A senior staff person for one of the most progressive and courageous members of Congress recently advised a room full of peace activists that they won't be able to persuade Democrats to oppose the war simply by showing them polls finding that a majority of Americans oppose the war.  Rather they must assuage the Democrats' fears of being called "weak on national security."

But that's not possible.  Opponents of a war will inevitably be called weak on national security.  And even if that ceases to be the case, Democrats will continue to fear it for a generation or more.  My advice to you, Democratic Members of Congress, is to embrace it and change the discourse.  Don't run scared of someone else's language.  Learn to recognize when the greatest gift you could ask for is to be attacked by your discredited, despised, and indicted opponents. 

The majority of Americans not only oppose the war, but oppose the President and disapprove of his handling of national security.  More Americans believe the war has increased the chances of terrorist attacks than believe it has decreased them.  And war is the top issue on people's minds; so, pretending it's not an important issue will not help you. You cannot retake either house without addressing the top issue on people's minds and without taking the position that is 1. moral, 2. fiscally sane, 3. most popular, and 4. distinct from the position of the other party – the issue on which the other party is running.

You say that looking at the polls won't convince you, but I don't believe you're looking at the polls.  I think you're watching the television news and reading American newspapers.  As I imagine you've heard -- but it bears repeating -- the media do NOT report the news as if they've read their own polls.  (If they did that, single payer health care couldn't be called radical and marginal.) 

But did you read this lead to an article in the Observer (UK) last Sunday? 

"An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600, The Observer has learnt. Yet since the appeal was launched earlier this month, donations to rebuild New Orleans have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars.",2763,1577797,00.html

What does that tell you?  Six hundred lousy dollars!  And not one single televised fundraising Concert to Kill More Arabs.

In contrast, I created a website yesterday asking for money to pay pollsters to ask whether Bush should be impeached.  It's brought in $3,500 in one day, and we've just started spreading the word.

A Democracy Corps survey released last week found that 60 percent of Americans want the country to go in a "significantly different direction than Bush," and, "When people are asked what they are thinking about, they start with the war…."

Are you beginning to see why you need to be weak on national security? 

No?  OK, bear with me for two more minutes.  A Newsweek poll on September 8-9 found that 36 percent of American adults believed the war on Iraq had increased "the risk that large numbers of Americans will be killed or injured in a future terrorist attack," while 26 percent thought it had decreased that risk.  Imagine what that gap would be if you were speaking out about it!

A CBS News poll on August 29-31 found 40 percent saying the war had increased the threat of terrorism against the United States, and 16 percent saying the war had decreased that threat.  The same poll found 31 percent believe that "as a country we are more safe than we were before September 11th," and an identical 31 percent say "less safe."  Imagine which way that tie would break if you were leading the way!

A Newsweek poll on August 2-4 found that 64 percent of Americans think the "Iraq war has not made Americans safer from terrorism," while 28 percent think it has.  A pretty nice gap despite your silence!

On August 8, the USA Today reported on a survey finding that 57 percent say the war has made the United States more vulnerable to terrorism, while 34 percent say the United States is safer.  Those are better numbers than most of you even hope to see in your next election.

I realize that the beliefs held by a majority of Americans are not beliefs the media depicts as respectable.  But, if you can't respect the voice of the American people, here are some experts who agree with us:

The U.S. State Department, which says terrorist attacks ARE ACTUALLY up dramatically:

CIA Director Porter J. Goss, who has some thoughts on what's gone wrong:

The pro-war International Institute for Strategic Studies (UK):

The conservative Chatham House:

Are you beginning to get the picture?  Are you ready yet to say this:

I am for weakness on national security.  If strength on national security means making our nation more vulnerable to terrorism, then I am for weakness.  If strength on national security means destabilizing the Middle East, damaging alliances around the globe, and making our nation hated by millions of people, I am for weakness.  If strength on national security means ignoring the threats that preceded 9-11, then I am for weakness.  If strength on national security means shipping the national guard out of the nation, defunding the construction of levees, and hiring incompetent cronies to protect the so-called homeland, then I am fervently for the weakest weakness we can muster.  If strength on national security means dumping the majority of our public resources into an unaccountable Pentagon and an illegal war, at the expense of education, health care, housing, transportation, renewable energy, or actual steps to protect the Gulf Coast, then I am for some creative weakness pronto! 

Now, there have been some news stories the past few days claiming that Bush's approval rating is on the rise.  But what they're claiming, if you look closely, is that his approval rating recently hit a record low and has now bounced back to where it's almost visible down in the bottom of the drain.  Here's a graph of numerous different pollsters' findings on Americans' approval of Bush over the past months and years.  Look at the trend:

In light of that big picture, how seriously do you take Newsweek's trumpeting Bush's "rise" to 40 percent approval, all the way up from 38 percent?  Gallup has Bush up at 45 percent, but look where Gallup always falls on that graph above.

Another story in the news has gotten a little less attention.  On September 29, the Associated Press reported on a study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (University of Maryland), which found that

"The American public has doubts about whether the Bush administration policy of promoting democracy internationally will make the world a safer place.  A poll done at the University of Maryland found that just over a fourth, 28 percent, say they think the world is safer when there are more democracies, while more than twice as many, 68 percent, say democracy may make life better within a country but does not make the world safer."

Remember that Americans know this from first-hand experience.  They think of their country as a democracy, but they recognize that their nation's actions in recent years have made the world less safe.  An ABC News poll in January 2003 (I haven't seen a more recent one) asked Americans which nation was the greatest threat to world peace.  First and second places went to the two nations depicted in the news at that time as evil enemies: Iraq and North Korea.  Tied for third were China and the United States.

You want to win an election?  Make the United States a leader toward world peace, not a leading threat to it.  Call your program Weakness on National Security.