Also thanks to No Left Turns, I was pointed to a very good article in the Christian Science Monitor (again, the title of this post is the link) by Mackubin Thomas Owens that compares and contrasts the Democrats of today with the Copperheads that dominated the Democratic Party during the Civil War.
It's a largely forgotten element of the Civil War, but it bears striking – and ominous – similarity to the obstruction we see in Washington today over the Iraq war. Indeed, as Democrats in Congress this week imposed withdrawal deadlines, it's clear that Copperhead syndrome is alive and well.Owens then chronicles the actions of the Copperheads:
They actively interfered with recruiting and encouraged desertion. Indeed, they generated so much opposition to conscription – including armed resistance in some places and the infamous draft riots in New York City – that the Army was forced to divert resources from the battlefield to the hotbeds of Copperhead activity in order to maintain order. Many Copperheads actively supported the Confederate cause, materially as well as rhetorically....and then compares today's Democrats to that standard:
I've probably excerpted enough to whet your appetite, so I won't share his conclusions... go read it all.
Today's Democratic Party seems to have inherited the mantle, if not the name, of their Copperhead forebears. Like the Copperheads of old, today's Democrats put the entire blame for the war and its conduct on the administration. While the Copperheads of old assured the Union soldiers that the Rebels could not be defeated, today's Copperheads assure us that the Iraqi insurgents are invincible.
The Copperheads of old described Lincoln as a bloodthirsty tyrant, trampling the rights of Southerners and Northerners alike. And they portrayed Union soldiers as instruments of his tyrannical administration. Invoking the USA Patriot Act, Guantánamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib, today's Copperheads – from lawmakeres to bloggers – call President Bush a tyrant and a terrorist. Some have even suggested similarity between US soldiers serving in Iraq and Nazis in World War II. Rarely do they censure the enemy in such terms.
Like the Copperheads of old, today's Democrats offer no viable alternative to their respective president's policy except to "end the war now." And just as former Copperheads preferred Lincoln's failure to saving the Union, the current ones would rather see Bush lose than the country win in Iraq.
Of course, rhetoric is one thing. An action to obstruct the war effort is another. With the recent shameful vote in Congress to hamstring the commander in chief's authority and ability to conduct the war in Iraq, the Democrats have assumed Copperhead status by moving from the former to the latter.
The bill they passed is a disgrace, but it is certainly in the best Copperhead tradition. It is a variant of what some call the "slow bleed approach": tie the president's hands while avoiding the responsibility that would go with an action that is within Congress's constitutional authority – cutting off spending for the war.
The principle that once Congress funds a military force, it has no further authority to direct or limit its employment was established during the administration of President Adams and the Quasi-War against France (1798-1800). Congress's action in this case is clearly unconstitutional.