What a contrast between the French demonstrations and the vast and exciting marches here against proposed immigration laws, as against the limp turnouts against the U.S. war on Iraq!

Across a few explosive weeks the first two series of protests have surged up in numbers and political impact. In France earlier this week there were a million on the streets. Just in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, half a million. In Paris, Dominique de Villepin, the author of the hated law loosening curbs on employers' right to fire new hires, is fighting for his political life. In Congress, U.S. senators revised the language of their bill in step with the magnitude and passion of the rallies.

Meanwhile, though two out of three here in the United States disapprove of the war in Iraq, there's no energetic political leadership from above, no irresistible shove from below.

Reason? There's no draft. There's no reason to fear that your number will come up. No draft, hence no burgeoning antiwar movement, moving from strength to strength, terrorizing the politicians. What's the degree of separation between most of us and the 120,000 U.S. military in Iraq? The closest I get to people who have served in Iraq is the parents in Military Families Speak Out I share platforms with. So how do we narrow the degrees of separation? By vets counseling students against enlisting, by inviting Military Families Against the War to speak locally. Remember, the antiwar movement reached its peak last year because Cindy Sheehan connected millions to the war.

The war's coming home all right, in the form of people dreadfully wounded in body and spirit. Thousands of tragedies will unwind, often violently, for years to come. But for now, for the most part, it's pictures on the TV, not tears and terror on the hearthrug. So the Democrats in Congress aren't too worried about pressure from their antiwar constituents. The awful six-termer, Jane Harman, faces a primary challenge from Marcy Winograd in Southern California, after a couple of unions defied orders and endorsed Winograd. Meanwhile, at the other end of the country in Connecticut, Sen. Joe Lieberman faced a decidedly cool audience at a big Democratic dinner at the end of March and got bailed out by his brother senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who told the crowd to haul out their checkbooks and make sure Lieberman gets returned for another term.

What kind of a signal is this? Here is Obama, endlessly hailed as the brightest rising star in the Democratic firmament, delivering (at a closely watched political dinner, where Lieberman's primary opponent is sitting in the crowd) a ringing endorsement to his "mentor," Lieberman, Bush's closest Democratic ally on the war in Iraq, one of the architects of welfare "reform," and pretty much overall a symbol of everything that's been wrong with the Democratic Party for the past 20 years. What a slimy fellow Obama is, as befits a man symbolizing everything that will continue to be wrong with the Democratic Party for the next 20 years. Every time I look up he's doing something disgusting, like reproaching his fellow senator Dick Durbin for denouncing the torture center at Guantanamo or cheerleading the nuke-Iran crowd.

How many degrees of separation do I have from people without green cards, people who just come across the border, people awaiting relatives coming across the borders, the guy behind the bar in an Irish pub, the fellow in the gas station, the woman at the cash register? It's a one-degree world.

Try to pass a bill -- as the House of Representatives is now doing -- that makes a significant chunk of the population co-conspirators in the commission of a felony -- and you're going to get some action, and so they did: half a million in Los Angeles and then the demonstrations and student walkouts that have put maybe 1.5 million on the streets in the past few weeks.

The horrible part of the story is that this is a moment when the antiwar movement should be at full effective stretch. A couple of weeks ago, Tony Swindell, a newspaper editor in north Texas wrote to me as follows: "Begin paying attention to stories from Iraq like the very recent one about U.S. Marines killing a group of civilians near Baghdad. This is the next step in the Iraq war as frustration among our soldiers grow -- especially with multiple tours. I served with the 11th Light Infantry Brigade, American Division, and My Lai was not an isolated incident. We came to be known as the Butcher's Brigade, and we also were the birthplace of the Phoenix Program."

We're running in our next CounterPunch newsletter Swindell's parallel narratives of the United States in Vietnam, and what he sees happening now. "There's a numbness in my guts as I see the same nightmares becoming reality again in Iraq and I wonder what's happened to America's soul. Is this what we want, another generation suckled on the poison of another renegade leadership? Gooks have become ragheads, every adult male is an insurgent eligible for torture, and every Iraqi home filled with men, women and children is a free-fire zone."

There is some sort of slow-motion, semi-mutiny going on in the Democratic Party in bits of the country at the moment, and much of its rather tepid steam comes from the anti-war movement, aghast at the complicity of so much of the Democratic leadership in the war. But set the tempo of this mutiny next to what has been happening in France or on the streets of Los Angeles and, like Swindell, one feels a numbness in one's guts. The peace movement hasn't got fire in its belly. If it had, Obama, the rising star, would have passed up the invitation to go pitch for Lieberman, and two-thirds of the crowd would have hissed him when he did. As things are, they gave the new star a big cheer, instead of treating him the way the folks in Lancashire, England, did Condoleezza Rice. Meanwhile, not one Democrat in Congress will stand up for Cynthia McKinney, victim of racial profiling right in their own hallway.

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.