Race, gender, economy wrongly put war on back burner


Editor’s note: Carla Seaquist is a Barack Obama delegate to the Democratic state convention next month in Spokane.

Superdelegates looking to “close the deal” on the Democratic presidential nominee—Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?—might consider anew the issue that opened the deal for so many Obama supporters: the Iraq war.

For those of us who’ve grieved for America every day of this benighted five-year war, our choice, as the Democratic field narrowed, was easy: Hillary voted for the war, Obama opposed it. But, lately, Iraq has disappeared from campaign debate.

Early in the primary process, Iraq loomed large. At our February precinct caucus, Team Hillary made the gender argument of Hillary as first woman president. Countering that ’08 is not about gender or race, Team Obama argued that if a distinction must be made between the candidates, it’s on Iraq. Iraq carried the day, winning all the undecided voters present, plus a few from Team Hillary.

Since then, Iraq has been replaced as lead issue by, justifiably enough, a faltering economy. But less justifiably, Iraq has been “disappeared” by pundits endlessly intoning “no daylight” exists between the candidates on the issues and by the candidate who’s on the wrong side of the war, Hillary herself, by stoking “Bittergate,” Obama’s effort to connect with hard-hit workers, and his association with the incendiary Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

So obliging were the media in covering these phony wars that, astoundingly, they gave a pass to Hillary’s threat to “obliterate” Iran and to use “massive retaliation”—meaning: go nuclear and annihilate millions of people. Such jingoism should have propelled debate back to more serious things—i.e., war. But it didn’t.

Instead, race now looms over the remaining primaries, shamefully pressed by Hillary herself in an unsubtle appeal to voters who are “hard-working” and “white.” The media again comply with coverage based not on issues but identity. One would think the Democrats had become the Demographic party. If only Hillary had taken the high road …

Enough. To close the deal for Obama and get set for the general election against John McCain, here are six arguments for returning the war as central criterion.

The national interest-moral argument. The Iraq war has tarnished America’s good name by casting us as invader, occupier, torturer. Point: We need to redeem ourselves—in our own eyes and those of the world.

The commander-in-chief argument. Hillary continues to argue she’d make a better commander-in-chief. But this role’s first precept is the judicious restraint in unleashing the world’s mightiest military. By voting to commit our men and women in uniform to an unnecessary war, a war creating unprecedented numbers of the walking traumatized, Hillary fails the test (as does McCain)—while Obama meets it for his restraint. Point: Further debate about who’d make the superior commander-in-chief is pointless outside the context of the Iraq war.

The electability argument. Hillary also continues to argue her electability. But if, in the general election, both the Republican and Democratic nominees voted to authorize the Iraq war, it would be a huge cheat of the American people, a big majority of whom still oppose this war. Point: The most electable Democrat is the one who’s least Republican.

The economic argument. While some economists hold the war’s economic impact is negligible, even at $12 billion a month, others argue otherwise, like Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz in his new book, “The Three Trillion Dollar War.” If a direct link between policy and economic impact can be shown, it’s defensible, as when Obama connects Iraq with rising gas prices. Point: It’s the Iraq war and its impact on the economy, stupid.

The national security argument. Iraq was a “pre-emptive” war, premised on fighting terrorism “over there,” not here. But warmongering has not made us safer. The “logic” behind Bush’s war on terror needs overhaul, most especially its premises. Which is why Hillary’s “obliterate Iran” comment shocks: It sees Bush’s warring premise and raises it. Point: The American people must participate in resetting the premises of our own security. In so doing we’d settle what kind of people we are: warmongers and empire-builders or good neighbors and moral models.

The hinge election argument. The record numbers of Democrats turning out for the primaries are compelled by the belief that this election is the most important in our lives. That 81 percent of Americans feel the country is “on the wrong track” confirms this belief. Point: This being a hinge election, it’s—again—not about gender or race, it’s about war and peace and America’s recovery from ruin.

Further scraping of the race and gender wounds is lethal to our national fabric. Once Obama is the nominee, Iraq will be the best argument to prevent Hillary’s supporters from voting for McCain.

Finally, there’s the shared sacrifice, support-the-troops argument: We need to gear up again and—like so many of our soldiers—do another tour in Iraq.

Gig Harbor resident Carla Seaquist, an essayist and playwright, will soon publish a book, “Manufacturing Hope: Post-9/11 Notes on Politics, Culture, and the American Character.”