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The New War Congress: An Obama-Republican War Alliance?

By davidswanson - Posted on 21 November 2010

By David Swanson

Swanson has just published War Is A Lie.  This article originally appeared on TomDispatch.

To understand just how bad the 112th Congress, elected on November 2nd and taking office on January 3rd, is likely to be for peace on Earth, one has to understand how incredibly awful the 110th and 111th Congresses have been during the past four years and then measure the ways in which things are likely to become even worse. 

Oddly enough, doing so brings some surprising silver linings into view.

The House and Senate have had Democratic majorities for the past four years.  In January, the House will be run by Republicans, while the Democratic majority in the Senate will shrink.  We still tend to call the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "Bush's wars."  Republicans are often the most outspoken supporters of these wars, while many Democrats label themselves "critics" and "opponents."

Such wars, however, can't happen without funding, and the past four years of funding alone amount to a longer period of war-making than U.S. participation in either of the world wars.  We tend to think of those past four years as a winding down of "Bush's wars," even though in that period Congress actually appropriated funding to escalate the war in Iraq and then the war in Afghanistan, before the U.S. troop presence in Iraq was reduced.

But here’s the curious thing: while the Democrats suffered a net loss of more than 60 seats in the House in the midterm elections just past, only three of the defeated Democrats had voted against funding an escalation in Afghanistan this past July 27th.  Three other anti-war Democrats (by which I mean those who have actually voted against war funding) retired this year, as did two anti-war Republicans.  Another anti-war Democrat, Carolyn Kilpatrick of Michigan, lost in a primary to Congressman-elect Hansen Clarke, who is also likely to vote against war funding.  And one more anti-war Democrat, Dan Maffei from western New York, is in a race that still hasn't been decided.  But among the 102 Democrats and 12 Republicans who voted "no" to funding the Afghan War escalation in July, at least 104 will be back in the 112th Congress.

That July vote proved a high point in several years of efforts by the peace movement, efforts not always on the media's radar, to persuade members of Congress to stop funding our wars.  Still a long way off from the 218-vote majority needed to succeed, there's no reason to believe that anti-war congress members won't see their numbers continue to climb above 114 -- especially with popular support for the Afghan War sinking fast -- if a bill to fund primarily war is brought to a vote in 2011.

Which President Will Obama Be in 2012?

The July funding vote also marked a transition to the coming Republican House in that more Republicans (160) voted "yes" than Democrats (148).  That gap is likely to widen.  The Democrats will have fewer than 100 House Members in January who haven't already turned against America’s most recent wars.  The Republicans will have about 225.  Assuming a libertarian influence does not sweep through the Republican caucus, and assuming the Democrats don't regress in their path toward peace-making, we are likely to see wars that will be considered by Americans in the years to come as Republican-Obama (or Obama-Republican) in nature.

The notion of a war alliance between the Republicans and the president they love to hate may sound outlandish, but commentators like Jeff Cohen who have paid attention to the paths charted by Bill Clinton's presidency have been raising this possibility since Barack Obama entered the Oval Office.  That doesn't mean it won't be awkward.  The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), for example, is aimed at reducing the deployment and potential for proliferation of nuclear weapons.  Obama supports it.  Last week, we watched the spectacle of Republican senators who previously expressed support for the treaty turning against it, apparently placing opposition to the president ahead of their own views on national security.

That does not, however, mean that they are likely to place opposition to the President ahead of their support for wars that ultimately weaken national security.  In fact, it’s quite possible that, in 2011, they will try to separate themselves from the president by proposing even more war funding than he asks for and daring him not to sign the bills, or by packaging into war bills measures Obama opposes but not enough to issue a veto.

For Obama's part, while he has always striven to work with the Republicans, a sharp break with the Democrats will not appeal to him.  If the polls were to show that liberals had begun identifying him as the leader of Republican wars, the pressure on him to scale back war-making, especially in Afghanistan, might rise. 

If the economy, as expected, does not improve significantly, and if people begin to associate the lack of money for jobs programs with the staggering sums put into the wars, the president might find himself with serious fears about his reelection -- or even about getting the Democratic Party’s nomination a second time.  His fate is now regularly being compared to that of Bill Clinton, who was indeed reelected in 1996 following a Republican midterm trouncing. (In his successful campaign to return to the Oval Office, Clinton got an assist from Ross Perot, a third-party candidate who drew off Republican votes and whose role might be repeated in 2012 by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.)

History, however, has its own surprises; sometimes it’s the chapters from the past you’re not thinking about that get repeated.  Here, for instance, are three presidents who are not Bill Clinton and whose experiences might prove relevant: Lyndon Johnson's war-making in Vietnam led to his decision not to run for reelection in 1968; opposition to abuses of war powers was likely a factor in similar decisions by Harry Truman in 1952 in the midst of an unpopular war in Korea and James Polk in 1848 after a controversial war against Mexico.

The Unkindest Cut

Bills that fund wars along with the rest of the military and what we have, for the past 62 years, so misleadingly called the "Defense" Department, are harder to persuade Congress members to vote against than bills primarily funding wars.  "Defense" bills and the overall size of the military have been steadily growing every year, including 2010.  Oddly enough, even with a Republican Congress filled with warhawks, the possibility still exists that that trend could be reversed.

After all, right-wing forces in (and out of) Washington, D.C., have managed to turn the federal budget deficit into a Saddam-Hussein-style bogeyman.  While the goal of many of those promoting this vision of deficit terror may have been intent on getting Wall Street's fingers into our Social Security savings or defunding public schools, military waste could become collateral damage in the process.

The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, known on television as "the deficit commission" and on progressive blogs as "the catfood commission" (in honor of what it could leave our senior citizens dining on), has not yet released its proposals for reducing the deficit, but the two chairmen, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, have published their own set of preliminary proposals that include reducing the military budget by $100 billion.  The proposal is, in part, vague but -- in a new twist for Washington's elite -- even includes a suggested reduction by one-third in spending on the vast empire of bases the U.S. controls globally.

Commission member and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) has proposed cutting only slightly more -- $110.7 billion -- from the military budget as part of a package of reforms that, unlike the chairmen's proposals, taxes the rich, invests in jobs, and strengthens Social Security.  Even if a similar proposal finally makes it out of the full commission, the new Republican House is unlikely to pass anything of the sort unless there is a genuine swell of public pressure.

Far more than $110.7 billion could, in fact, be cut out of the Pentagon budget to the benefit of national security, and even greater savings could, of course, be had by actually ending the Afghan and Iraq wars, a possibility not considered in these proposals.  If military cuts are packaged with major cuts to Social Security or just about anything else, progressives will be as likely as Republicans to oppose the package.

While the new Republican House will fund the wars at least as often and as fulsomely as the outgoing Democratic House, namely 100% of the time, the votes will undoubtedly look different.  The Democratic leadership has tended to allow progressive Democrats the opportunity to vote for antiwar measures as amendments to war-funding bills.  These measures have ranged from bans on all war funding to requests for non-binding exit strategies.  They have not passed, but have generated news coverage.  They may also, however, have made it easier for some Democrats to establish their antiwar credentials by voting “yes” on these amendments -- before turning around and voting for the war funding.  If the funding is the only war vote they are allowed, some of them may be more likely to vote "no."

On March 10, 2010, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) used a parliamentary maneuver (that will still be available to him as a member of the minority) to force a lengthy floor debate on a resolution to end the war in Afghanistan.  Kucinich has said that he will introduce a similar resolution in January 2011 that would require the war to end by December 31, 2012.  That will provide an initial opportunity for Congress watchers to assess the lay of the land in the 112th Congress.  It will likely also be the first time that war is powerfully labeled as the property of the president and the Republicans.

The other place public discussion of the wars will occur is in committee hearings, and all of the House committees will now have Republican chairs, including Buck McKeon (R-CA) in Armed Services, and Darrell Issa (R-CA) in Oversight and Government Reform.  In recent decades, the oversight committee has only been vigorously used when the chairman has not belonged to the president's party.  This was the case in 2007-2008 when Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) investigated the Bush administration, even though he did allow high officials and government departments to simply refuse compliance with subpoenas the committee issued.  It will be interesting to see how Republican committee chairs respond to a similar defiance of subpoenas during the next two years.

A Hotbed of Military Expansionism

The Armed Services Committee is likely to be a hotbed of military expansionism.  Incoming Chairman McKeon wants Afghan War commander General David Petraeus to testify in December (even before he becomes chairman) on the Obama administration's upcoming review of Afghan war policy, while the Pentagon reportedly does not want him to because there is no good news to report.  While Chairman McKeon may insist on such newsworthy witnesses next year, his goal will be war expansion, pure and simple.

In fact, McKeon is eager to update the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) to grant the president the ongoing authority to make war on nations never involved in the 9/11 attacks.  This will continue to strip Congress of its war-making powers.  It will similarly continue to strip Americans of rights like the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures that President Obama has tended to justify more on the basis of the original AUMF than on the alleged inherent powers of the presidency that Bush’s lawyers leaned on so heavily.

The president has been making it ever clearer in these post election weeks that he's in no hurry to end the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.  The scheduled end date for the occupation of Iraq, December 31, 2011, will now arrive while Republicans control a Congress that might conceivably, under Democrats, have been shamed into insisting on its right to finally end that war.  Republicans and their friends at the Washington Post are now arguing avidly for the continuation of existing wars in the way their side always argues, by pushing the envelope and demanding so much more -- such as a war on Iran -- that the existing level of madness comes to seem positively sane.

The most silvery of possible silver linings here may lie in the possibility of a reborn peace movement.  George W. Bush's new memoir actually reveals the surprising strength the peace movement had achieved by 2006.  In that year, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who was publicly denouncing any opposition to war, privately urged Bush to bring troops out of Iraq before the congressional elections.  But that was the last year in which the interests of the peace movement were aligned with those of groups and funders that take their lead from the Democratic Party.

In November 2008, the last of the major funders of the peace movement took their checkbooks and departed.  Were they at long last to take this moment to build the opposite of Fox News and the Tea Party, a machine independent of political parties pushing an agenda of peace and justice, anything would be possible.

David Swanson is the author of the just published book War Is A Lie and Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union. He blogs at Let’s Try Democracy and War Is a Crime.

Copyright 2010 David Swanson

From Jason Ditz's Nov. 18th article for "popular support for the Afghan War sinking fast":

For the first several years after the 2001 invasion, the Afghan War found itself largely off the American radar. Mutliple escalations by President Obama have led to a huge spike in death tolls however, putting the conflict more into focus for many Americans. ...

If the death tolls are influencing Americans, or American military families anyway, then it should be helpful for them to know what the real tolls are, because they're surely higher than the stats for troops killed on-the-spot in Afghanistan. If like with the war on Iraq, then I recall having read that plenty of troops wounded in Iraq died after being medically transferred out of Iraq, and if I recall correctly, then these deaths weren't accounted for in the tolls of troops killed in Iraq even if they basically were.

Harlem Globetrotters:

This is from Tom Engelhardt's preface or intro. for Nick Turse's article on US military bases, globally.

What the hell are they touring US military bases for? By doing this, to "entertain" the troops, they're making themselves basically complicit in the extreme and supreme criminality of the US. They make themselves supporters of this hellbent criminality, imperialism, and treason. Imo, they should be boycotted by anti-war and anti-militarism activists.

""War Without Borders": NATO Proclaims Itself Global Military Force
Lisbon Summit: Strategic Concept"

by Rick Rozoff, Stop NATO, Nov. 22nd, 2010

The recently concluded North Atlantic Treaty Organization Treaty summit in Portugal gave Washington everything it demanded from its 27 NATO allies, at least 20 NATO partners providing troops for the war in Afghanistan, the European Union and Russia.

The U.S.-controlled North Atlantic Alliance endorsed without reservations and even without deliberations American plans to include all of Europe in the Pentagon's and its Missile Defense Agency's worldwide interceptor missile system. The summit's declaration states: "NATO will maintain an appropriate mix of conventional, nuclear, and missile defence forces. Missile defence will become an integral part of our overall defence posture." [1]

In adopting its new Strategic Concept it also authorized an analogous continent-wide cyber warfare operation to work in conjunction with - and for all practical purposes under the direction of - the Pentagon's new U.S. Cyber Command.

It reaffirmed the bloc's Article 5 commitment to render collective military assistance to any member state under supposed attack and stretched the concept of attack to include non-military categories like computer, energy and terrorist threats. The Strategic Concept "reconfirms the bond between our nations to defend one another against attack, including against new threats to the safety of our citizens." [2]

"NATO members will always assist each other against attack, in accordance with Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. That commitment remains firm and binding. NATO will deter and defend against any threat of aggression, and against emerging security challenges where they threaten the fundamental security of individual Allies or the Alliance as a whole."

While there are no conventional military threats - and no nuclear ones as well - which is to say no military dangers at all confronting NATO's North American and European members, other - contrived - concerns will serve as the basis for the activation of Article 5. They include attacks on or threats to computer networks:

"Cyber attacks...can reach a threshold that threatens national and Euro-Atlantic prosperity, security and stability," NATO claims, so its members are obligated to "develop further [the] ability to prevent, detect, defend against and recover from cyber-attacks, including by using the NATO planning process to enhance and coordinate national cyber-defence capabilities, bringing all NATO bodies under centralized cyber protection...."

Expect false flag cyber attacks.


There is no nation or group of nations offering NATO any serious challenge, none posing a threat to the world's only military bloc, and hardly any even standing in the way of its global expansion. "However, no one should doubt NATO’s resolve if the security of any of its members were to be threatened....Deterrence, based on an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, remains a core element of our overall strategy....As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance."


Invoking the little-noted catch phrase that since 1989 has been employed in anticipation and later fulfilment of plans to subordinate all of Europe under NATO's military command [4], Alliance heads of state in Lisbon last week also endorsed the completion of expansion plans affecting the Balkans and the former Soviet Union:

"Our goal of a Europe whole and free, and sharing common values, would be best served by the eventual integration of all European countries that so desire into Euro-Atlantic structures.

"The door to NATO membership remains fully open to all European democracies which share the values of our Alliance, which are willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, and whose inclusion can contribute to common security and stability."

In particular, NATO will "continue and develop the partnerships with Ukraine and Georgia within the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia Commissions, based on the NATO decision at the Bucharest summit [in] 2008" and "facilitate the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans." Specific mention was made of Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.


What democracies? They're all phony.

NATO's plans for a further drive east and south of what most people understand to be Europe are not limited to the Caucasus.

The Lisbon summit, in approving the bloc's new doctrine, also for the first time bluntly stated that NATO's reach is as broad as the world itself:

"The promotion of Euro-Atlantic security is best assured through a wide network of partner relationships with countries and organisations around the globe."

President Obama and the other 27 NATO heads of state endorsed the new Strategic Concept which also states:

"We are firmly committed to the development of friendly and cooperative relations with all countries of the Mediterranean, and we intend to further develop the Mediterranean Dialogue in the coming years. We attach great importance to peace and stability in the Gulf region, and we intend to strengthen our cooperation in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative."


This past weekend NATO vowed to .... That is, to incorporate all of the Middle East and northern Africa into its broader military nexus ....

The summit declaration confirmed the continuation of Operation Active Endeavour, "our Article 5 maritime operation in the Mediterranean," Operation Ocean Shield off the Horn of Africa, the airlifting of Ugandan troops to Somalia for the fighting there and support for the African Standby Force and NATO Training Mission-Iraq.

In addition to detailing expansion plans in Europe, Asia and Africa ad seriatim, NATO has announced that it is now an international military-political formation. ...


The bloc's NATO Response Force (NRF) "provides a mechanism to generate a high readiness and technologically advanced force package made up of land, air, sea and special force components that can be deployed quickly on operations wherever needed." [8]


Alluding in part to the NRF, the new Strategic Concept states:

"Where conflict prevention proves unsuccessful, NATO will be prepared and capable to manage ongoing hostilities. NATO has unique conflict management capacities, including the unparalleled capability to deploy and sustain robust military forces in the field."


In Lisbon, Obama and his fellow heads of state agreed that:

"We, the political leaders of NATO, are determined to continue renewal of our Alliance so that it is fit for purpose in addressing the 21st Century security challenges. We are firmly committed to preserve its effectiveness as the globe’s most successful political-military Alliance."

The world's only military bloc does not protect Europe from chimerical missile and nuclear threats or from concerns better addressed by its respective members' judiciary, internal security forces and environmental, immigration, energy, public health and weather ministries and departments.

It rather employs the European continent as a base of operations for military deployments and campaigns most everywhere else.


It's surely fitting to refer to PNAC, Project for a New American Century, which the above sounds a lot like.

And Rick Rozoff ends the article by saying the following.

NATO has also acquired a new partner in Eurasia, one with the world's largest land mass, stretching from the Baltic and the Black Seas to the Pacific Ocean: Russia. The subject of another article.

"NATO summit to embrace indefinite Afghan war"

by James Cogan,, Nov. 20th, 2010

The NATO summit that began yesterday in Lisbon, Portugal has one primary objective in regards to the US-led war in Afghanistan: to shelve all talk of President Barack Obama’s July 2011 deadline for beginning the withdrawal of troops.


US special envoy Richard Holbrooke told reporters this week in Pakistan: “From Lisbon on, we will be on a transition strategy with a target date of the end of 2014 for Afghanistan to take over responsibility for leading the security.” American forces would still remain after that date, however. “We have a transition strategy. We do not have an exit strategy,” Holbrooke stressed.


In other words, Washington plans an indefinite presence of US occupation forces in Afghanistan. ...

This is particularly the case as Afghanistan has no air force. The US military intends to operate indefinitely from the massive air base it has constructed at Bagram, in the very heart of Central Asia.

The repudiation of withdrawal timetables underscores that Obama’s rhetoric was always a cynical exercise in deception. (my emphasis added) The truth is that both parties of American imperialism, Democratic and Republican, are equally committed to imposing a permanent US military footprint in two of the key energy-producing regions of the world, Central Asia and the Middle East.


The implications of the Lisbon summit for the people of Afghanistan and North West Pakistan are countless more years of death, destruction and terror.

Already, ..., violence has been massively stepped up, with new offensives launched in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. ...

Heavy M1 Abrams tanks are being deployed to southern Afghanistan for the first time ....

The civilian population is being subjected to indiscriminate collective punishment. A New York Times article on Tuesday reported that American troops are systematically destroying hundreds of civilian houses .... ...

Equally reminiscent of Vietnam, US and NATO special forces units are carrying out an Operation Phoenix-style campaign of mass killing. ...


What is taking place in Afghanistan is a calculated and murderous attempt to drown in blood the legitimate opposition among the population to the US-led occupation. ...

Germany is extending its mission until 2012 and increasing combat operations by its troops. Canada, which was to withdraw its contingent by the end of 2011, has announced it will leave a force of up to 1,000 “trainers” until 2014. France’s defense minister, Alain Juppe, stated Wednesday that French troops would not leave until “Afghan authorities have the situation in hand.”

The Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, told a parliamentary debate last month that Australian forces would be involved in Afghanistan until “the end of decade at least”.

The head of the British armed forces, General Sir David Richards, anticipated an even longer involvement. ...


New terrorism alerts:

I noticed over the past day or two that there are some new articles about European governments, some anyway, now coming out and saying that it has finally been determined that there really are people, "terrorists", planning terrorist strikes against European countries. Around a month or so ago the US, Washington raised a terrorist alert claiming that there were terrorists planning to strike some European countries and European intelligence agencies refuted this, saying that while there might be some "terrorists" planning attacks on European countries, it's very difficult to actually carry through on or with such attacks. They said that there was no justification for the alert from Washington.

Now they have suddenly begun to reverse their words and the timing fits "nicely" with this NATO summit in Lisbon, which caused me to wonder about what proof there really is for terrorists being at all advanced in plans for attacks on European countries; because all we have is more political blablabla, words, without any proof. We have NATO and the US really pumping up their global militarism and efforts for global dominance, so maybe trying to frighten the public about supposed terrorist plots in order to try to get our support for this major and global terrorism being committed by the NATO and US is the real reason for the new fearmongering coming from some European governments.

They realize that most people will be opposed to this global militarism and whenever they want to try to get us to support their activities and plans that we will tend to be oppposed to, they come up with more or new fearmongering; and they never present any proof for their claims.

They're still pushing PNAC without explicitly referring to it; or, rather, PNAC and the plan laid out by Zbigniew Brzezinski in his book, "The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives", both. Neither of those plans could be achieved by the US acting alone, so of course NATO would have to be part of US-lead and controlled forces. And expanding the "alliance" certainly would be a strategic goal in order to have less opposition and greater co-operation.

They're aiming for global dominance; no doubt about it.

So, good luck with the new Congress, which I will hope will bring good results, but while doubting that there'll be much, if any, real or serious good gained from it.

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