Vermont Congressman Peter Welch said in an interview in Denver on Wednesday that he is being challenged by a Progressive candidate mainly because he has not managed, singlehandedly, to end the war in Iraq.
Welch noted sardonically that he has also not halted global warming, even though — as in the case of Iraq — he has voted repeatedly for actions that would move the US in a positive direction on the issue.
"I've voted against the war on every single opportunity in Congress," Welch said following a breakfast meeting with the Vermont delegation to the Democratic Convention. "I'm one of those members of Congress who believes we have to use the power of the purse to bring the troops home. That's why I've repeatedly voted to cut funding for the war."
Former Army Specialist Thomas James Hermann, a veteran of the Iraq war from Barre, is running against Welch in the November election as a Progressive. Hermann says Welch has not been forceful enough in opposing the war.
Welch said Hermann has been encouraged to run by a faction of the Vermont antiwar movement that includes Burlington attorney James Leas, a leader in the drive for the VT Legislature to pass a resolution favoring impeachment of President George W. Bush.
I asked Welch if he supported Barack Obama's position of transferring some US troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Welch said his aim is to bring American troops home from Iraq and that the United States cannot afford to insert an "army of occupation" into every country where Al Qaeda is believed to pose a threat.
He acknowledged, however, that the threat of terrorism against the US is "real." Welch suggested he would await a review of the Afghanistan situation by an Obama administration before deciding on the right course of action there.
Opposition to the Iraq war is being kept off center-stage at the Pepsi Center where Democrats have gathered to nominate Obama. Most speakers mention the war in their remarks to the convention, but it is receiving much less emphasis than the economy, health care and energy.
When convention speakers do call for a pullout from Iraq, they almost invariably say that Obama would end the war RESPONSIBLY. That adverb has been scripted into every Democrat big-shot's speeches here, including the talk that Michelle Obama gave on Weds morn at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The formulation reminds me a lot of Richard Nixon's 1968 mantra about the Vietnam war. Nixon said on every occasion that he wanted to achieve "peace with honor" in Vietnam. The "honor" part became an excuse for staying in Vietnam five more years and continuing to destroy that country even as the war was being lost. I wonder if the "responsibly" trope could ultimately prove to be a rhetorical cover for the same refusal to end a war that should never have been started.
What do you think?