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MoveOn members, Operation Democracy Leaders Nita Chaudhary, Eli Pariser, MoveOn.org Political Action Ending the War in Iraq: Momentum is on our side.

Over the last seven months, MoveOn members—especially those involved with Operation Democracy—have been at the forefront of the fight to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home safely and quickly. This fight sometimes seems interminable, and it’s easy to get disheartened. But looking back over the last year, it’s clear we’ve actually made significant progress toward bringing our troops home. There have been moments of tremendous disappointment, but you’ve been undeterred, and your efforts have led to historic victories—including a bipartisan majority of Congress voting, not once but twice, for a deadline to end the war. Your hard work has isolated the president politically—and he now enjoys poll numbers that are at Nixonian depths. This constant pressure has also begun to split the Republican Party on the war. In recent weeks, influential Republicans have begun criticizing the war in Iraq more loudly and many have even endorsed withdrawal. Through your vigilant efforts we have brought the fight to end the war to a critical point—now is the time to push Congress to bring our troops home. Here is a brief review of the political lay of the land: • In July, the House of Representatives passed the strongest binding legislation to date to bring our troops home. The House passed a bill that would mandate redeployment to begin within 120 days of passage and would bring most troops home by April. In the Senate, this proposal now has the support of the Democrats plus three key Republicans. A Republican minority in the Senate is blocking the full Senate from taking a vote on this measure. Republicans are abandoning President Bush on Iraq. Over the last month, Republican support for the war has crumbled in Congress. Prominent Senate Republicans like Senators Lugar (IN), Voinovich (OH) and Domenici (NM) have called for a change in course while others, like Senators Snowe (ME), Hagel (NE) and Smith (OR) have co-sponsored Democratic legislation to bring our troops home. The White House is panicked. ABC News recently ran a story with the headline "'Crack in the Dike': White House in 'Panic Mode' Over GOP Revolt on Iraq." The White House, ABC reported, is looking for ways to "appease Democrats and keep wobbly Republicans onboard." Editorial boards across the country are pushing for exit from Iraq. In the last month, the New York Times—a bellwether newspaper with an influential editorial board, officially endorsed withdrawal from Iraq. The New York Times joins papers like the Portland Press Herald—which helped move the position of key Maine senator, Olympia Snowe, the Los Angeles Times and others in saying it now time to leave Iraq. The Iraqi Prime Minister says U.S. troops can leave. Polls of Iraqi public opinion have shown that Iraqis want American troops to go home. And just a few weeks ago, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the press that his government is capable of taking care of Iraq and American troops can leave "any time they want."

These advances have brought us to a tipping point on the war and it’s on us to make sure we leverage this opportunity for everything its worth. This month—when members of Congress are home for recess—is the time for us to really turn up the heat.

Our Charge Going Forward

We have two major objectives: One is to show Democrats they need to fight harder and longer than they have to date in order to force President Bush and Republicans to agree to a timeline that will bring our troops home quickly. Part of this is showing them we will support them when they do. The other major objective is to ensure that Republicans who are stonewalling an end to the war pay a high political price. We have to make it clear that there are only two options for members of Congress who keep voting to continue the war: Vote to bring our troops home this September or face political extinction.

September is the Key
September is going to be decisive as there will be a key vote on another Iraq Supplemental that will set our policy in Iraq for the next year. It is clear that we need to shift our policy in Iraq from endless occupation to redeployment. Members of Congress, especially Republicans, have insisted that they are waiting on General Petraeus’ report in September before making a decision on what policy they will support. General Petraeus’ report will likely be a mixed bag—as a member of the administration, he will report some positive results and some negatives. Our strategy is to apply enough political pressure between now and then—to both Republicans and Democrats—that Congress won’t be able to hide behind Petraeus’ mixed assessment. To do that, we have an ambitious month of organizing ahead to keep the heat on members of Congress so that they return to Washington ready to vote for an exit strategy for Iraq. In midAugust we will release a report on the local cost of the war in each district, followed by a national day of action, with coast-to-coast vigils to end the war. To help us prepare for this month of aggressive action, we’ve planned kickoff meetings happening this week. Here's the plan for August: • • • We'll release a hard-hitting report to local media on what the war has cost your congressional district. This will happen on August 16th. We'll give you the report and complete media instructions. You'll hold a vigil as part of a national day of action on August 28th, along with our coalition partners at Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. These will be some of the largest vigils held since the war started. Meanwhile, we’ll be coordinating with our allies at Americans Against Escalation in Iraq— their “Iraq Summer” program has deployed organizers in the districts of dozens of vulnerable Republicans. Iraq Summer culminates this month with a series of local actions against the war.

All the hard work MoveOn members and our allies have done on Iraq—the rapid response rallies, the vigils, the letter deliveries, the virtual marches, the petitions—have had an effect. But we’re not there yet. We have one month to go before the vote, and now it's time to turn up the heat in a concentrated way. Momentum to end the war is on our side. It's time to change course.

Messaging
We recently did some polling on Iraq, but before we get into what we found, a note about our process: A lot of organizations expect polling to tell them what's possible. That's not our approach. We start by figuring out where MoveOn members want to go—in this case, a swift, responsible withdrawal from Iraq.

Then, we listen to the arguments that members make about why that's the right course—like "the war is costing us billions" and "we're in an unwinnable war." Finally, we use polling to figure out which of these messages are persuasive for Republicans and Independents in key target states. Polling helps us identify the areas where progressives, independents and conservatives agree. Here is what we learned from a recent poll across seven states with vulnerable Republican incumbent senators.

The War in Iraq is the top concern among voters
Now I am going to read you a list of concerns people have. Please tell me which ONE of these you think the president and Congress should be paying most attention to. (In this graph, “combined” means the combined score of folks who ranked that particular issue as their first most important and folks who ranked it their second most important issue.)

The war in Iraq Health care Terrorism and national security Illegal immigration The economy and jobs Social Security and Medicare Taxes and spending Moral values Energy and gas prices 1

29 13 15 9 9 4 7 5 3 9 14 14 21 20 27 31

44

First choice Combined

The best reason to end the war is that it’s turned into an unwinnable religious civil war; the cost of the war is also significant

(In this graph, “Shifters” are people who are most likely to shift their opinions in response to arguments against the war.) Now, I am going to read you a list of reasons people give for ending the war in Iraq and bringing our troops home. Please tell me which TWO of these are the best reasons for (Senator Name) to vote to bring our troops home from Iraq.

34 Religious civil war 28 31 27 31 Cost of war 23 30 29 22 No more lives lost 10 Focus off al Qaeda 21 16 18 16 26 19
Shifters Iraq has impact on vote Independents Swing Voters

Cost of war is top message among target groups
As you may know (Senator Name) has voted several times to support President Bush’s strategy in Iraq. In September there will likely be new votes to change the course. Let me read you some statements Democrats might make criticizing (Senator Name) for voting against legislation that would force President Bush to change course and set a timeline for removing all U.S. troops from Iraq. Please tell me if each statement would make you more or less likely to vote to reelect (Senator Name)?

Cost of War 28 27

39 37 51 40

Swing voters Independent Shifters

Arming militias

49 31 31 29 49 33 39 35 44 34
Iraq has impact on vote

Alignment with Bush

Ignoring the people

The themes this polling showed to be most effective: The rising cost of Iraq, now $10 billion per month. The number around which we make our argument. Link the cost to endless religious civil war. Key implication: the cost is rising without limit and with no end in sight. Shortchanging domestic priorities. Including health care and alternative energy for energy independence. Bringing it all together: Pro-war senators are wasting billions of the taxpayers' dollars in an endless, religious civil war that cannot be won. Conclusion
This war has gone on for too long. But we’re closer now than we’ve ever been to ending it. This is the critical moment. Congress is at home in their districts—and then they’re heading straight back to Washington to decide war policy for another year. If we act together, we can put the nail in the coffin of President Bush’s plan for endless war. We just have to make it perfectly clear to every member of Congress: Vote to end the war in September or face political extinction. Together, we can do this.