Sunday, September 16, 2007

Democrats' Options on Iraq War


[My note: The Iraq War is a definition of the word "quagmire" and there are no easy options to exercise. Circumstances are such that a quick withdrawal is also a recipe for all out civil war while staying is resulting increasing casualties of our soldiers and innocent civilians.]

Media Misrepresent Democrats' Options on Iraq War

Thursday 13 September 2007

Confusing "can't" and "won't."

Following a pattern set when Congress passed supplemental funding for the Iraq War last May (FAIR Media Advisory, 6/1/07), major media outlets continued to "explain" the politics of the war in incomplete and misleading ways.

The point made by these media outlets again and again is that the Democrats have little power to affect policy in Iraq because it would be difficult to pass legislation over a potential Republican filibuster, and even harder to pass a bill over a presidential veto. This sentiment is also voiced by many Democratic politicians, many of whom consider themselves opponents of the war. But passing a filibuster- or veto-proof bill is not their only option.

As the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Dan Balz (9/10/07) put it: "Because of a Senate rule requiring 60 votes to shut off debate and 67 votes to overturn a veto, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid faced an almost impossible challenge. Even if all his troops stood together, he started with just 49 votes."

Newsweek's Howard Fineman declared that the Democrats' powerlessness was built into the constitutional system on NBC's Chris Matthews Show (9/2/07):

Politically, what the president has been trying to do is to keep discipline among the Republicans because as long as he can keep most of the Republicans in the Senate, in the House with him, there's no way to overturn the policy because of the way the Constitution reads.... I hate to keep coming back to the Constitution. Sixty votes to stop a filibuster, 67 to overturn a presidential veto in the Senate.

This sort of analysis was used to explain the Democrats' need to compromise with Republicans, watering down a firm withdrawal date in the hopes of winning bipartisan support. "Senior Democrats now say they are willing to rethink their push to establish a withdrawal deadline of next spring if doing so will attract the 60 Senate votes needed to prevail," reported the New York Times' Carl Hulse (9/5/07). "Democrats would need to lure the 60 senators in order to cut off a likely Republican filibuster."

This approach was endorsed in an Associated Press report (9/11/07) by Matthew Lee:

If Republican support for the war holds, as it might for now, Democrats would have to soften their approach if they want to pass an anti-war proposal. But they remain under substantial pressure by voters and politically influential anti-war groups to settle for nothing less than ordering troop withdrawals or cutting off money for the war-legislation that has little chances of passing.

The problem with all these accounts is that Congress does not have to pass legislation to bring an end to the war in Iraq--it simply has to block passage of any bill that would continue to fund the war. This requires not 67 or 60 Senate votes, or even 51, but just 41--the number of senators needed to maintain a filibuster and prevent a bill from coming up for a vote. In other words, the Democrats have more than enough votes to end the Iraq War-if they choose to do so.

The Democratic leadership may believe rightly or wrongly that such a strategy would entail unacceptable political costs. But that's very different from being unable to affect policy. To insist, as many media outlets have, that the Constitution makes it impossible for Congress to stop the war obscures the actual choices facing the nation-by confusing "can't" with "won't."

Sharing Ramadan


Non-Muslims to share Ramadan

Group issuing dinner invitations to better relations


Arsalan Bukhari loves to visit Canada, but rarely does because he doesn't like waiting for hours while officers search his belongings. Some of his buddies with coveted jobs at Microsoft can't make connecting flights because airport security stops them for questioning.

"I personally feel violated when they go through my car and my backpack," said Bukhari, a Muslim. "We're painted against these crazy, angry guys living on the fringe."

Bukhari's sentiments come at a time of growing fear in the community of Arab-Americans, Muslim-Americans and people of South Asian heritage. That fear was stoked even more last month when federal authorities released photographs of two men, apparently of Middle Eastern descent, who authorities said were acting suspiciously aboard Washington State Ferries.

Now members of the community are fighting back -- with politeness.

Bukhari and others from the Council on American-Islamic Relations are hosting a traditional dinner on Wednesday at the Islamic School of Seattle, and have invited city and state leaders to try to increase understanding of Islam. The meal will break Muslims' fasting during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that began Thursday.

Local FBI agents have said they'll attend. So have labor union representatives and members of the World Affairs Council. But Bukhari said people don't need a fancy title to be welcomed.

"We want to meet them, shake hands and have them realize that we're just normal people," he said.

Bukhari, 27, who graduated with a degree in finance from Seattle University, became Washington president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. And according to a study by the national CAIR, Bukhari is among 62 percent of American Muslims who have obtained at least a bachelor's degree.

Several Muslims said that Americans have grown more knowledgeable about Ramadan, which includes fasting during daylight hours and a focus on charity, forgiveness and other virtues.

"In my younger days, I had to explain it to them," said Bellevue resident Rizwan Samad, 47, owner of a travel agency. "Now, especially since 9/11, there's been so much publicity."

His friends joke that President Bush has been good for Islam by bringing attention to their religion

"A lot more people are trying to learn what Islam is, because there's so much negative talk in the media," Samad said. "The good thing about American people is, they like to know. They like to study."

So do American Muslims, according to CAIR. A 2006 survey of Muslims showed 89 percent voted and about as many celebrate the Fourth of July. More than 40 percent said they volunteer for institutions serving the public, compared with 29 percent of all Americans in 2005, according to the council.

Many Muslims will celebrate nightly during Ramadan by going to a mosque, eating a communal meal with friends, then returning to the mosque.

Muslim students at the University of Washington plan to break their daily fast by meeting most weeknights for a community meal in the student union building. They usually eat pizza or "whatever somebody's mom makes," said Kiki Rizki, 21, a senior and an officer in the Muslim Student Association.

"Definitely, it's the best time of the year," said Khaled Abdel-Motagaly, 38, a Muslim and Boeing flight control engineer. "In many respects, it's getting close to Allah, getting close to Muslims and non-Muslims."

CAIR has also organized two other Ramadan dinners -- one Sept. 29 in Kirkland and another in Bellevue on Oct. 8. In touting the events, Bukhari cited a study saying 70 percent of non-Muslims develop a positive opinion after spending time with them.

"We think that will continue," he said.

And Bukhari, who has friends in Canada, said he hopes that efforts to show Muslims in a positive light will help them cross borders -- without holdups.


To register for one of the three Ramadan dinners organized by the Washington branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, call 206-367--4081 or e-mail:

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