Thursday, May 24, 2007

New war funding bill is a defeat-- and it shouldn't be taken otherwise.

A loss is a loss, no matter how you spin it.

I've heard a lot of Democrats who support the 'new' war resolution (the funding minus a withdrawal deadline) suggest that this is some sort of a 'win' because it includes a new minimum wage bill without some of the tax cuts that Republicans wanted.

Now, I'm not discounting the importance of raising the minimum wage (especially with gas prices at record highs, and talk of maybe $4 per gallon by the end of the summer). People are hurting out there and we needed a minimum wage hike. However if we were going to give the GOP a win, it would have been much better to do so on the small business tax cuts (since most of the tax cuts in the original Bush tax cut package went to big, not small businesses anyway) in order to get the minimum wage done. But compared to the importance of the war vote, it is at least an order of magnitude less, and no amount of whitewashing will change that fact.

So far, over 3,400 American soldiers have died and $340,000,000,000 plus whatever is in the new spending bill has been poured into an endless rathole with only a civil warn and a fundamentalist Islamic government to show for it.

So last November, voters in America made their opinion of Mr. Bush's war clear. By an overwhelming margin, voters cited Iraq as their number one issue, and among those voters who did cite Iraq, they voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, especially for Democrats who promised to work towards getting us out of Iraq.

Prior to this week, it was plainly Mr. Bush's war. And it was plainly a Republican war-- the GOP Congress and Senate had essentially given the administration a blank check every time he had come to them in regard to the Iraq war.

Even the original Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) to enforce the U.N. sanctions, which Republicans will cite as proof that Democrats were complicit, does not make Democrats so. First off, the final Senate vote was 77-23, and of the 23 who opposed it even when the Bush administration was sitting at 80% plus approval and ratcheting up the rhetoric for war, 21 of them were Democrats (plus one independent and one Republican.) So what opposition there was then, did come from Democrats, and a significant number of Democrats. Second, the text of the resolution authorized the administration to use military force to make Iraq comply with U.N. sanctions. The specific sanction cited at the time was Iraq's refusal to allow back in U.N. weapons inspectors they had kicked out in 1998. But, after that, Iraq did allow the inspectors back in. It was George W. Bush's decision-- and his alone-- to order the inspectors to leave before completing their job and go to war anyway. He can't hide behind the AUMF for that decision, and it is a pity that he hasn't been called on it more often-- if we'd let Hans Blix finish his job, he'd have presumably told us exactly what we discovered after the war-- that Iraq had no WMD's and think how many lives and dollars that would have saved us.

But with the new war funding bill, Republicans can claim that Democrats are complicit. This occurred in a Democratic Congress and was negotiated by Democratic leaders. The two previous bills, tying funding to withdrawal deadlines were reasonable, and the American people in numerous surveys agreed that they were reasonable. So what Congress should have done was send essentially the same bill back to the President, then back again, then back again. Not just twice, but two hundred times, if they had to. They were giving the President the funding that he asked for. Let him explain why he kept vetoing his own funding request.

Some might argue that this just shows that Democrats and Republicans are exactly the same and that neither one will get out of Iraq. But I would disagree with that assessment. Certainly if the voters hand Congress back to the GOP and elect a Republican President, we will stay there. But in this case, it is not even certain that the new bill will get a 'majority of the majority' (which Republicans used to say defined whether they would vote for a plan on the house floor-- saying that not only did a majority of the full house have to support it, but also a majority of the Republicans (who were then the majority party.) I hope that it becomes a case where not only does the house leadership need Republicans to provide a majority of the support to pass it, but that in fact most Democrats themselves vote against it. So the best thing that voters can do next year is to elect more Democrats, especially Democrats who have come out very strongly and specifically against continuing to hand the President a blank check in Iraq. Further a Democratic President becomes an absolute necessity, so we don't get back into this veto battle. And I might add that one reason why I support Bill Richardson is that instead of saying he will keep some troops there as advisors or to just fight al-Qaeda, etc. he has said that he wants to withdraw them all and make a clean break, while relying on dimplomacy to determine the future of Iraq. Most of the other candidates (several of whom voted for the AUMF) have not suggested this-- but I would only add that I believe that half a withdrawl is still not a withdrawl. If half of the troops are withdrawn, it would probably reduce American casualties, but the people who want to kill Americans would still be there and continue to kill Americans. Only a complete and total withdrawl is realistic.

CORRECTION: The post originally discussed the makeup of the Senate in 2002 and described it as a GOP Senate. However, Indy Voter (who this is his third 'catch') corrected me. In 2002, the Senate was split, 50-49-1 for the Democrats (Jeffords was the one independent and caucused with the Democrats.) That makes 8 errors total in 621 posts, so I still have a .987 fielding percentage.


libhom said...

It doesn't do any good to vote for Democrats who turn around and vote to drag the war on forever.

Anonymous said...

There's a serious factual error in your post, Eli. The Democrats had a 51-49 edge in the Senate, counting Jeffords the independent who was caucusing with them, at the time the 2002 AUMF was passed. Some Democrat named Daschle was the Senate Majority Leader then as well.

No question this is a defeat for the Democrats, but frankly, too many of them weren't being realistic until now. They don't have the votes to override a presidential veto on Iraq - not even close - and were naive to think they could keep sending up bill after bill which Bush would veto and somehow that would be a good thing.

Even if they manage to hold all of their own they still need 16 Republican Senators and nearly 60 Republican House members to override a Bush veto. They were nowhere near those numbers on the funding bill.

Eli Blake said...

OK, Indy. You are right, and I should have remember that (I was thinking of the Senate that was elected IN 2002).

But at least I'm not like one of those righty bloggers that if you catch them in a mistake they will fix the error, delete your comment and then pretend that there never was a mistake. I admit them, give credit where it is due, and point out how rare they are.

thephoenixnyc said...

Eli, sadly we have come to the point of fucked if we do, fucked if we don't. The funding bill is an example of this.

We are fucked if we fund it and stay and fucked if we withdraw funding and leave. The results are equally horrific.

Eli Blake said...


I'd suggest though that if we withdraw, then 1. the recent attacks on al-Qaeda by Sunnis suggests that the Iraqis themselves would drive out the foreign invaders (who would then exclusively be al-Qaeda) so the idea that it would become a hotbed for terrorists would be wrong, and 2. we could then play a useful role through diplomacy in helping facilitate the inevitable dissolution of what is an artificially created country anyway into its three natural components.