Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Liveblogging the Burner Iraq Plan

Today, Darcy Burner is releasing her plan for responsibly ending the war in Iraq. This is a plan that has been six months in the making, crafted by a panel of Iraq experts that Darcy brought together for this purpose.

The plan is being unveiled today at the Take Back America Conference in Washington, D.C.

If, like myself, you don't happen to be in D.C. to attend the event in person, you can watch it live at starting at 2:30 Pacific time today.

But if you're on a connection that isn't friendly to streaming-media, you can follow along here on NPI's blog.

Update #1: 2:16 PM
Ok, I lied. It's not 2:30 yet, but waiting around for the broadcast to start is kind of boring, so here's an update. In the six months since Darcy originally convened the task force, she has been joined by nine other congressional challengers, who collectively form a pretty powerful "who's who" list of grassroots progressives. Most of the names on this list will be familiar to anybody who spends time on DailyKos or other national progressive websites, and it's great to see them joining Darcy Burner in this effort. Hats off to all of them: Tom Perriello (VA), Jarid Polis (CO), Larry Byrnes (FL), Donna Edwards (MD), Chellie Pingree (ME), George Fearing (WA), Eric Massa (NY), Steve Harrison (NY), and Sam Bennett (PA).

Update #2: 2:30 PM
The plan is available as a 36 page PDF file, and the control is up on Darcy's website. Good time to sign in, if you can. Looks like the broadcast will start imminently.

I'm surprised--but pleasantly so--that the plan isn't longer. I was dreading a several hundred pages tome. 36 pages is a nice length that's easily approachable and readable by everybody, yet is still enough to get into detail on the withdrawal plan. The plan itself focuses on three main objectives:

  • Bringing out troops home while transitioning responsibility for Iraq to the Iraqis
  • Change our own State Department by building new capacities for effective nation-building in cooperation with the international community
  • Committing to basic human rights throughout
The devil, as they say, is in the details. How do we bring our troops home without leaving a power vacuum? How do we do effective nation-building without creating resentment among Iraqis? How will we bring the perpetrators of Iraq war crimes to justice--particularly when some of those war criminals may themselves be high-ranking Americans?

Stay tuned...

Update #3: 2:43 PM
The broadcast is starting, although the event itself seems to be taking a little longer. Folks are milling around, still getting settled. The video quality isn't exactly HD, but it appears that Darcy is decked out in a cheerful St. Patrick's Day green outfit. This, of course, is meaningless in the grand scheme of anything. But hey, it looks good on her, and if it's fair game to report on what people are wearing at the Oscars then why not here at a conference that is actually attempting to change the America for the better?

Update #4: 2:50 PM
Ok, here we go. 445 viewers are online now. They're starting with a "person on the street" video of opinions and reactions to the war.

Update #5: 3:00 PM
The video is really choppy. But at least so far all we're missing is the opening remarks of the panel's moderator whose name I couldn't hear. I did manage to hear that he's a former congressman from Maine. If I catch his name later, I'll let you know. He's introducing Darcy now. She's opening with her perspectives on how to best provide for her child's future--a story most of us who have followed Darcy have heard before--and memories of her brother being deployed to Iraq and of sending him care packages.

"Voters get it. Voters understand that we have to end this war in
order to address any of the other problems we have." -- Darcy Burner

Now she's talking about how she convened this task force after meeting Paul Eaton, in order to have a real answer to voters about how to end the war. It's not enough, she says, to stand up and say "I would end the war; I'm committed to that" without also having a credible answer as to how.

"We've been waiting five years for a top-down solution. But no top-down
solution is coming. It's time to do a bottom-up solution." -- Darcy Burner

Update #6: 3:09 PM

Darcy is summarizing what's in the plan. You all can read the PDF as well as I can. I particularly like two things about the plan. Well, three things. One, that it explicitly defines what success looks like. Bush never bothered to do that before invading--he never said what future conditions in Iraq would constitute a successful mission. Two, the report focuses on the root causes of Iraq's continuing problems, rather than on band-aid solutions (which, frankly, military action constitutes). Three, it includes explicit recommendations for re-building the foundations of America's constitutional demoracy, our system of checks and balances, so we don't get embroiled in future Iraq-like situations.

Darcy's finishing her remarks, ceding the microphone to Donna Edwards (MD-04)

Update #7: 3:15 PM

640 viewers online now; Donna Edwards is speaking. She underscores the toll on the military: 3988 honorable service men and women, dead, over 29,000 injured. She's telling the story of two from Maryland, one who wanted to see the world, one who just wanted to go to college. That personally resonates with me, because one of the things that makes me the most upset about how conservatives have changed our nation's spending priorities has been in cutting support for higher education. It is morally wrong to have created a situation where so many ordinary Americans are forced to risk their lives in order to be able to get the education they'll need in order to succeed in life and provide for their families. That's a hell of a steep price to ask a young person to put out just to have a fair shot at the American dream. If we quit throwing money into the bonfire of the War, one of the first things I want to see restored is Pell Grants and other student aid programs that most of us or our children will need.

Update #8: 3:20 PM

Chellie Pingree is speaking. Her focus is on her perspective from the campaign trail (ME-01). She's talking about how people's questions have changed from "are you opposed to the war" to questions about how she'll end the war and a whole slew of other questions that are answered in today's report. She's echoing the "I told you so" frame Obama is using about having known back in 2002 (when Pingree was running for office before) that even folks like her and Barack knew that this war was going to be a huge mistake.

Update #9: 3:30

Next up, VA-05 candidate Tom Perriello. He's telling the "tale of two dictators" about Charles Taylor (Liberia) and Sadaam Hussein. Unlike Sadaam, he says, Taylor actually had ties to Al Qaeda. He's talking about how he was involved in diplomatic efforts that forced Taylor from power without dropping bombs, firing guns, and creating the kind of "helluva mess" that Iraq has become. Here's his best pull-quote:

"The military is doing its job; we're getting the politics wrong."

Following Perriello is PA-15 candidate Sam (Siobhan) Bennett. Siobhan is her proper--and Irish--given name. Like Darcy, she has a 5 year old son at home. She's taking time to thank Darcy for her leadership on this plan and for inviting other candidates like herself to join in. Ms. Bennett is talking about her family's military background and her own ROTC background.

"The most important thing we can do right now to support our troops is to
bring them home to the heroes' welcome they deserve."

Now she's talking about the false-choice between destabilizing withdrawl and semi-permanent occupation. "It's a lie," she says, "We can do better."

Update #10: 3:42 PM

Next, from CO-02 Jared Polis. He quipps that he's running for congress to propel Darcy into a leadership position as quickly as possible. Amen, brother! He opens by pointing out something I've been talking about here on NPI for a while: how Darcy and her as-yet-unelected classmates are already showing better leadership than the crop of boneheads currently keeping those House seats warm. He's underscoring some of the specific recommendations from the report calling for America (via its president) to explicitly state that we do not seek permanent military presence in Iraq, do not seek to use Iraq as a fulcrum from which to exert military influence in the middle east, and that we should not as a matter of public policy seek to control Iraq's oil resources.

He's taking some well earned shots at the traditional media, too, for failing to convey the "real story" to America about Iraq: the story of Iraq's 4 million refugees. Of the real reasons why some of them have come back from Syria--because their visas had expired and Syria was kicking them out, not because they wanted to go back.

That does it for the congressional challengers' speeches. Darcy's summarizing by calling everyone at the Take Back America conference to take specific actions. The rest of us should do it to:

  1. Read the plan, tell everyone you know about it
  2. Help get Darcy and her 9 co-challengers into the congress.
  3. Go to and endorse the plan yourself.

Next up, Matt Stoller of OpenLeft. He's pointing out how the country's feelings about the war have changed, but the framing about it hasn't: opposition still equates to anti-Americanism. He's talking about how we need to change that conversation and that framing, and that we can do it by producing and promoting plans like this. To show that being against the war doesn't mean wanting to make America less safe. Doesn't mean wanting "the surge to fail." To show that being against the war can and does mean taking America and the world to a better place. To a better future. To changing the conversation such that being against the war means being for a stronger and truly more secure America.

Well, seems to be about it, folks. They're showing some videos now which I recognize as also being available on Darcy's website. Thanks to everyone who's been reading along, and I do hope you'll take the time to read, share, and endorse the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq.


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