When Eli Pariser, the executive director of MoveOn.org, looks at the Iraq spending bill that Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders managed to pass in the House today, what he sees is a way to end the war. The bill, which won passage on a nearly strict party-line vote, commits $124 billion to fund operations in Iraq, but it calls for removal of American combat troops by the summer of 2008. The plan is not perfect, Pariser concedes. It does not require complete withdrawal. Still, this week, MoveOn signed on to Pelosi’s supplemental funding bill, citing a poll of its members showing overwhelming support of the idea.
MoveOn’s longtime allies in the antiwar movement, however, look at the bill — and MoveOn’s support for it — and see something very different. Groups who call for immediate withdrawal argue that MoveOn’s position is a betrayal of their cause, and that Pelosi’s bill merely continues the war while allowing Democrats to say they’ve done something to oppose it. Cindy Sheehan, the “peace mom” who favors immediate withdrawal, describes MoveOn as supporting “the slow-bleed strategy of the Democratic leadership.” Gail Murphy, of the group CodePink, says, “MoveOn has taken a compromised position — in fact I think they were involved behind the scenes in creating a compromised position.” Other peace activists call MoveOn’s e-mail poll of its membership a sham. If MoveOn’s millions of members knew the full details of the bill, they would surely oppose it.
MoveOn has long been part of Win Without War, a large collection of progressive antiwar groups; now it is virtually alone among the coalition’s membership in its support for the Pelosi plan. Sheehan says that some in the antiwar movement were so upset at MoveOn’s position this week that they spent a couple of days drawing up full-page newspaper ads accusing the group of betraying its members. (In the end they decided to hold their fire, at least for now.)