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Wars and Congress: Now What?


By davidswanson - Posted on 27 July 2010

By David Swanson

On Tuesday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill already passed by the Senate that funds a $33 billion, 30,000-troop escalation in Afghanistan. The vote was 308 to 114. What could the good news possibly be?

The first good news is that, while we had no more than 35 congress members who would vote against war funding a year ago, or perhaps 55 when it was an easy vote with no pressure, we've now got 114. That's serious progress. That's a far more dramatic increase than we've seen in the number of congress members willing to vote for a non-binding unspecified timetable for a withdrawal. That number rose from 138 last year to 162 on July 1st (although the legislation was somewhat stronger this year). In other words, willingness to express mild interest in ending the war has reached a plateau. Willingness to take serious action to end the war is rapidly catching up. Of course, both have to top 218 before we win.

The really good news is that we finally have an essential ingredient in any recipe for legislative change: a record of which legislators are with us, and which against us. Almost any effective campaign to pass, or -- as in this case -- defeat, legislation requires at least three stages. First you run a trial to identify who stands where. Then you reward and punish at the polling booth in the next election. Then you try again and possibly succeed. Until now, we've been unable to reach step one. The "leadership" in Congress has packaged war bills in unrelated measures, or -- as was done four weeks ago -- passed bills without holding a vote at all. Now we finally know, unambiguously, who stands where. The question is whether we're willing to act on it.

Additional good news is that over 40 percent of the Democrats voted No. This compares with 7 percent of Republicans. While the Republicans are in the minority in the House, more Republicans than Democrats voted for this bill. The war now belongs first to the Democratic leadership, second to the Republican caucus, and only third to the Democratic caucus. Last year we were unable to identify where Republicans stood, because they all voted No in response to an unrelated measure packaged into the bill.

Here are the names of who voted yes, who voted no, and who did not vote.
http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll474.xml

While not voting is often a dodge, I'm assuming it's an accident or a typo in the case of Congressman Alan Grayson who lobbied for No votes. [I've been informed he had personal business and put into the record that he would have voted No.]

The bad news is that the 308 congress members who defied public opinion and voted for war funding are not afraid of us. The Republicans think their supporters are happy to put their grandchildren into debt to China as long as it funds wars, even if it makes us all less safe and wrecks our economy. And they're right. The Democrats think their supporters are outraged and offended by such behavior but will meekly turn around and vote for them anyway, out of fear that a Republican would be worse. And they're right.

We need a new approach that not only seeks to keep anti-war representatives in power, and to replace Republicans with anti-war Democrats, and to replace pro-war Democrats in primaries with anti-war Democrats, and to replace pro-war Republicans in primaries with anti-war Republicans, but also to defeat pro-war incumbents even if their opponent is pro-war too and even if it means replacing a Democrat with a Republican. I don't see any other way of making these people listen to us in the coming months and years. And you can't get much worse than anyone who keeps funding wars.

Congress members are coming home for August. It is time to punish and reward, spank and thank, and vote out and reelect in November. It is also time to push the strongest opponents of war in the House to begin forming an effective vehicle for victory. The new Out of Afghanistan Caucus, or the Progressive Caucus, or the group of progressives who signed an anti-war letter on Tuesday, or some other collection of leading anti-war voices in Congress needs to establish a caucus with strict requirements for membership, including a commitment to oppose all legislation that funds non-defensive wars. Such a caucus should raise funds and supply election funding to its members, allowing them some independence from the pressure of the pro-war party "leadership." We have 114 names to start with. Resources are available at http://defundwar.org

As the peace movement begins working with labor and civil rights groups this fall, we need to make sure everyone understands which congress members are funneling all the money we need into wars and which ones are not. Maybe, just maybe, we'll be able to build the sort of unified coalition that will be required this coming winter if we are to pass cuts to the military budget and prevent cuts to Social Security.

I can see no light in any direction. I am depressed and see nothing but a quick-time march to the edge of a cliff. This country is doing everything wrong! I am scared $hitless!

Al K.

My head hurts too.

I watch the vote and here was my reaction sent to activist and politicians alike:

The vote: hr 4899 War Supplemental

The vote was not even close and especially when you know that it took a 2/3 vote. The reason for the 2/3 vote to pass, was it was a rule change. We have been informed that all our delegation except that one republican voted against war funding, I want to jump for joy, but can’t----sorry.

We now have 102 Democrats and 12 Republicans who say no to the escalation in Afghanistan, you will hear the MSM and the “Cocktail Liberals” claim we should rejoice, we are moving in the right direction. Maybe they are correct and those of us who think the game is rigged and we are no closer to peace than 10 years ago are wrong--I keep saying this; I want so much to be wrong.

We must stay in the streets, I know that seems weird coming from a guy who has resigned several times in the last few weeks, but we must keep trying. It would seem to me now would be a good time to ask those who voted against more wars to step out and take the lead; be on the floor of the House and continue the fight to bring more and more reps over from the dark side. They should feel safe that we will have their backs if they stand with us and lead. Go on the Ed show on MSNBC and preach to the audience about why we must stop the madness. Just the economics should do it, if people knew what it was costing them to continue these wars and occupations. The military expansion must stop and we must start to close the 800-1000 bases we have around the world. Somehow we need to convince the Cocktail Liberals that more must be done by our representatives in Washington, they should send their “Thank You,” but ask for real leadership.

For me the 12 republicans who joined the 102 democrats are of more interest, if that is a trend we may someday see peace in the Middle East. You can no longer be for peace in Iraq, Afghanistan and not understand what Israel and America are doing in Gaza and the West Bank, this stuff is all related and must stop or we will destroy ourselves in the end.

So, for those who need to rejoice, do it, but keep working for real justice and peace; keep the bar high. We do have people all around the world who are demanding justice and peace and that is part of our future. I don’t know what will come in the next few years, but if we do nothing the economics of the events will take over and the fall will be awful, I have children, granddaughters, young friends who will suffer from this madness. So as I just said to one close friend, I do this so that I can sleep at night and when the end comes I want to say I tried my best…..

With deep respect for you all, fight we will but know that all who receive this long question are people I have a lot of respect for and will always be amazed how lucky I was to have met you and spend some time fighting for Justice and Peace.

The fight goes on……

Joe Walsh---Lone Vet
Individuals For Justice
Portland, Oregon

In my youth I blindly accepting my country's war in Vietnam and participated. I also used to play a lot of poker. I knew a rigged game when I saw one and the U.S. two-party system is such a game. I've voted in every election since I came of age but will no longer, unless fundamental changes are made.

Voting for the lesser of two evils is just that, voting for evil. Both parties support war, torture and a capitalistic economic system that is well on its way to making us all paupers. Voting for a third party or write-in is in effect endorsing this criminal system which has been and continues to be responsible for crimes of the highest order.

I wish I could tell you that if we just get a few more congress members to join an anti war coalition we could end the occupations. We all know that won't happen because the leadership and their corporate sponsors will do whatever is necessary to support the continuation of the crimes. Outside of Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders I don't think there are any other Congress members with any sort of a moral compass.

The link on Alan Grayson's enthusiastic support of Israeli genocide is really disgusting.

That doesn't mean that I am resigned to inaction. Quite the contrary, it is of the utmost urgency for those who grasp the criminality in our system to speak out, write out and demonstrate in the streets. Just don't put your efforts behind compass-less politicians in the Democratic Party. You all deserve better and they don't deserve your support.
Nick Egnatz
Munster, Indiana

Nick,

I agree totally. In my own congressional district (1st of Maryland) we will have the choice this November of a worthless Blue-dog (Frank Kratovil) Democrat Republican "light" incumbent or a real Republican corporate stooge named Andy Harris. I will not vote of either of these bums! If it were not for a Green Party candidate for Governor (Maria Allwine) I don't think I would even bother to go vote. I have actually exchanged emails directly with her. She is a true progressive.

Al K.

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