The War Looks Different From Inside Congress
The War Looks Different From Inside Congress
By David Swanson
Public opinion in the United States and Iraq favors pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, not to mention removing any who have already entered Iran. This sentiment will be on display this Saturday at the United for Peace and Justice March in New York: www.april29.org
Inside Congress opinions vary, and it is a distinct minority that is willing to support public opinion. Some in Congress are willing to take half-way and tenth-of-the-way steps in the direction of ending the war, some of them from within such fantasyland worldviews that they are "threatening" to stop occupying Iraq if the Iraqis don't behave better (that is, threatening something that over 80 percent of Iraqis desire).
A forum hosted by progressive House members Thursday morning (to air live on Pacifica Radio from 8:30 to 11 a.m. ET, with blogging on AfterDowningStreet.org, and open to the public in Rayburn House Office Building Room 2325) will highlight the best that Congress has to offer. But it's worth taking a quick overview of what's out there.
The grimmest side of the Capitol is, of course, the Senate, which is now considering a "supplemental spending" bill for the war, something already passed by the House with 71 members voting No. This would mean another $67 billion for occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, including $348 million for constructing permanent military bases in Iraq, something U.S. taxpayers have already spent $1 billion on. The House, amazingly, passed an amendment to its supplemental spending bill stipulating that none of the money could be used for permanent bases. Senator Joseph Biden is expected to offer a similar amendment in the Senate, as well as an amendment that would pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by rescinding certain tax breaks for the top one percent of taxpayers.
Senator Robert Byrd plans to introduce an amendment stating that any request for funds for an ongoing military operation overseas, including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, should be included in the annual budget of the President rather than using emergency supplemental appropriations bills that receive less scrutiny.
That's about it for the amendments that make any sense. Then we have an amendment, already introduced, that gets a little weird. Senators Carl Levin, Susan Collins, and Jack Reed have introduced an amendment that Levin says will "urge the president to make it clear to the Iraqis that their meeting their own self-imposed deadlines is a condition of the continued presence of American military forces in Iraq." In other words, if the Iraqis don't shape up, we'll do what over 80 percent of them want and pull our soldiers out of their country. Not a bad consequence for a little slacking off, eh?
But what if the Iraqis do what Levin and gang want, then do we drop our "threat" to pull the troops out, or do we then pull the troops out because the situation is more desirable? This exchange from a press conference on Tuesday leaves some doubt:
"QUESTION: It sounds like either way you're calling for a phased withdrawal of the troops, perhaps by the end of the year. (OFF-MIKE) because even if they don't meet the deadlines, you'd pull the troops out, and if they do meet the deadlines (OFF-MIKE)
"LEVIN: This amendment and the sense of the Senate resolution which is attached to it addresses only the question of their meeting their deadlines that their constitution establishes and linking the continued presence of our troops to their willingness to meet their own deadlines. That's all that it covers. "
Senator John Kerry has introduced a bill, S. J. Res. 33, that is somewhat similar: If Iraq does not form a "unity government" by May 15, then the U.S. would pull its troops out at "the earliest practicable date." If Iraq does do so, then Bush is supposed to reach an agreement with Iraq as soon as possible on a schedule for pulling the troops out. This proposal appears to share the same flaw most proposals in Congress have: it leaves too much control in the hands of George W. Bush.
Senator Russ Feingold, meanwhile, has introduced S. Res. 171, which calls on the President to submit a report to Congress within 30 days describing the remaining mission of the Armed Forces in Iraq, a current estimate of the time frame required to accomplish that mission, and a time frame for the subsequent withdrawal of troops from Iraq. With Bush having already announced that the troops will occupy Iraq as long as he occupies the White House, it's not clear what report would be generated by passing this bill.
What's missing from the Senate is a bill that simply says that the U.S. Congress will no longer pay a dime for the war, and that the war must therefore end now.
The House has such a bill, H.R. 4232, the End the War in Iraq Act of 2005, introduced by Congressman Jim McGovern. This bill would allow spending only on reconstruction and on bringing our soldiers safely home.
While McGovern's bill has very few cosponsors (15), it might garner more support if a vote could be forced on it. The House "leadership," however, is not interested in even talking about the war.
Congressman Neil Abercrombie has introduced a petition to try to force a discussion of a bill about the war and to allow any amendments to be proposed and considered on the floor. The petition, H.Res. 543, would discharge another bill, H.J.Res. 55. If 218 members sign the discharge petition, the bill will be brought to the floor for debate and a vote.
H.J. Res. 55 is one of many half-way bills in the House. It requires that we begin withdrawing troops by this coming October, which the November elections virtually require anyway, and does not specify when we would have to FINISH withdrawing the troops.
Another bill, H.J.Res. 73, introduced by Congressman John Murtha, would "redeploy" troops and keep them in the region of Iraq, but pull them out of the current occupation.
Two particularly pro-war Democrats (and that's saying something), Ike Skelton and Jane Harman, have a bill, HCR 184, requiring Bush to create a plan for "success" in Iraq. I suppose this bill won't be needed now that Bush has hired a Fox "News" reporter to speak for him: the successes will be piling up daily.
Congressmen David Price and Brad Miller have a bill that makes slightly more sense, HJR 70, requiring Bush to send Congress a plan for pulling the troops out. But Bush has done this: he's announced publicly that he plans to let the next president handle it.
Congressman Mike Thompson's
HCR348 would "express the sense of Congress" that:
(1) the United States should not maintain a permanent military presence or military bases in Iraq;
(2) the United States should not attempt to control the flow of Iraqi oil; and
(3) United States Armed Forces should be redeployed from Iraq as soon as practicable after the completion of Iraq's constitution-making process or September 30, 2006, whichever occurs first.
This has the merit of addressing the oil question, but it provides for at least five months more of killing, and then "redeploys" the troops rather than bringing them home.
Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey's H.C.R. 35 is a much better bill than these others, with the exception of McGovern's, because it calls for immediate withdrawal. Woolsey has also addressed the larger picture with H.C.R.158 , which would shift our security spending priorities away from war.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee's H Res 82 disavows the doctrine of preemption, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich's H.R.3760, with an accompanying Senate bill from Senator Mark Dayton, would create a Department of Peace.
A couple of other bills that don't go far enough seem worth supporting because of the important line they draw: Lee's H.C.R. 197 and Congressman Thomas Allen's HR 3142 both call for no permanent US military bases in Iraq.
The status of all of these bills and those below can be found on the website of United for Peace and Justice in this Excel file. http://www.unitedforpeace.org/downloads/webready3-3.xls
WHAT ABOUT ACCOUNTABILITY
These are just the bills that make full-throated or halfassed attempts to end the war or get their sponsor on cable. What about efforts to hold accountable the criminals who launched the war and to reveal the details of their dishonest presentations to Congress and the public?
Well, Senator Pat Roberts is blocking all attempts at an investigation of prewar lies in the Senate. He had long since split the investigation into two parts, with one part being the White House's misuse of "intelligence." Then, of course, he refused to allow that part of the investigation to happen. Now he's proposing to split that half of the investigation in half, with the half that he'll actually allow to proceed being more "investigating" that avoids investigating anything. How many times, I wonder, can you cut something in half and keep all the vital organs of it in the half that you keep cutting?
In the House, Congressman John Conyers' H Res 635 would create an investigation of Bush Administration crimes and make recommendations on impeachment.
Conyers and Feingold have introduced bills (for different reasons) in the House and Senate to censure Bush (H Res 636, S Res 398), and Conyers has also proposed to censure Cheney (H Res 637).
If you can't make it, you'll want to listen on Pacifica Radio or watch AfterDowningStreet.org
Woolsey, Lee, Maurice Hinchey, and Maxine Waters will be co-chairing a forum on ending U.S. military operations in Iraq and bringing U.S. troops home, while helping the Iraqis regain control over their country and their future.
Witnesses will include:
• Dr. Paul Pillar, Former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000-2005 and long career in the CIA, faculty member of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, and author of Foreign Affairs feature article in March/April issue entitled "Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq"
• U.S. Congressional sponsors of pending legislation specifying plans and timelines for concluding U.S. military operations in Iraq and bringing home U.S. troops (U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern and Barbara Lee)
• Ms. Faiza al-Arji. She is a native Shia Iraqi, married to a Sunni Iraqi. They have three sons who currently live in Amman, Jordan. She will speak about her family's experiences in Iraq before and during the war and subsequent occupation.
• Dr. Dahlia Wasfi. She was born to a Jewish mother and an Iraqi father. She recently put her medical career on hold to visit with family members in Iraq, and recently returned from a three-month stay in Basra and Baghdad. She will describe her experiences in Iraq and discuss the life of Iraqis under occupation.
• Charlie Anderson (Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class, U.S. Navy-Ret.) He served with the Marine Crops' Second Tank Battalion during the invasion of Iraq. He is now the Southeast Regional Coordinator of Iraq Veterans Against the War and will discuss his experiences in the military during the war in Iraq.