Clinton and Obama Silence On Winter Soldier Divides Progressives

Last Thursday over 30 Democrat challengers publicly presented their support for "The Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq," assembled from existing congressional legislation by national security experts, retired generals, and Congressional candidate Darcy Burner. As of today, the number of Democrat endorsees of the plan has risen to 45.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have yet to acknowledge the Iraq withdrawal plan crafted by members of their own party, and it appears there is little pressure from the press to question them on it.

The two candidates' also continue their refusal to acknowledge Winter Soldier, the public testimonies of Iraq War veterans that occurred this month in D.C. and one of the most important anti-war events in over 3 decades. If their refusal is any indication, the American public would be waiting a very long time to hear any mention of the Iraq plan.

Complicating matters, Sen. Obama has just this week received the endorsement of 4 notable anti-war progressives, writers and activists: Tom Hayden, Barbara Ehrenreich, Danny Glover and Bill Fletcher. Yet within the progressive activist community, there remains division over the endorsement, recently evidenced on the pages of this very blog, the Guardian and The Nation.

Hayden, Ehrenreich, Glover and Fletcher make their case that Obama's centrism provides the precise strategic opening for left leaning issues to find their way into his administration.

However, critics of the endorsement, insist that it's putting all your eggs in one already weak basket and will only dilute the strength of the anti-war movement.

Christopher Hayes, in The Nation last Thursday, describes exactly how the recent "Responsible Plan" differs markedly from the current withdrawal plans offered by both Clinton and Obama:

"The Responsible Plan opposes any residual forces as well as permanent military bases. It flatly states, "We must stop counter-productive military operations by U.S. occupation forces, and end our military presence in Iraq." It looks toward restoring "Constitutional checks and balances and fix[ing] the ways in which our governmental, military, and civil institutions have failed us." It also addresses the need to take responsibility for a humanitarian crisis in which thousands of Iraqis who worked with US forces are in danger and millions are displaced across the region."

It's clear Clinton's Iraq objectives fall terribly short with no timetable for withdrawal. Obama's plan includes withdrawal specifics, but falls short of bringing the troops home in less than a year, against the wishes of large numbers of U.S. voters, according to recent opinion polls.

Stephen Zunes, writing at Common Dreams, outlines the very tough choice progressive voters seem to be facing in choosing Obama over Clinton. But in Zunes' opinion, despite conflicting statements from Obama and his recently resigned foreign policy advisor, Samantha Power, the Illinois senator is still the clear choice over Clinton to ultimately bring the troops home.

"out campaigning Senator Obama tells voters that as president he'd withdraw combat brigades from Iraq within 16 months, but one of his top foreign policy advisers told a different story. She told a British television reporter, and I quote, "he will, of course, not rely on some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a U.S. Senator." ... Senator Obama...has promised to bring combat troops out in 16 months, but according to his foreign policy adviser, you can't count on him to do that. In uncertain times, we cannot afford uncertain leadership"

...And, based on the details revealed in both candidates' plans, whatever unforeseen complicating factors may emerge in Iraq over the next couple of years, it is almost certain that more American troops will be out quicker under a Barack Obama administration than a Hillary Clinton administration."

Timetables aside, what so divides the progressive voter's decision to support Obama is his history and framing of his candidacy as a centrist politician. Some view it, like Progressives for Obama, as a sliver of hope, others eye it with skepticism.

While you have to admit the number of voters who support Obama makes for an undeniable movement, shouldn't caution be urged in making a full endorsement of any of the two candidates, given their current positions on the war? Obama, specifically would need to do much more to deserve the support of the progressive wing given his past and current statements on healthcare and the economy.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that both Obama and Clinton won't touch the Winter Soldier hearings in their speeches to voters. John Kerry, himself one of the original soldiers of the Vietnam war who testified in the first Winter Soldier hearings in 1971, has publicly remained quiet on the hearings this month.

Sadly, Kerry, one of Obama's most politically prominent endorsers was villified for his testimony when he was campaigning for president in 2004 and continues to be by the right wing this very day.