By David Swanson
The Democrats in Congress are doing less to oppose the war now that they have the majority than they did in the minority. While in the minority, Democrats in a sizable and growing number voted against funding more war. While in the minority, Democrats pushed hard for Resolutions of Inquiry into the lies that launched the war. While in the minority, Democrats in significant numbers signed onto a bill to create a preliminary investigation into grounds for impeachment. While in the minority, Democrats raised hell about the Republicans’ failures to investigate or to stop the war, and Democrats campaigned for reelection and election of a majority, claiming they would have the powers to subpoena, to place under oath, and to end the war.
After two and a half months in the majority, we’ve seen no investigation of the lies that launched the war, virtually no subpoenas, and no serious effort to bring the war to an end or even prevent a new war from being launched. Democrats are politely requesting Bush Administration officials to appear to discuss tangential issues. Democrats are “calling for” resignations. And we may be about to see considerably fewer Democrats vote against funding the war than did so when they were in the minority. The Democrats are about to buy this war, and once they’ve bought it, it will be their war. They won’t get another chance to end it, and they’ll be even less inclined (if that’s possible) to investigate it.
No More Money: It’s a simple concept. The American public wants the war ended. The President wants the war to continue. The 110th Congress was elected to end the war. The Constitution gives Congress the power to cut off the money. Where’s the problem?
For the past week, tens of thousands of Americans have been phoning Congress (at 202-224-3121) to say: We want no more money spent on the war. Congress has not been listening.
We’ve even made it possible for them to pass a bill to spend buckets of unnecessary money and avoid spending it on continuing the war. We’ve done this by encouraging Congress to allow a vote on Rep. Barbara Lee’s amendment to limit all of the spending to paying for a withdrawal. But we’ve made clear that if Lee’s amendment does not get a vote or does not pass, we want every member of Congress to vote NO on giving more money to Bush and Cheney for this war. Still, Congress has not been listening.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears focused on two goals: continuing the war while pretending to oppose it, and passing a bill. She could probably pass a bill like Lee’s amendment, a bill that actually ended the war. But she refuses to try. So, her focus is on persuading every last progressive Democrat to vote for more war for the sake of passing a bill – a bill, by the way, that is full of meaningless rhetoric and which Bush has already promised to veto. Whether this bill dies on the floor of the House or by veto, either way it will come back and Pelosi will face the same choice she refuses to face now, the choice laid out for her by an LA Times editorial this week: support the war or end it.
What concerns me is what concerns the majority of Americans. When NBC/WSJ polled this question “What concerns you more — that Congress will go too far in pressing the President to reduce troop levels in Iraq, or that Congress will not go far enough in pressing the President to reduce troop levels in Iraq?” 51 percent said Not Far Enough, and 41 percent said Too far.
The voice of reason within Congress is coming from the Progressive Caucus, which has taken the following position on Bush’s proposed budget:
“As Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), we reject the misleading and grossly unfair budget for FY08 and succeeding years that President Bush has submitted to Congress. While seeking to spend an additional $200 billion in Iraq in just the next two years and to make permanent his tax cuts that favor the very wealthiest of Americans, President Bush seeks to impose even greater financial hardship and debt on hard-working American families and our country’s most vulnerable and impoverished people. Enough is enough. We will not support a budget plan that continues to redistribute income upward and further concentrate our nation’s wealth, as has been federal policy for the past six years. Whereas the Bush budget requests $392 billion in FY08 for domestic, non-military discretionary spending – a level below the rate of inflation in the coming fiscal year and frozen thereafter, we favor providing at least $450 billion – the FY05 spending level adjusted for inflation. Furthermore, we favor reducing the exorbitant Bush request of $481.4 billion by $68.7 billion to a defense spending level of $412.7 billion in FY08. More specifically, we favor a budget plan that would:
• Save from $420 – $623 billion over the next 10 years by bringing our troops home and achieving U.S. military disengagement from Iraq;
• Save at least $68.7 billion in Pentagon spending by eliminating mostly Cold War weaponry and implementing GAO recommendations to eliminate DOD waste, fraud, and abuse;
• Repeal Bush tax cuts for at least the top 1% on taxpayers, thus raising at least $348 billion;
• Raise tens of billions of dollars in increased revenue by curbing corporate welfare and collecting underreported and delinquent taxes;
• Boost some non-military security funding to enhance homeland security and fight root causes of terrorism; and
• Increase funding for non-military peace and security spending at home and abroad, Hurricane Katrina recovery, renewable energy development, education, health care, veterans’ health care, community development and policing, housing, food and nutrition programs, and child care.”
Where does all that sanity come from? It comes from a refusal to take money from weapons makers and a willingness to listen to the people of this country. Sadly, Speaker Pelosi has failed to attempt either of those actions.
Now, take a look at what the Pelosi Supplemental bill does:
It begins by requiring that soldiers and marines not be kept in Iraq longer than 365 days at a time. This is absolutely insane, by the standard definition of insanity. Congress passed this restriction in 2003, and Bush signed it into law and threw it out with a signing statement. Not only is Congress not impeaching him for that action, but Congress is shouting about how it will try to pass the same restriction again as if for the first time, but this time allow the President to legally waive the restriction, so that he doesn’t have to signing-statement it.
Next, the Pelosi bill requires Bush, by July 1, 2007, to tell Congress whether the “Government of Iraq has given the United States Armed Forces and Iraqi Security Forces the authority to pursue all extremists….” (You have to wonder whether that includes Democrats.)
Bush also must inform Congress at that time whether progress is being made. (Is there a pool for betting on what Bush will say, because I want to put down every dollar I have?)
The Pelosi bill even requires that Bush say whether progress is being made on the Iraq oil law, or “hydro-carbon law,” a law that gives Iraqi resources to foreign corporations. Pelosi is thus requiring that Bush and Cheney get out of their war exactly what they wanted out of it. Antonia Juhasz explains what this law does: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/19606 Congressman Dennis Kucinich encourages Americans to demand it be taken out of the Pelosi bill: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/19623
By October 1, 2007, Bush has to assure Congress that the oil law is in place, as well as other forms of “progress.” If Bush can’t honestly say or blatantly lie that each piece of progress has been made, then the Secretary of Defense is required to start moving troops to Afghanistan (“redeployment”, no withdrawal). If Bush does claim that all the “progress” has been achieved, then a 180-day redeployment begins in on March 1, 2008.
Then come the exceptions. Troops can stay in Iraq indefinitely to protect the world’s largest embassy, to protect US citizens, or – get this – to protect other troops. Troops can stay in Iraq forever for “customary diplomatic positions,” or for limited special actions “killing or capturing members of al-Qaeda.” Troops can stay in Iraq until the world ends to accomplish “training members of Iraqi security forces.”
Other than that, the Pelosi bill is antiwar legislation, and I’m sure we’ll see her joining us at the march on the Pentagon this Saturday.
But just to make sure, here’s what I recommend. If you have a Democratic Congress Member, phone them at 202-224-3121 and tell them you will never vote for a Democrat again until the war ends. Tell them you’ll be mailing them your voter registration card and would like it sent back the minute the war is over. It doesn’t matter if you actually have such a card in your wallet. The point is to tell them that you will not vote for them if they do not end the war.
They will tell you that the bill also helps veterans and Katrina victims and farmers and the brother in law of a Congressman who wasn’t sure he’d vote for it otherwise. You should tell them to be ashamed of using such tactics to try to pass a bill that funds this war, that you understand that almost all the money in the bill will go to the war, and that there is no excuse for voting for it.