It's Year Five, Do You Know Where Your Senators Are?

By David Swanson

On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Senate voted on a proposal from Senator Russ Feingold (D., Wisc.) to end the war by next March. The amendment would have really ended the war, in so far as it would have cut off funding to illegally continue it. But the amendment included loopholes and exceptions, so that US imperial control of Iraq and its oil was not seriously threatened. And, remember, this was to end the war – or at least scale it back – by March 31, 2008. Hardly the swift end to the occupation that the Iraqi people, the Iraqi Parliament, the U.S. service men and women serving in Iraq, and the American people have said they want. There was no mention of oil in the Senate debate.

The vote needed 60 Yes votes and received only 29, with 67 voting No, and 4 not voting. Here are the 29 Senators (28 Democrats and one Independent) who voted to end the war by next March: Akaka (D-HI), Biden (D-DE), Boxer (D-CA), Byrd (D-WV), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Clinton (D-NY), Dodd (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Feingold (D-WI), Feinstein (D-CA), Harkin (D-IA), Inouye (D-HI), Kennedy (D-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Kohl (D-WI), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Leahy (D-VT), Menendez (D-NJ), Mikulski (D-MD), Murray (D-WA), Obama (D-IL), Reid (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schumer (D-NY), Stabenow (D-MI), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wyden (D-OR).

These four did not vote: Brown (D-OH), Dole (R-NC), Johnson (D-SD), McCain (R-AZ).

The rest of the Republicans and Senator Lieberman voted No, as did these 19 Democrats:
Baucus (D-MT), Bayh (D-IN), Bingaman (D-NM), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Conrad (D-ND), Dorgan (D-ND), Landrieu (D-LA), Levin (D-MI), Lincoln (D-AR), McCaskill (D-MO), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Reed (D-RI), Rockefeller (D-WV), Salazar (D-CO), Tester (D-MT), Webb (D-VA).

We knew, or at least some of us knew, that Casey and Tester and Webb were warmongers when we elected them last year. But a lot of us tried to avert our gaze. We hoped and wished and thought pleasant thoughts. We told each other that the proper people to oppose wars are precisely people who love wars. When Webb waved toy nukes around at his campaign rallies and wrote “Born Fighting” on his posters and flyers, we knew he was just the man to oppose a war.

What can we say about these 19 Democrats, not to mention 47 Republicans and Joe Lieberman, for whom the end of next March is too early to end the war, even with massive loopholes to maintain troops in Iraq for the following purposes?

“to conduct targeted counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations; to protect U.S. infrastructure and personnel; to train and equip Iraqi security forces.”

For what other purposes do these 67 war makers want to keep troops in Iraq? Do they care what those troops think? What the Iraqi people think? What the American people think? Or only what the weapons makers and the media outlets think? You can tell them what you think at (202) 224-3121.

And what about the 29 who voted right, who went “on record” opposing the war? This included presidential candidates who until very recently swore that they opposed the war but would NOT vote for a bill to actually end it. This amendment was guaranteed to fail. Majority Leader Harry Reid put his name on it and voted for it, but did not encourage others to do so. Every one of the 29 who voted Yes knew their vote was purely symbolic and could not possibly make the difference in actually ending the war. So, the question arises: How many of these 29 really want to end the war and will act to end it when their votes count?

That question may be answered very soon, when the Senate votes on the latest version of the war supplemental bill. Senators who vote Yes on that bill want the war to continue.

We saw this same drama play out in the House last week, when 171 Congress Members voted to end the war, and 159 of them turned around and voted for the funding to keep the war going. They knew that their votes to end the war were symbolic and that their votes to fund the war counted, because the funding bill had a chance of passing and the vote was going to be tight. Of the 12 who voted No on the supplemental in the House, only one, Dennis Kucinich, urged his colleagues to do the same. The other 11 kept to themselves, and at least some of them would clearly have voted Yes had their vote been needed in the end for passage.

This is discouraging as we move into a Senate vote. But one bright spot in this picture is that activist organizations in the peace movement, led by United for Peace and Justice, are making noise and making phone calls, and demanding that Senators vote No on the supplemental. During the House votes, most peace groups urged Yes votes on the bill to end the war and kept fairly quiet about the supplemental. If enough public pressure is felt, it is possible that most of the 29 Senators who voted Yes to end the war will vote No to fund it. And if those 19 Democrats who voted against ending the war catch enough flak, it’s possible that some of them will vote no on the funding bill.

The reason that these funding bill votes matter is that the bills stand a chance of passage and the voting is tight. The reason the voting is tight is that almost all of the Republicans are voting No. They’re not voting No because they don’t want to fund the war. They’re voting No because they don’t want to fund the war with any strings attached. The House bill funded only two months at a time, instead of four, and included so-called “benchmarks.” All but two Republicans voted No, and only two of those voting No opposed the war. The Senate supplemental appears unlikely to fund only two months, but likely to include “benchmarks”. If the “benchmarks” are kept strictly meaningless and waivable, with no consequences attached to dropping them, and if nothing else is included in the bill that challenges the powers of the “unitary executive,” Republicans will vote with the pro-war Democrats, and the votes of Senators opposing the war won’t matter. But if the bill is crafted to meet Republican opposition, so that most or all Democrats are needed for passage, votes will really count.

No matter how it goes down, however, Senators who vote Yes to massively fund a continued war will expose their votes today as much less of an anti-war position than what they probably intend to sell them to the public as. And no matter what is said or left unsaid in the Senate debate on the supplemental, if the only thing in the bill that gets sent to Bush, other than a pile of cash, is “benchmarks,” he’ll sign the thing and thank the U.S. Congress for tossing him in the briar patch.

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