that those truly wanting an end to the fiasco can muster the
votes to pull the plug. Bush knows that and feels confident with his
hardball politics.

That same logic worked for the president in 2004 when he was
reelected. He stood firm on Iraq while his wishy-washy opponent, John
Kerry, criticized the White House pretext for going to war, after the
Senator himself had voted for the billions to fund it.

So how can legislators wanting a withdrawal of the troops, but too
scared to vote for it, make the most of the situation? One way is to
play politics with the president and try and get something in return.

There are several pending issues -from stem cell research to the
nearly half-century blockade on Cuba- that have faced a presidential
veto or threats to them that could be attached to a war funding bill.
That's how US politics works. If you need a favor, you better be
ready to give one in return.

Let's take the Cuba blockade as an example. In the last few
legislatures a growing number of representatives, at times a
majority, have asked that all or part of the archaic policy towards
the island nation come to an end, regardless of whether the US
government approves of its political and social system.

The travel ban on US citizens; a prohibition on educational,
scientific, sports and cultural exchange; and preventing US companies
from supplying Cuba with a potential several billion dollars a year
in trade and services makes no sense.

The blockade only exists today because of a minority of wealthy and
politically powerful rightwing groups based in Miami. These, have
effectively hijacked US foreign policy for decades and even make a
thriving business out of it at the taxpayers expense.

If the Democratic Party majority doesn't have the courage to pull the
plug on the Iraq War, tagging on an amendment to end all or part of
the blockade on Cuba would be a perfect trade off to take advantage
of the administration's weaker position.

Later, when the new Iraq offensives fail, like the past ones, the
Bush government, or whatever follows it, will have to pull out anyway
or risk panic in the Baghdad Green Zone as occurred in Saigon during
the last week of April 1975.



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