Fake Congressional Opposition to War

Fake Congressional Opposition to War

by Stephen Lendman

The US electorate sent a clear, unequivocal message in
the November mid-term elections. End the Iraq war and
bring home the troops.  Many supporting war in the
109th Congress lost out to more moderate voices taking
over their seats because voters want change and expect
new faces to deliver starting with the top issue on
voters’ minds in recent polls - Iraq.  A majority of
the public demands it, protests and heated rhetoric
continue building over it, and the Congress is about
to disappoint again proving getting into war is easy
but even an act of Congress can’t get us out because
doing nothing is less risky than taking a stand
against the prevailing view in Washington.

So the best this Congress can offer is non-binding
stuff with no meaning and a wishy binding proposal
rolled out March 8 guaranteeing support for the war
with billions more spending than the administration
wants.  It also sets a timetable for partial
withdrawal far enough in the future to be laughable.
It proves again expecting elections to change things
in Washington is like betting on an early end to
winter in Chicago.  Hope springs eternal but never
fails to disappoint.

The House proved it February 16 sending a pathetic
non-binding no-action message repudiating the
administration’s decision to “surge” more troops to
Iraq showing its spirit lay in its rhetoric, not in
its actions where it counts.  The floor language was
long, loud and toothless with pieties from House
Speaker Pelosi saying “We owe our troops a course of
action in Iraq that is worthy of their sacrifice” but
failing to provide one.  So much for resolve. The
Senate was even more non-binging than the House
failing for second time February 17 even to pass a
procedural measure to allow for a full vote on a
resolution opposing more troops guaranteed to make
things worse as they’re sent.  Once again with chips
on the line, both Houses of Congress show party member
profiles in courage are as rare as ones with honor and
integrity or like finding a friend in a city Harry
Truman once complained about saying if you want one in
Washington, “get a dog.”

Politics, Washington-style proves again campaign
promises are empty, the criminal class is bipartisan,
and the atmosphere is charged with empty rhetoric and
business as usual. Instead of ending the war,
Democrats propose continued war with more funding in
new legislation sounding like an old Miller Lite
commercial.  Their plan is drafted to sound good, but
not be ful-filling as it won’t work and won’t pass
both Houses or override a presidential veto signaled
by White House spokesman Dan Bartlett saying….“it’s
safe to say it’s a nonstarter for the president.”  So
much for Democrat intentions, good or otherwise.

The new legislation calls for withdrawing US combat
troops beginning no later than 120 days following
passage of legislation to be completed by September 1,
2008 in the House version and suggests March 31, 2008
only as a goal in the Senate proposal.  It also calls
for George Bush to certify Iraq’s “government” is
progressing toward established “benchmarks” July 1 and
October 1 leaving that judgment to a president always
claiming progress in the face of clear evidence on the
ground proving otherwise.

Left out of the proposal is what Democrats like John
Murtha (no dove) and other so-called “moderates” in
the party wanted in it to prevent further escalation
of war:

—A call for a political, not military solution to
the conflict.

—Changing the military’s mission to training,
logistical support and “target(ing) anti-terrorism
operations.”

—Requiring the Pentagon to abide by combat readiness
and training standards to include proper equipment and
enough time for recuperation.

—Language prohibiting no further war funding after
September 1, 2008.

—Mandating deployment extensions not exceed 365 days
for the Army and 210 days for Marine units.
Unmentioned is why should there be any let alone what
right have we to be there in the first place.

—On March 12 the Democrat leadership backed off
further announcing their proposal will exclude any
limitation on Bush’s unilateral right to attack Iran,
including with nuclear weapons, bowing to the demands
of the Israeli Lobby and Republican hawks.

When it emerges in final form, legislation from both
Houses will be another lesson in Politics 101 - same
old, same old meaning both parties in both Houses
support imperialism on the march, and Congress will do
nothing to stop it, rhetoric aside intended only to
soothe, comfort and again deceive the electorate. 

This proposal gives George Bush unrestricted power to
continue waging war masquerading beneath rhetoric to
curtail him.  It provides near-unlimited continued
funding giving him cover in the name of national
security to act as he pleases, placing no restraint on
his deploying as many additional combat brigades and
support troops as he wants, with no restrictions on
how long they’ll remain.  It also allows an
undetermined number of US forces to stay in Iraq in
perpetuity the way they still are in Germany, Japan
and South Korea proving when America shows up anywhere
we’re not leaving - ever.

Congressional Democrats have also larded their bills
with funding for Afghanistan, relocation of US troops
from bases in Europe and Asia, homeland security,
veterans’ health care (far too little), farm disaster
aid, Gulf Coast recovery and flu pandemic preparation
in the usual kind of hodge-podge legislation always
coming from Congress likely to add still more
provisions costing more billions in its final form.
In hopes of getting enough votes for passage, this and
other small print pork ad-ons lard the bills the usual
way things are done on Capitol Hill.  No need to guess
who picks up the tab.

Congressional Authority to Wage or End Wars

Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution authorizes
only Congress to declare war even though since 1941 it
deferred that authority unconstitutionally to the
president.  Congress also has power to end wars.  What
it lacks is backbone stiff enough to do it by cutting
off funding because it alone controls the federal
purse strings.  Article I, Section 7, Clause I says:
“All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the
House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose
or concur with amendments as on other Bills.” Either
House may originate an appropriations bill although
the House claims sole authority to do it.  Either
House may amend bills of any kind including revenue
and appropriations ones. Congress may have trouble
rescinding funding already approved, but there’s no
disputing its power to withhold future amounts without
which wars end and troops are withdrawn.

Congressional appropriation power is the key.  In the
House it resides in the Appropriations Committee and
in the Senate with the Committee on Appropriations
both charged with the power given it by Article 1,
Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution saying: “No
money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in
consequence of appropriations made by law; and a
regular statement and account of receipts and
expenditures of all public money shall be published
from time to time.” 

This language means only Congress has constitutional
power of the purse it alone can authorize by laws both
Houses must pass.  That includes the federal budget
in which spending for wars and all other discretionary
and mandatory categories are included (like servicing
the federal debt). Only Congress can fund them, and no
funding means no spending meaning Congress alone can
end the Iraq war if it wishes.  Cut off the funds, war
and occupation end, and troops come home with or
without presidential approval - or at least that’s how
it’s supposed to work and has in the past.

How Congress Ended the Vietnam War

Cutting off funds finally ended the Vietnam war after
Congress was mostly deferential to presidential
authority throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.  In
1964, it granted Lyndon Johnson broad authority to use
force and provided funding for it.  Still, unlike
today, some bold legislators then publicly challenged
the administration applying some but inadequate
budgetary pressure.  An early critic was Senator Frank
Church who said early on sending troops to Vietnam
would be a “hopeless entanglement, the end of which is
difficult to see.”  Others in Congress agreed but
voiced it privately.  They included noted senators
like William Fulbright, Albert Gore Sr. (the former
vice-president’s father), Stuart Symington and
Majority Leader Mike Mansfield.

Even Lyndon Johnson was conflicted about the war early
on, had doubts on what he was getting into, and
privately expressed them in May, 1964 to his best
Senate friend Richard Russell in taped Oval Office
conversations.  He wanted advice about the “Vietnam
thing,” Russell called the “damn worse mess I ever
saw” warning we weren’t ready to send troops to fight
a jungle war.  He told Johnson if the option was
sending over Americans or get out “I’d get out” and
the territory wasn’t a “damn bit” important.

That was three months before the fateful Gulf of
Tonkin Resolution empowered the president to wage war
without congressional approval which he did while
believing and saying the war was unwinnable.  It
ruined his presidency, shortened his life, and ended
it a disgraced, defeated man who once was
bigger-than-life as Senate majority leader and then
President.

While still in office, the war deteriorated and
influential congressional Democrats used their
investigatory power to force contentious but
ineffective public debate.  It began as early as 1966
in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chaired by
William Fullbright who no longer could conceal his
private opposition to a war he opposed.  Hearings went
on forcing the administration to face up to budgetary
consequences of war and peacetime social program
priorities at a time Johnson’s Great Society meant
something and included his War on Poverty that would
be an unimaginable priority under George Bush. 

In 1968, Johnson accepted a $6 billion budget cut in
exchange for a tax surcharge to curb growing inflation
that wasn’t enough to keep it from getting out of hand
later on.  He went along with powerful Democrats
concerned enough about a “guns and butter” economy to
reduce some of the former for their more important
domestic agenda.  That’s impossible today under George
Bush and a bipartisan Congress committed to shredding
the nation’s social safety net for reckless “global
war on terrorism (GWOT)” spending meaning wars without
end and big profits for their corporate paymaster
allies.

Johnson’s Great Society had different ideas that
continued under Richard Nixon under whom most people
forget capital punishment was halted, abortion was
legalized, EPA and OSHA were established, Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) was created, and the first
large-scale integration of public schools in the South
began along with normalizing relations with China.
Nixon was bad, but not all bad.

But he was baddest of all on Vietnam (not Watergate)
as war continued under the Nixon Doctrine.  It
included the secret war on Cambodia killing hundreds
of thousands leading to the rise of the Khmer Rouge
Gerald Ford supported as an anti-Soviet ally ignoring
their scorched earth policies against their own
people.  It also continued massive bombing and
Vietnamization to let South Vietnamese troops do our
killing for us so US forces could withdraw just like
today’s plan is to let Iraqis do our fighting and
dying while we train them inside secured permanent
super-bases we won’t give up no matter what, or so we
say as we did in Vietnam till we did. 

Nonetheless, under Johnson and Nixon, Congress
reasserted its power of the purse incrementally.  It
was mostly political posturing in the 1960s, but by
June 30, 1970 the Church-Cooper amendment (attached to
a supplemental aid bill) passed stipulating no further
spending for soldiers, combat assistance, advisors, or
bombing operations in Cambodia.  It was the first
congressional budgetary act limiting funding for the
war.  Nixon ignored it but others followed leading to
the key Church-Clifford Case 1972 Senate amendment
attached to foreign aid legislation to end all funding
for US military operations in Southeast Asia except
for withdrawal subject to the release of prisoners of
war.  It was the first time either House passed
legislation to end all war funding.  It was defeated
in the House but showed anti-war forces strengthening
that in time would prevail.

They finally did in June, 1973 when Congress passed
the Church-Case amendment ending all funding after
August 15.  Congress then overrode a presidential veto
passing the War Powers Act (still the law) that year
limiting presidential power by requiring the chief
executive henceforth to consult Congress before
authorizing troop deployments for extended periods.
Unlike today, Congress began taking its check and
balancing role seriously enough to act, if slowly, to
curtail presidential authority and assert its own with
the most important power it has - of the purse that
forced Richard Nixon to end the Vietnam war.  It can
do it again today as then but so far shows little
inclination or courage with few and rare exceptions,
one being a modest effort by Senator Russ Feingold who
detailed his position on the Senate floor even though
now he’s gone wishy on it.

Senator Feingold’s Position on Ending the Iraq War

First the good news.  Everyone in Congress knows the
law, but Feingold had it in mind in remarks delivered
February 16, 2007 on the Senate floor saying people
want the war ended, and Congress should stop funding
it.  On January 31, he introduced the Iraq
Redeployment Act of 2007 to force the president to
redeploy US forces there by cutting off war funding.
He said “We must end our involvement in this tragic
and misguided war.  The President will not do so.
Therefore, Congress must act.”  The same senator was
one of 23 in the upper chamber voting against H.J.
Resolution 114 on October 11, 2002 authorizing George
Bush to use US Armed Forces against Iraq.  On August
17, 2005, he was the first senator calling for
withdrawing US forces from the country and a timetable
to do it suggesting a completion date of December 31,
2006.  He further stated April 27, 2006 he would move
to amend emergency appropriations funding of $106.5
billion requiring troop withdrawal instead.  He also
introduced a March 13, 2006 Senate resolution to
censure George Bush for illegal wiretapping in
violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act (FISA) requiring court approval the
president never sought. 

Feingold got nowhere, but at least he tried even
though his record isn’t lilly pure.  His end of
February comments showed it saying congressional
Democrats are beginning to move in the right direction
on Iraq.  He knew then and now that’s false and saying
it tarnished his otherwise good intentions.  He also
praised the flawed March 8 Democrat leadership
proposal to continue funding wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan with legislative provisions for troop
withdrawals by 2008 that’s wishful thinking at best. 

Nonetheless, Feingold stood tall earlier as the only
senator voting against passage of the USA Patriot Act
in October, 2001.  He also fought its renewal and is
now part of a bipartisan congressional minority
demanding lawmakers defend our constitutional rights
because those on Capitol Hill swore an oath to do it.
Further, he opposes the president’s right to “surge”
new troops to Iraq, believes the notion is flawed and
unconvincing, and feels congressional action must go
beyond nonbinding resolutions.  It must include
Congress using “its power of the purse (not about)
cutting off funds for troops (but) cutting off funds
for war.”  He rightly believes Congress has
constitutional power to do it and wants a strategy for
getting them out to be redeployed “within the context
of the global fight against al-Quaida….and other
international terrorist organizations.” 

Indeed Feingold isn’t true blue, but at least he’s got
it half right even if he sadly misstates the terrorist
threat that’s a home-based state-sponsored one
inciting people around the world we attack to strike
back.  Ending the threat is simple as the senator
knows.  Stop attacking them, and they won’t hit back,
but keep it up as we do relentlessly, and it
guarantees eventual harsh blowback at home and abroad
certain to get worse and may become catastrophic in US
cities if the administration pursues a plan to attack
Iran, with or without nuclear weapons.

Is There An Edward Boland in the House….or the
Senate?

Readers may forget his name but should recall his
amendment during the 1980s Contra wars when the Reagan
administration secretly escalated them.  It led to the
Iran-Contra scandal in 1986 involving illegal
administration arms sales to Iran, then illegally
diverting funds from them to US-armed Contra forces
adding to what CIA supplied them with through illegal
drugs trafficking.

In 1982, the House passed the Boland Amendment as a
rider to the Defense Appropriations Act of 1983.  It
cut off CIA and other intelligence agency Contras
funding used against Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista
National Liberation Front (FSLN) that led the popular
1979 revolution ousting the hated US-backed Somoza
dictatorship.  The bill became law because politicians
from both parties were outraged by Ronald Reagan’s
secret Central American wars undertaken without
notifying congressional oversight committees as
required.  The president went around the restriction,
got in trouble doing it, and only escaped criminal
responsibility when the Tower (investigating)
Commission absolved him other than to blame him for
not better supervising his subordinates.

What Congress did in 1982 and during the Vietnam war,
it can do now with full constitutional authority
backing it.  With an administration possibly heading
for nuclear war with Iran, Congress must head it off,
defund the Iraq war and end our ill-fated adventurism
in the Middle East.  Some in high places want it, but
it remains to be seen what’s next and whether a
majority in Congress will ever put their legislative
powers where their rhetoric is, act before it’s too
late, and be able to override a certain presidential
veto from an administration bent on wars without end
for goals impossible to achieve.

Is There An International Lawyer in the House or
Senate?

None are needed as lawmakers are duty bound to be
law-readers to know and understand the Constitution
they swore to uphold “so help them God” who may not
sympathize with those using the Almighty’s name in
vain.  That includes knowing Article Six stipulating
“This Constitution and the Laws of the United
States….and all Treaties made (to which the country
is a signatory) shall be the supreme Law of the Land
(and) The Senators and Representatives (and) Members
of….State Legislatures, and all executive and
judicial Officers….are bound by Oath….to support
this Constitution (and everything in it so help them
or be criminally liable).”

That includes the aforementioned treaties of which the
UN Charter is one to which this country is a signatory
and bound by its provisions including its Chapter VII.
It allows the Security Council to “determine the
existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the
peace, or act of aggression” and if necessary take
military or other action to “restore international
peace and stability.”  It permits a nation to use
force only under two conditions: when authorized to do
it by the Security Council or under Article 51
allowing the “right of individual or collective
self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a
Member….until the Security Council has taken
measures to maintain international peace and
security.”

No nation attacked this one on 9/11, and no Security
Council resolution authorized the US to go to war
against Afghanistan or Iraq.  In both instances, US
military actions were willful and malicious acts of
illegal aggression the Nuremberg Charter called the
“supreme international crime” above all others making
every member of Congress supporting them criminally
liable along with George Bush, but who’ll hold them to
account.  It’s why no one in Congress ever mentions
what should be central to any “debate” on the war and
why no mainstream journalists worthy of their
profession have courage to remind them.

There’s no reminder either that Article One, Section
8, Clause 11 of the Constitution gives Congress alone
power to declare war so presidents never have sole
authority to do it.  It’s how the Founders wanted it
as James Madison wrote in 1793 that the “fundamental
doctrine of the Constitution….to declare war is
fully and exclusively vested in the legislature.”  And
George Mason stated during the constitutional
convention the president “is not safely to be trusted
with” the power to declare war.  Sadly it hasn’t
worked out that way.  The president and Congress only
observed the supreme law of the land five times in the
nation’s history, the last being in December, 1941
following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

Following WW II, Harry Truman criminally broke the law
setting a post-war precedent his successors followed,
and no Congress intervened to stop them.  It made
every post-war president criminally liable but none
more so than George Bush and all in Congress
conspiring with him.  Following 9/11, the president
rightfully called the attacks acts of terrorism
(whoever was responsible) as they are under US law
even though international law provides no generally
accepted definition of this crime.  They weren’t acts
of war, and calling them that crossed the line
breaking the law as only nations can attack one
another, not individuals.  No evidence existed then or
now Afghanistan was behind them nor did Saddam pose an
imminent threat justifying our aggression.

George Bush tried and failed getting legal Security
Council cover for both wars.  He then tried getting it
from Congress, couldn’t get his preferred formal
declarations and had to settle for joint-War Powers
resolution authorizations to protect the country
against international terrorism he chose to do by
waging illegal wars against two countries. 

The result today is a nation embroiled in two
unwinnable wars some high officials and observers feel
are the greatest strategic blunders in the nation’s
history.  Combined they may also end up our greatest
crime surpassing in lives lost the mass carnage we
inflicted on Southeast Asians.  That’s the legacy of
George Bush about to get a renewed lease on life to
continue his reign of terror on the greater Middle
East for another two years in spite of mass public
opposition to it worldwide. 

The people have spoken, but imperialism marches on
aiming next at target Iran with nuclear weapons
cleared for use if an attack is launched.  If they are
in any future conflict, every member of Congress will
be criminally liable to indictment by the
International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague
according to University of Chicago professor Jorge
Hirsch even if they’re authorized without
congressional approval.  Hirsch states why:

—the act will be one of “most serious crimes of
international concern.”

—Congress funded the weapons’ creation paying the
military to use them.

—Congress knew having these weapons means they may
be criminally used.

—Congress can act preventively now to prevent these
weapons being used.  Failure to do so is a crime.

—If they are, at least some in Congress “actively
aided, abetted and assisted in the commission of the
crimes.”

Hirsch explained further that Congress has
“constitutional power to legislate” conditions, limits
and restrictions over if, how and when the president
can authorize military use of nuclear weapons as
commander in chief.  Even more damning, he points out,
is the Bush Doctrine policy illegally proclaiming the
right in various national security documents to wage
preemptive wars using all weapons in our arsenal
including nuclear ones against any country or force
the administration feels threatens the national
security even if it isn’t true.

If Iran or any other country is so-designated and
attacked with nuclear weapons, Hirsch points out every
Western European signatory country to the ICC will be
obliged to arrest any congressional member on their
soil surrendering them to Court authority in the Hague
to stand trial since none of these nations has
bilateral “Article 98 agreements” with the US granting
immunity to US citizens. 

This needn’t happen if Congress acts responsibly and
legislatively prevents George Bush from waging war
with Iran, nuclear or otherwise.  Warning the
president against acting without congressional
approval won’t stop him any more than wishing will.
George Bush does what he wants, and statements from
leading Democrat presidential candidate Hillary
Clinton and Speaker Pelosi that he must get
congressional authority first are plain wrong,
misguided, stupid, and now irrelevant as Democrat
leaders changed their mind and will say nothing.  Only
an act of Congress has a chance, and unless the 110th
body passes one in clear strong language it’s
practically telling the president do as you please and
ignore what we say which he may do anyway with a
stroke of a “signing statement” erasing whatever
Congress legislates.

If that happens and the US attacks Iran, all bets are
off on what’s next with impossible to predict
consequences that won’t be good for the West and
especially Washington.  It will expand the Iraq
conflict to a regional one, inflame the entire Muslim
world and unleash an unpredictable backlash fallout
from a desperate strategy doomed to fail. Further, it
would be more proof of joint
administration-congressional complicity demonstrating
again the criminal class in Washington is bipartisan,
but who already doesn’t know that. 

It’s also no secret corporate interests thrive on wars
and fund the parties to wage them.  It’s thus unlikely
Congress will bite the generous hands feeding it
unless the price to pay starts exceeding the benefits
received. Getting reelected is top concern, but
fearing a shakled trip to the Hague might focus some
minds as well.  Members of Congress agreeing to
nuclear war against Iran will henceforth be unable to
travel freely in Western Europe knowing their final
destination might not be what they had in mind or
their quarters the kind they’re used to for a stay
longer than planned for a fate usually imposed on
others.

With this in mind, we learned from Secretary Rice on
February 27, the US agreed to participate in an
international conference with Iran and Syria on Iraq
with the agenda limited to Iraqi security sure to
include Washington’s accusations about support for
anti-US resistance.  It would be foolhardy imagining
Washington’s offer of engagement is well-intentioned
as this administration has an unblemished record of
speaking with forked tongue, so nothing it’s up to
should be taken at face value. 

What is known is that first round talks were held
March 10 in Baghdad at a sub-ministerial level with no
announcement at their conclusion other than agreeing
to the formation of several low-level regional working
parties with a further thus far unscheduled conference
to be held at the foreign ministerial level at a
location to be decided.  They won’t be bilateral
unless Tehran agrees to abandon its uranium-enrichment
program and Iran and Syria satisfy Washington’s claim
they’ve stopped supporting anti-US resistance in Iraq
and Lebanon.  Attending participants in this exercise
are members of the Arab League, Organization of
Islamic Unity, G 8 members, and the five permanent
Security Council members who all together will likely
achieve nothing. 

The talks represent no softening of Washington’s
stance that may be hardened as they proceed with US
repeating unproved claims Iranian elements support
anti-American forces in Iraq meaning ultimatums will
follow, no compromise is possible, and tensions in the
region will end up further heightened.  That’s where
things now stand following the Baghdad session at
which senior State Department official David
Satterfield accused Iran of supplying weapons to Shia
militias claiming Washington has evidence to prove it
without showing any.  At the same time, back home US
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
Nicholas Burns was pressing ahead with efforts to get
the Security Council to impose harsher sanctions on
Iran because it’s pursuing its legal right to develop
commercial nuclear power.

How this is perceived and portrayed at home has a lot
to do with what’s going on.  The administration may
use the talks to mollify critics giving Congress more
leverage to pass Bush’s requested $93 billion Iraq
supplemental funding request Democrats upped to $120
billion + with unenforceable add-on provisions to be
debated in both Houses.  Without a touch of irony,
it’s business as usual in Washington with the Pentagon
readying a “shock and awe” attack against a country
administration officials are engaging in phony
diplomacy no one on either side is fooled by…...and
the beat goes on.

So much for good intentions from an administration
having none and a Congress matching it misstep by
misstep.  It’s clear from the Democrat leadership with
most others in the party acquiescing, their public
posturing notwithstanding.  The congressional Dems and
their presidential aspirants have tacitly or
explicitly kept the “military option” against Iran
open meaning they’ll not oppose administration plans
to launch an all out attack if it’s ordered.  That’s
despite Senate Majority Leader Reid’s March 2 claim he
would support legislation barring an attack on Iran
without congressional authority he’s now backed off
on.

The only issue Democrats pathetically raised is
whether the administration or Congress can authorize
it, but now we know a matter that serious won’t be
part of the Democrats’ final legislative proposal.
Also ignored is the fundamental issue that launching
an attack will be a further act of illegal aggression
against a country posing no threat to us or its
neighbors and therefore must not be allowed to happen.
Democrat presidential aspirants feel otherwise and
have so stated it as Senator Clinton did at the late
January AIPAC annual convention saying: “In dealing
with this (Iran) threat….no option can be taken off
the table.”  Senator Obama agreed saying on CBS’s 60
Minutes: “I think we should keep all options on the
table.”  And former senator John Edwards showed his
resolve at Israel’s Herzliya Conference in January
saying: “To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear
weapons, we need to keep all options on the table.”
Sounds like they all have the same script writer, and
they surely deliver their party’s message that
Democrats are as eager to attack Iran as are
Republicans and won’t stand against it if George Bush
so orders.

What’s Next from Congress

Rhetoric and wishy proposals with no chance of passage
are once thing, real bipartisan action with teeth
another, and so far there’s none from either House
with key senators and congressmen voicing the usual
boilerplate about not wanting to cut off funding the
troops because we have to support them.  Their kind of
support means letting them die or get maimed and be
disabled for life for imperialism on the march.  Some
support. 

A less than credible crumb of it came from Speaker
Pelosi’s backhanded pronouncement she’ll link new
funding requests to strict standards of resting,
training and equipping the troops now off the table.
Earlier, she and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
wrote the president that “thousands of the new troops
(sent over) will apparently not have the armor and
equipment they need to perform the mission and reduce
the likelihood of casualties (and that problem needs
correcting).”  Now the tactics have changed with the
2008 withdrawal proposal to damn the torpedoes, full
speed ahead and on with war till we win it.

Some proposals with echos of Richard Nixon’s “peace
with honor,” his being elected in 1968 as a “peace”
candidate, and his hope history would call him a
“peacemaker” at the same time he was determined never
to be “the first president of the United States to
lose a war.”  So his policies ended up killing almost
as many US forces as his predecessor along with one to
two million Southeast Asians during his watch alone
who never got to see the “peace” he promised except
the one he sent them to rest in.  All the while
Congress debated, and war continued another 6 and a
half years with serious funding cuts stalled until
1972.  Even then, Richard Nixon continued waging war
until the January 23, 1973 treaty was signed in Paris
ending it and the last US troops came out in March.
War went on in the name of peace in the same spirit
coming from the White House and Congress today couched
in terms of supporting the troops and “spreading
democracy.”

George Bush says it and so do key Democrats like
Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid as well
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Carl Levin
and Senate Foreign Relations Committe Chairman, Joe
Biden.  Funding war will continue showing the one way
to end it won’t be taken, and the best out of Congress
is non-binding posturing and the latest proposal to
withdraw combat forces between March 31 and September
1, 2008.  The administration’s response - it can
barely contain its contempt and continues doing as it
pleases. 

Democrats spoke but who’s listening and acting. Levin
and Biden mentioned other congressional action, with
no chance of passage, including changing the Joint
Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed
Forces Against Iraq of October, 2002 whereby Congress
surrendered its authority to the Executive on the most
important of all constitutional powers presidents
never should have. It followed the even more
outlandish joint House-Senate resolution passage of
the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) of
September, 18, 2001 authorizing “the use of United
States Armed Forces against those responsible for the
recent attacks launched against the United States.” 

It effectively gave George Bush carte blanche
authority to attack any nation he claims threatens
national security on his say alone allowing him to
declare a state of permanent war that won’t end in our
lifetime unless Congress stops it.  So far it hasn’t
and shows no signs it will.  Whatever it does, it
faces a Bush veto meaning any chance for legislative
relief needs a two-thirds majority that’s practically
impossible on any issue opposing the president,
especially as beneath the rhetoric Democrats support
Bush wars as much as Bush does.

All this will be part of the interesting “debate” on
the Democrats’ March 8 proposal including their
proposed $120 billion and rising supplemental funding
to keep the war machine oiled and running plus all the
added pork. The president already wants and should
eaily get a nearly half trillion dollar defense budget
with $142 billion more in emergency 2008 supplemental
funding for Iraq and Afghanistan and anti-terrorism
efforts that don’t include additional funding for
Bush’s planned troop “surge” to cost billions more.
Combined, the funding from 2001 through 2008 raises
the amount of war spending to over $690 billion
eclipsing in current dollars Vietnam’s war cost making
Bush’s war second only in amount to what was spent on
WW II. 

But there’s more, lots more. The total doesn’t include
the following:

—An estimated $100 billion direct cost of the 9/11
attacks.

—$66 billion to replace destroyed or unusable
military equipment.

—$125 billion in backlogged veterans’ claims.

—Unknown billions for CIA torture-prisons.

—Multi-billions for homeland security (now budgeted
at over $45 billion and rising) to keep a growing
restive population in line with hardball tactics like
illegal spying, mass roundups and incarcerations, and
construction of secret US concentration camps for tens
of thousands of aliens and US citizens Bush may label
“unlawful enemy combatants” meaning lock-em-up and
throw away the key. 

—And there’s another major suppressed future
expense: the hugely underestimated cost to provide
care alone for chronically sick, wounded and disabled
Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans Nobel laureate
economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Linda
Bilmes believe will be a minimum $536 billion and may
end up much higher.  They arrived at the number from
their calculation of the number of wounded soldiers to
each one killed coming up with the astonishing ratio
of 16 to 1 the result of improved medical care and
life-saving armor.  They used data from the Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA) indicating 50,000 surviving
casualties from the wars and 200,000 veterans so far
treated at VA centers, 40% of whom incurred serious
brain or spinal injuries, amputations of one or more
limbs, blindness, deafness, severe burns, or other
severe chronic injuries.

They also cited data from the brief Gulf war in which
less than 150 Americans were killed noting 48.4% of
its veterans sought medical care and 44% filed
disability claims, 88% of which were granted.  That
amounts to an astonishing total of 611,729 Gulf war
vets now getting disability benefits, a large
percentage suffering psychiatric illnesses including
post-traumatic stress disorder and depression - for a
campaign lasting six weeks with no occupation.

So far, it’s known over one-third of returning Iraq
and Afghanistan war vets have already been diagnosed
with similar conditions, and those numbers are
guaranteed   eventually to skyrocket.  Unlike the
brief Gulf war after which US forces withdrew, the
total combat and support force since 2001 is hugely
larger - on the order of 1.5 million or more and
growing serving multiple deployments lasting a year or
longer with frequent extended tours of duty in all
creating a looming epic human calamity already
unfolding that will explode in the out years.

Even the VA’s Deputy Undersecretary for Health Frances
Murphy is concerned admitting there’s now a 400,000
claims backlog resulting in waiting lists of months in
some cases “render(ing)....care virtually
inaccessible.”  The VA expects claims to reach 874,000
this year and 930,000 in 2008 which helps explain why
care provided at Walter Reed and other medical
facilities deteriorated so badly and are now
appallingly inadequate and shameful.

It all adds up to what Stliglitz and Bilmes now
estimate will be a cost of $2.5 trillion or more for
George Bush’s wars having raised their earlier
estimate of around $2 trillion.  It’s a shocking
indictment of imperial recklessness and failure to
achieve anything but build bottom lines of corporate
war-profiteers by looting the Treasury courtesy of US
taxpayers supplying the loot.  Stiglitz believes the
economic damage to the country is severe enough to
cause a global economic depression within two years
unless major changes are made in how the economy is
managed going forward. 

It’s starts with defunding wars and addressing huge
unrepayable deficits from them.  It also means
Congress finally confronting a president crazed with
power and on a doomed imperial mission for more of it
that will destroy the nation unless he’s stopped.
Congress finally confronted Richard Nixon ending his
misadventure he never would have on his own. But
before they did, debate and posturing went on, and
real action only came incrementally while the war went
on for 11 bloody years following the August,1964 Gulf
of Tonkin Resolution that escalated it.  It continued
even though it was repealed six years later in May,
1970 and replaced by the 1973 War Powers Act limiting
the president’s power to wage war without
congressional approval.  The law is still in force,
requires presidents consult Congress before and after
engaging in hostilities, and amounts to much ado about
nothing for all the good it does stopping George Bush
from doing what he wants as long as Congress only
talks and won’t act. 

It’s time Congress took its sworn oath seriously and
began undoing its lack of resolve since 9/11 that
changed everything.  But even if it does, it remains
to be seen if a president thinking the Constitution is
“just a goddamned piece of paper” will take it
seriously or just go around it the way he’s ignored
adverse Supreme Court rulings and gotten away with it.
The times keep getting more interesting with dangers
becoming so great we’d better hope what Congress lacks
in courage it makes up for in fear before letting war
in the Middle East get to the next perilous stage
meaning out-of-control and too late to matter. 

In the meantime, the same forces are combining today
that helped end the Vietnam conflict and in time may
have the same result in the Middle East - a
redoubtable Iraqi resistance to occupation, mass
anti-war sentiment at home reaching the halls of
Congress, and a deteriorating American fighting force
with growing signs of internal rebellion against war
with no end and for no purpose.  What administration
and congressional hawks won’t do and Democrats are too
ineffective or timid doing, the people of Iraq,
America and our fighting men and women may do for them
leaving them no other choice.  The lessons of history
are clear.  No greater force exists than the will of
millions of angry determined people set on achieving
what governments won’t do for them. We may now be
heading for that moment of truth that may be the way
to end Bush’s wars and anyone after him with the same
intentions.  Stay tuned and never lose hope.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
tune in each Saturday to the Steve Lendman News and
Information Hour on The Micro Effect.com at noon US
central time.

 


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